ASPIRE is only one of many ways to obtain research experience. This page will provide information about other pathways to research.
When should you apply for research positions?
The earlier you start working in a lab, the more you will learn and the better the letter of recommendation from your faculty mentor will be. It can be difficult to get a position as a first-year student (because you don't yet have a track record of performance in college courses), but you can still try. Your second year is often a great time to start working in a lab. If you are a transfer student, you should start looking for a lab right away.
The best times to contact faculty about research positions are either a couple weeks before the registration period or right before the beginning of a quarter.
First-year and transfer students can also sign up for course-based undergraduate research experiences (CURES).
How many labs should you apply to work in?
It can be difficult to get accepted into a lab, because there are many more students who would like to get research experience than there are positions in labs. It's therefore a good idea to submit applications to many different labs (10 or even more).
What if you don't have any relevant experience or skills?
In most cases, you don't need any specialized experience or skills to start working in a lab. If you're accepted into a lab, they will train you. This is how you get those experiences and skills!
You may already have relevant experiences and skills without realizing it. Have you taken a leadership role in volunteer activities? Do you speak multiple languages? Do you have experience with children, older adults, or people with special needs? Have you worked in a store? Are you good with social media, computer graphics, or video editing? Do you have any computer programming experience? If so, then there are labs that are looking for your experiences and skills.
How do you find research opportunities?
One way to find suitable labs is to go to the web site of the relevant department (e.g., Psychology, NPB, Economics), look at the web pages of the faculty, find several that sound interesting, and then email those faculty (but first see if they provide application instructions on their web page). This takes quite a bit of time, but you’ll learn a lot about the kinds of research being done at UC Davis. You can also find opportunities at the links shown below.
Where can I learn more?
- Psychology and Cognitive Science: https://yellowcluster.ucdavis.edu/psc-research
- College of Letters & Science: https://lettersandscience.ucdavis.edu/news/how-get-involved-undergraduate-research
- Biology: https://biology.ucdavis.edu/research/mentorship
- Engineering: https://engineering.ucdavis.edu/engineering-research/undergraduate-research
- Undergraduate Research Center: https://urc.ucdavis.edu
- University-wide information: https://studentaffairs.ucdavis.edu/getting-help/how/research
- Additional programs: https://urc.ucdavis.edu/other-programs
- Programs specifically designed for students from historically underrepresented groups, disadvantaged backgrounds, and those with disabilities