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Undergraduate Research

The faculty of the Chemistry Department believes very strongly that high-quality undergraduate student-faculty collaborative research is a vital component in the education of a chemist. Additionally, research experience is an important component of pre-professional training, becoming increasingly valued by Pharmacy and Medical Schools. We also believe that faculty members enhance their teaching and contribution to society by remaining active in research and by involving undergraduates in research.

Benefits you gain by participating in undergraduate research

As well as giving you the opportunity to explore research as a possible career option, you will work with professional colleagues in what often becomes a lifelong professional relationship.

  • Your research director becomes your advisor with information on job opportunities, different graduate programs and various professional schools.
  • Your participation both develops and testifies to your independence of thought, a highly desirable trait in a scientist and a critical indicator of your future success.
  • Employers, graduate programs and professional schools will usually request letters and/or telephone calls from your research director.
  • Graduating seniors indicate that a student who has participated in research early in his/her undergraduate career is better prepared for senior level chemistry courses, and both Graduate and Professional School.
  • When you go to interviews, your research activities may become the central focus of the interview.

What exactly is Undergraduate Research like at ISU?

In this setting, you enter into a group of researchers that consists of an ISU faculty member and that faculty members other students. As collaborative investigators you will study an aspect of chemistry that has never before been studied. Together you frame hypotheses, design experiments, analyze data and ultimately make conclusions regarding unique chemistry that was previously unknown. The experience is essentially a mentoring process where you learn, in a one-on-one setting, with an experienced Research Faculty member, picking up skills that you would otherwise not have exposure to in a formal classroom or academic laboratory setting. Moreover, you learn how to think and solve real open-ended problems and gain valuable experience by delving into unknown realms of science.

When is a good time to start?

We encourage our undergraduate students to begin research as early as possible in their academic careers; as early as the sophomore year, and even in the case of extraordinary students, the freshmen year. The purpose behind an early exposure to research is to provide you the opportunity for long-term contiguous exposure to your research which facilitates completion of projects. That said, it is never too late to start, juniors and seniors also have much to gain by joining a research group.

How do I get involved?

Most students begin by determining which area of Chemistry they find most appealing, typically based upon lecture and laboratory courses taken. Once a general area of Chemistry (or several areas of Chemistry) is/are chosen, then the below list can be used to identify the faculty members within the ISU Chemistry Department whose work is in the area(s) you find most interesting.

Analytical Chemistry: Dr. John Kalivas; Dr. Jeff Rosentreter
Biochemistry: Dr. Caryn Evilia, Dr. Courtney Jenkins
Inorganic Chemistry: Dr. Andrew Holland
Organic Chemistry: Dr. Andrew Holland; Dr. Josh Pak, Dr. Leslie Nickerson
Physical Chemistry: Dr. Lisa Goss; Dr. Rene Rodriguez

After viewing the information regarding the general nature of the research of the faculty member(s) of interest, simply contact the faculty member(s) via an office visit, a phone call, or by e-mail to arrange an appointment to discuss possible research opportunities in his/her group.

Credits and Time Commitments

You can gain credit for participation in undergraduate research by enrolling in either of two course sequences, Chemistry 311/312 and Chemistry 481/482. The first sequence can be used to receive up to six credits and the second sequence can be used to a maximum of eight credits. Each course is arranged under the direction of your research advisor. The typical rule of thumb for student involvement is approximately four hours of research per week per credit earned (examples: 3 credits = 12 hours/week; 4 credit = 16 hours/week, etc). Inasmuch as a student rarely can fit more than 3 credits of research into the program of any one semester, and a commitment of less than 12 hours per week does not usually result in a level of work that makes the activity particularly productive, we suggest that most registrations for undergraduate research are at the rate of one course (3 credits) per semester. The exception would be for students just starting a research program, where registration for 1 or 2 credits gives them a chance to explore what research is all about without their having to make a very heavy commitment.