Get involved and get ahead!

As one of Canada’s top research universities, our science professors work to uncover solutions to meet today’s challenges. Undergraduate research not only allows you to be directly involved in cutting-edge discoveries, but helps you learn valuable skills from actual researchers. It is also a great way to help you get ahead in whatever you choose to do next; whether that’s grad school or a rewarding career in science.

Click on the profiles below and learn about the exciting research opportunities being pursued by current students across all of our eight departments within the Faculty of Science.

Find open research opportunities here

Frequently Asked Questions

Approaching professors can be daunting, and you may not hear yes on your first go, but going in prepared is sure to set you up for success.

Why get involved in undergraduate research?

Undergraduate research helps to increase your understanding of the scientific method by developing practical lab skills, and how to read and evaluate scientific journal articles. It also develops your soft skills in critical thinking, troubleshooting, problem solving, and honing your ability to apply attention to detail and big picture thinking that can be adapted to any situation, not just graduate studies. Though, if you are looking to prepare for work or graduate study or a career in research, it will help you decide whether that path is right for you and help you choose between research areas. It also helps you build a "portfolio" to give an indication of your abilities and experience, with opportunities to be featured in the Science Undergrad Research Journal. Plus, because you will be working closely with professors/researchers, this is a good opportunity for future letters of recommendation.

What will I be doing?

Doing undergraduate research for credit is based on an individual agreement between you and the professor, so the actual arrangement varies. The work outlined by your professor is designed to teach you practical skills and understand the broader scope of scientific research. Many advanced students design their own research project, but the majority of students work alongside a faculty researcher or graduate student doing a piece of an on-going project. A great research experience would comprise many components, such as, work on a specific project with a specific hypothesis, reading original scientific papers related to the research topic, performing experiments, performing data analysis or discussion of analysis with your sponsor, and writing a report or manuscript for publication.

When should I start?

The earlier the better! Some departments offer UG research as a second-year elective, with most offering this in the fourth year - but you can start planning for this as soon as your first year. Too many undergraduates wait until their senior year, limiting their experience and opportunities. The best way to find a mentor is to approach faculty that you’re interested in working with individually. Find a researcher here. You can also search for posted research opportunities in the links to departments above. Every professor is different, and many are willing to take students with no prior research experience. It is a good idea to do your homework ahead of time, to learn what is going on in their labs, before contacting them. Be sure to provide a resume or Curriculum Vitae (C.V.).

How much time will I spend on research?

Simon Fraser University expects students to work an average of three hours per week to receive one credit (for example three credits of research would equal about nine hours of work in the lab per week). Because arrangements vary, you will want to talk with your professor about how many credits to register for and when you would be expected to be in the lab. If you want to do an honours thesis, it’s 15 hrs total credit hours across two semesters. It’s important to know that some labs have a 2-semester requirement.

How do I get involved?

In order to register for undergraduate research credit you first have to make an arrangement with a faculty member with whom you will do research. Once an arrangement is made, you’ll need to enroll into a class. For more information, get in touch with an advisor regarding your graduation requirements. Volunteering opportunities may also be available and also require making an arrangement with a faculty member, but do not require enrolling into a class.

Find your advisor here.

How do I find a faculty member to work with?

You should start by doing your own research on topics you’re interested in that are being researched at SFU. Above you will find a database of SFU Science faculty. Read journals and other publications to help you become more knowledgeable about that field and then seek out professors who do research in your field of interest. If you email a professor to inquire about their lab, be sure to think about including the following pieces of information:

  1. Introduce yourself and state what attributes you have to offer
  2. Tell them what you're looking for (experience, credit, how many hours and quarters)
  3. Tell them why you're writing to them (their research interests you, you know someone in their lab, you were referred to them).
  4. Include an unofficial transcript, resume, or Curriculum Vitae (C.V.)

Do I need to be an A-grade student to get involved?

No, you don’t need to be an A-grade student to be considered. What’s important is motivation, interest and commitment – be sure to speak to those things when you reach out to faculty members.

Do I receive a grade for undergraduate research credits?

Yes. Please note that in this "class" you will not have a syllabus or exams. It is therefore important to ask your professor which option to sign up for, how the grade will be determined and what the criteria will be. Students can be assessed on their performance in the lab and presentation skills in meetings. Project dependent.

Will the research credits count for my major?

These will count towards your elective credits. Speak with your major advisor to find out how research credits work in your degree requirements. Our list of Science advisors can be found here.

What if the professor I speak with says "no"?

You may need to contact several professors before you are able to find a research opportunity. In many cases, there’s a 1-2 semester wait to get into a lab. So get in early to get in the waitlist. When you talk with a professor who does not have a suitable project or space available in their lab, ask if they can recommend a person you could speak with next. You may have to go through a few "no's" to get to a "yes", but it only takes one yes.

Can I get paid for doing undergraduate research?

If it’s a credit course, no. If it’s a non-credit course, you may be able to apply for the USRA (Undergraduate Student Research Award):

Are there any informal ways to learn more about research opportunities?

Yes. Departmental student unions host research events throughout the year to help give more departmental-specific advice on finding a research opportunity and to help you connect with specific research opportunities within your department. Even outside of those events, reaching out to union executives would be a great way to get advice on the process and being more informed and less intimidated when you apply.