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Info for First Year Students


Jade Danford-Klein, a junior biology and marine science double major, holds out a female blue crab carrying an egg sack on her underbelly before releasing her back into the water on July 17, 2019. the team was conducting research on seagrass, and found a variety of small marine life like pin fish, swimming crab, and pig fish. (Megan May/UNC Research)

Your first year at Carolina will be full of exciting new experiences, countless opportunities, and abundant questions: Do I have the right major? What should I become involved in? How do I juggle it all? As you figure out your priorities and start to make a plan, we hope you’ll consider research a “must-do” activity during your four years here. Why? Because students consistently report that participation in research provides incomparable hands-on learning, teaches new skills, connects them to brilliant faculty mentors, and gives unmatched insights into their future careers.

While the majority of first year students don’t participate in research, your first year on campus is a great time to start learning about the opportunities at Carolina and connecting with researchers. This page provides a quick summary of how to get started.

  • Read our Learn, Connect, Engage framework to start your exploration into research. This page gives a great overview of how you can get involved in research during your four years at Carolina. After this, consider the following steps you can take (in no particular order).
  • Connect with us at the Office for Undergraduate Research.
    • Sign up for the OUR monthly newsletter.
    • Set up a meeting with Dr. Bob Pleasants to ask questions or to make a plan for finding research opportunities. Don’t hesitate to email us with questions at
  • Take a Research and Discovery Course.
    • As part of the new Ideas in Action curriculum, you’re required to take at least one Research and Discovery course. These courses are a great way to get started in research, learn more about a subject in a hands-on way, and learn research methods.
  • Connect with researchers and ask good questions. You don’t necessarily need to ask faculty mentors for immediate research opportunities, but you can ask people about how to get ready for future positions. Asking good questions not only helps you figure out a road map but also connects you to people who can be in your network.
    • Talk to other students, including the OUR Ambassadors. Ask questions of your peers to find out why they got involved in research. Learn their process for finding research opportunities, and get advice for contacting research mentors.
    • Talk with the OUR Liaison in the department in which you’d like to do research. Liaisons are faculty members who can help students navigate research opportunities in that department.
    • Talk with people in your department, or in the department in which you’d like to do research. Each department has a Director of Undergraduate Studies who should have good insight about research in that field, and
    • Talk to your professors about their research: What do they study? Why? How? Most of them will be happy to offer advice about getting involved in research.
  • Find other ways to start exploring what you want to research. If you know what you want to research, why you want to research it, and know a little bit about the subject matter and/or methods for studying it, faculty mentors are more likely to invite to do research with them.
    • Visit departmental web pages to find out what faculty are researching at Carolina. Depending on your interests, you may want to explore other research resources on campus (e.g., the School of Medicine, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, Gillings School of Global Public Health, Adams School of Dentistry, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center, the Center for the Study of the American South).
    • Read up on the subject matter you’re interested in studying. Ideally, you can find someone at UNC doing research in that area and read articles they’ve published before reaching out to talk with them about their work. In addition, UNC librarians are a great research for finding out more about the subject matter you’re interested in.
  • See what research opportunities are out there, and if you’re ready, apply.