Chemistry undergraduate research opportunities

Why Choose a Research University like Rutgers?
Rutgers University is highly-regarded as a research university. With much state funding, the various departments in the university are busy researching areas that have significant impact in the world, from the study of AIDS, to the conflict in the Middle East, to making more efficient vehicles. The Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Rutgers is no exception: with research in just about any area of chemistry, students are sure to find a topic that interests them.  Very recently, Rutgers Chemistry was ranked #1 in the nation for federal grants!

Not only is research one of the best ways to get a hands-on learning experience, which can only enrich what you learn in the classroom, but it teaches you various skills that will become important in nearly any career choice: from learning how to create experiments, to recording and explaining data, to problem-solving in some very frustrating situations. If you choose to go directly into a career after undergrad, research will show your potential employers that you have all of these skills. If you choose to go to graduate school, on the other hand, research is of utmost importance: learning basics as an undergrad, like how to use a glove-box or operate an NMR instrument, is something that will prove invaluable when you get to graduate school. Most importantly, how do you know if you will love doing something if you’ve never actually done it?

Research in Chemistry
Students in the Chemistry Department have several options available to them for participating in research. In order to qualify for certification by the American Chemical Society, students must take two semesters of senior-level research. There are generally two options to fulfill this: Senior Research Project (01:160:495-496) or Honors Research (01:160:497-498), which requires a thesis at the end of the semester, as well as an oral-defense in front of a committee of your choosing. Both the honors and non-honors research sequence present their work as a poster in the Annual Jean Day Chemistry Symposium in May of every year. This is an exciting chance to show colleagues and professors alike your work and have a great “meeting of the minds:” you will get to talk chemistry with people who are as passionate as you are, learning from them, and perhaps you will even teach a professor something! To see a recap of this year’s symposium, click here.

While senior research is highly-stressed, it is never too early to get involved. Securing a laboratory before your senior year can be quite relieving. In fact, many professors have gladly welcomed freshman, and even in some cases, high school students, into their lab. While it is understandably a daunting task to go ask a professor for a spot on their team, the reward makes it worth it. Sometimes a professor will be quite busy, or not have the proper funding to take on another student, whether it be a graduate student or a freshman, so you must not take it personally. In such a case, you can inquire about the future, or see if there is another professor that is doing work that interests you. Going to see them in person is best, but if that is not possible, a polite email explaining your interests and what it is you are looking for may be best. Putting yourself out there as an underclassman can be scary and tricky at the same time, but the worst that can happen is a “no,” and you just continue your search.

The Chemistry Department has professors that deal with all types of chemistry, from biological, to organic, inorganic, analytical, computational, physical, and often, a combination of two or more. For a comprehensive list of research professors and their work, click here to get started on your search!

Sometimes students do not find exactly what it is they are looking for in the chemistry department, and they will venture out into other related areas. In fact, quite a few chemistry majors have done research in departments from the Environmental Science Department to the Biochemistry Department and many others. If your interests do not seem to match a professor in the Chemistry Department, look at other departments and discuss with your Undergraduate Vice Chair the possible options.

Options in Research
While many students may find independent research with a professor of their choosing, there are other ways to find research. For example, there are several programs like Research In Science and Engineering (RISE) and the Aresty Undergraduate Program. Some students may even choose to study abroad, like in the Coral Reef Internship in the Cayman Islands. To start exploring the endless possibilities, check out some of the links below: