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The Road to Research as an Undergrad

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The Road to Research as an Undergrad

Everything you need to know about the wide world of research at Arizona.

Getting involved in research may seem daunting at first, but the good news is that research is available to University of Arizona students in a wide variety of disciplines, including first-year students. And the best part? You can get involved as early as your first year on campus.

But what opportunities are there? And how can you get started? Let’s take a look at some resources!


Why Pursue Research?

Even if you’re not sure about graduate school or even what career you want to pursue, research can help you discover new interests and find out what you enjoy. Research is also a great résumé-builder and develops skills like communication, leadership, working with data, networking, and critical thinking. 

At Arizona, undergraduate research is managed through the newly formed Undergraduate Research & Inquiry Collaborative. The collaborative brings together resources from different offices on campus to connect students with the tools they need to get started in research.

The collaborative is managed by Kimberly Sierra-Cajas, the director of Undergraduate Research and Inquiry and Kelley Merriam-Castro, the program manager for Undergraduate Research Initiatives. 

“Research can drive policy, research can drive change,” Merriam-Castro said. “This is where the new knowledge is created that helps us become a better society.”  

The collaborative is particularly interested in making research accessible to different groups of students, such as first-generation or transfer students.

“We need students from all backgrounds involved in research because they lend a very unique perspective,” Sierra-Cajas said.


Getting Started: Finding Courses, Workshops, and Projects

Through this Undergraduate Research & Inquiry Collaborative, students can attend workshops that break down different aspects of the research process, and access a database of university faculty that are interested in working with undergraduate researchers.

In addition, there are a growing number of courses that incorporate research activities available at Arizona. Offerings are listed and updated through the collaborative’s website.

  • Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) allow students to tackle research questions and work with faculty on projects early in their academic careers. Many of these courses have no prerequisites and help students gain experience as soon as possible.
  • Vertically Integrated Projects (VIPs) are multidisciplinary research opportunities led by faculty that undergraduate students can apply for and earn credit through. 
  • Wildcats also have the opportunity to join the Council on Undergraduate Research for free. This connects students with a whole network of researchers and resources. 
  • Another great resource for interested students is the Undergraduate Research Ambassadors, a group of six current students who have been in your shoes and are well-versed in the world of undergraduate research. They’re available to meet with students of any discipline to give them practical advice and help them find the perfect project. 

There are plenty of research projects that will meet the needs of different students, including summer opportunities, paid opportunities, and flexible projects designed for even the busiest students. 

The Undergraduate Research and Inquiry Collaborative provides funding for faculty members to hire student researchers. Students can work on research projects through work-study funding as well. 


Connect With Your Professors

If you’re not sure what to do first, think about a class you’ve really been interested in. Finding a faculty member whose work interests you is a great way to get started. 

“Make connections with professors in your classes, go to their office hours and ask questions,” Merriam-Castro said. She recommends meeting them in person and finding a time that’s convenient for everyone. 

Merriam-Castro encourages students to look at the world around them and ask questions about what intrigues them. Nearly anything, in any field, can become a research question.  

“The earlier you can narrow down your career path interests, the better, because then you make decisions based on what you actually have tried,” Sierra-Cajas said. 



Reach out to with any inquiries about undergraduate research and find more information at


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