Undergraduate Research in Chemistry
Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why should I do research as an undergraduate?
2. How do I get started?
3. What projects are available?
4. How much time is required?
5. When can I start?
6. How long will a research project take?
7. Can I do research as a freshman or sophomore?
8. Can I get Chem 499 credit?
9. What is Chem 399?
10. Do I have to enroll in Chem 399/499 to do research?
11. I'd like to do summer research. Do I have to enroll in Chem 399/499?
12. Can I get paid for doing research?
13. If I'm getting paid to do research, can I also receive Chem 399/499 credit?
14. What are my obligations with regard to Chem 399/499?


Why should I do research as an undergraduate?

There are plenty of reasons! Consider these:
  • It is a unique opportunity to work individually with a faculty member in your field.
  • It is an opportunity to apply and extend your classroom knowledge to make a contribution to the field of chemistry.
  • Independent research improves your attractiveness as a job candidate or as an applicant to professional schools.
  • If you are planning on attending graduate school, which consists primarily of research, you will have a good foundation.
  • You can use Chem 499 credits to fulfill part of your advanced elective requirements for the chemistry major.
  • You may achieve recognition for your work through presentations at a conference or at the ISU Research Showcase. You may eventually be a co-author on a publication in a professional journal.
  • Participation in research is one of the criteria used by the Department in awarding chemistry scholarships.

How do I get started?

Research is arranged by mutual agreement between the faculty and the student. Contact at least two or three of the faculty members listed below whose projects interest you. Indicate that you have an interest in research and would like to know more about their program. Faculty members are usually very pleased to discuss their research interests. After talking to the faculty, you'll likely have a couple projects from which to choose.

What projects are available?

The Department has research programs in biochemistry (Flurkey, Inlow), organic (Fitch, Kjonaas), analytical (Wolf), inorganic (Rosenhein), physical (Halpern), and computational (Glendening) chemistry. Several possible projects are listed here. Others may be available. Contact your academic advisor or one of the faculty members listed above for more information.

How much time is required?

This depends on the number of research credits (Chem 399/499) that you register for. Expect to do at least three hours of lab work per week (for 15 weeks) for each hour of credit. There may be library work, data analysis, or writing to be done outside the lab. You may enroll in up to four credit hours of research per semester, and may enroll again for research credits in later semesters. Expectations regarding hours in the lab and Chem 399/499 research credits should be discussed with your research supervisor.

When can I start?

You can start anytime, though most students begin research projects during the summer or at the beginning of the fall or spring semesters. It is best to plan ahead so that you know what project you will be working on when the semester begins.

How long will a research project take?

Some projects only require a semester. But it's generally best to consider taking a couple semesters to complete the project. And if you particularly enjoy the research experience, consider working on one or more projects over several years.

Can I do research as a freshman or sophomore?

Certainly, as long as you're doing well (getting A's, B's) in your coursework! It's never too early to get involved in research.

Can I get Chem 499 credit?

Yes, if you are a junior or senior. Otherwise, consider Chem 399. Up to four hours of Chem 499 can be used to satisfy, in part, the advanced elective requirements of the chemistry degree. An oral presentation and written report are required at the completion of the Chem 499 project.

What is Chem 399?

Freshman and sophomores can enroll in Chem 399 to receive research credits. These credit hours do not count toward the advanced elective requirements of the chemistry degree. However, they do contribute to the 124 hours required for graduation. Your research supervisor may ask you to prepare a written report at the completion of the Chem 399 project.

Do I have to enroll in Chem 399/499 to do research?

No. Chem 399/499 credit isn't required, but it is strongly recommended. Enrolling in Chem 399/499 officially recognizes (through a transcript) your participation in a research experience.

I'd like to do summer research. Do I have to enroll in Chem 399/499?

No. Most students doing research during the summer defer their research credits until the following fall or spring.

Can I get paid for doing research?

Perhaps. Some projects pay, some don't. Check with your research supervisor.

If I'm getting paid to do research, can I also receive Chem 399/499 credit?

Yes! You are always encouraged to enroll in Chem 399/499.

What are my obligations with regard to Chem 399/499?

You should ensure that you complete the required number of hours in the research lab (45 hours per credit hour). Chem 499 credits also require that you give a final oral presentation and written report of your research.