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Research Opportunities

Getting Started in Research

Don’t rush to find a research position! Give yourself some time to be successful academically before committing to a lab. You do not need previous research experience to get started in a lab. Plan a semester ahead and arrange your schedule so that you have 2-4 hour blocks of time free to spend in the lab at least 2 days per week. Give yourself plenty of time to network in advance of when you would like to begin research. Talk with your professors, TAs, and student advisors to discover your passion in the life sciences. Use the OUB searchable Research Faculty Database to identify labs of interest and visit the OUB Events page to learn about programs supporting research including an annual fall information session hosted by the Biology Student Advisors on getting started in research. Additional helpful resources are the Cornell Undergraduate Research Board (CURB) and the Office of Undergraduate Research.

Independent Research for Credit during the Academic Year

Over 500 students each semester earn academic credit for undergraduate research by enrolling in independent research courses. Most students enroll in 2-4 credits of research (3-5 hours per credit). A student’s research mentor can be in any department as long as the research is biological in nature. A faculty member or research associate must supervise the research. Students often work directly with a graduate student, technician, or postdoctoral scientist in the lab.

We do not pre-enroll for BioG 2990 or BioG 4990.  You must complete the appropriate form below at the start of the semester.

BIOG 2990, Introduction to Research:  Intended for students new to undergraduate research. Students enrolled in BIOG 2990 may be reading the scientific literature, learning research techniques and assisting with ongoing research. Credit hours are variable (maximum of 3 credits) and grading is S/U only. This course is a prerequisite for BIOG 4990.

BIOG 4990, Independent Research in Biology:  Students work more independently on a research project. You do not have to generate your own research topic. More typically, students get involved in the ongoing research of the lab. The prerequisite for BIOG 4990 is the completion of one semester of BIOG 2990 or previous research experience. You will need to prepare a brief research description as part of the BIOG 4990 application.  We encourage you to work with your research mentor to draft this in advance of applying.

Summer Research

If your academic year is too busy for research, summer is a great time to explore different fields that you may be interested in. Summer allows you to immerse yourself in the research experience without the juggle of classes and exams. Check out the Summer Research Opportunities database if you are interested in applying for an internship or REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) program. Keep in mind that many summer internship programs have application deadlines in January and February and require letters of reference. If you want to do research here on campus in the summer, begin looking in March though some lab groups do not advertise until late in spring semester. Some paid summer research positions will be advertised on the Student Employment website (see below) or by word of mouth. Inquire in the OUB about lab openings and look for flyers advertising positions posted in biology buildings.

Finding a Research Job

Paid research opportunities may be found on the Student Employment website.  Research jobs are available during the academic year and in summer. Students may earn their work study funding by working in a lab. Inquire in the OUB about lab openings and look for flyers advertising positions posted in biology buildings.


Some labs depend on volunteer assistance. This can be an advantage because you can start anytime and do not need to worry about adding research credits by the Add Deadline. If you spend a semester volunteering in a lab, you can discuss with your faculty mentor about enrolling in BIOG 4990 in the following semester.