FAQs for Students

General Questions

What is research, anyway?

Research is the process of creating new knowledge, or building onto existing literature. It involves a community of 'researchers' and or 'experts' which includes undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and other members. Research can be interdisciplinary and can be done in any fields of study, i.e. history, chemistry, anthropology, linguistics, politics, religion, etc.

Research always begins with a question(s) of interest: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? To answer the question(s), the researcher must find 'evidence' to support their argument. Depending on the field of study, the researcher will rely on different sources or materials to support the argument/theory of their research. For instance, if in chemistry, the researcher will likely work in a laboratories testing different compounds, elements, etc. to prove their hypothesis. If in history, the researcher will have to rely on primary and secondary literature to build their argument. They will likely find themselves in national libraries digging through old archival documents to find "proof" to support their argument.

Why do research?

Research is an opportunity to work with experts in your area(s) of interest, gain extensive experience, and build a valuable network in your field of study. You will learn how to formulate questions, design plans to find answers, collect and analyze data, draw conclusions from that data, and share your findings with a community. Doing research will also make you an informed consumer of the research that you encounter on a daily basis: you will be able to evaluate the information presented to you as a citizen of our complex society and make informed decisions about all kinds of public policy issues that affect your everyday life. And finally, research prepares you for the world beyond Rutgers by honing your independent thinking and creativity, time-management and budget skills, and confidence in your academic and career goals.

How do I get started?

Research begins with a question. If you are interested in conducting research as an undergraduate, you have already taken the first step by attending Rutgers. Engaging undergraduates in the discovery of knowledge is at the very heart of the Rutgers mission. Whether through taking a research-intensive course, working in one of the University's many centers or institutes, or teaming up with a favorite professor to pursue a mutual academic interest, the opportunities to become involved in research abound for students of all majors.

There are essentially two paths to research projects: applying to formal programs like the Aresty Programs, or by approaching a faculty member directly (this works best if you're a junior or senior or if you've missed the regular Aresty application processes).

If you are a first year or sophomore student who has never conducted research, start by taking a research-intensive course or helping a faculty member with his or her research. You should talk with your favorite professors about their research interests (many of these are listed on departmental websites), and about how to get involved.

What kinds of things would I do in a research setting?

Depending on your field of study, you will be required to complete different tasks in your research. For example, studies in the humanities are grounded on primary and secondary literature (work that has been done and published by other scholars). Thus, researchers are required to complete readings and write a literature review, in which they give a detailed summary about the literature explored and what is missing from the literature. Students then use literature to support or disprove their argument and draw their own conclusion. Students in sciences will likely work in a laboratory running experiments to test different samples of compounds, work with rodents,etc. They assist with building equipments, prepare samples or perform assays, etc. They will also be required to complete readings on current scientific studies.

Irrespective of your field of study, all research involves the collection of data which may include conducting interviews or observations, reading news articles, attending conferences, running different tests for an experiment, etc. The collected data will be your "finding(s)" which will then be analyzed to support your hypothesis or argument of your research.

How do I find a faculty mentor?

The best way to choose a faculty mentor for your project is to research the professor(s) you might be interested to work with. This can be done by simply googling the professor, looking through the departmental websites, or by pursuing some past projects from the Aresty Research Assistant Program or Aresty Summer Science Program. Some mentors may want assistance with a project they are already working on; others may be interested in helping you to develop your own project. Read your prospective mentor’s current articles or publications, visit their website, and be prepared to meet with them and articulate your interests and goals. Your project idea does not need to be perfect at your first meeting; good research always evolves. Learn more about finding a faculty mentor here.

How do I develop my own research project?

Begin by thinking about:

  • People with whom you would like to work. Are there faculty (or research staff) whom you particularly enjoyed learning from? Do you have friends who are doing research and who speak highly of their advisors?
  • Topics that are of interest to you. Think back over classes you have taken. Which were the most enjoyable? Which did you find yourself enjoying working on, and spending extra time on? Which left you wanting to learn more?
  • Are you eligible for one of our structured programs? Find out and apply here.
  • Search for a research opportunity that interests you in our Undergraduate Research System (URS).

Embarking on your own independent research project involves advance planning. With your faculty mentor, decide what books and articles will be important to review, how many hours a week you should plan to invest in your project, and whether you will be working alone or with a group. Contact us to find out about getting funding, participating in skill-building workshops, or getting your questions answered.

Is research for undergraduates? Do I need any experience?

Yes, research is for undergraduates! By participating in the research process, you will find that your education will come alive. You will learn how the knowledge we currently have was generated, and how answers may be found. And most importantly, you will learn that there are many questions still to be asked and solutions to be discovered that will improve our understanding of the world and the quality of life for all societies. Everyone from first year students to seniors are qualified to ask these kinds of questions: research is a process of discovery for all of us! The only prerequisite is the desire to ask questions!

Sometimes you will ask your first questions in the classroom, sometimes you will ask those questions in office hours, and sometimes those questions will come to you in the middle of the night. Answering those questions might entail working with a professor (sometimes even with a team of your peers) on a project that is already underway, gaining an appreciation for active inquiry and analysis and getting your feet wet in the research process; in many cases, those first experiences compel students to go on to design and conduct a creative project of their own devising in close consultation with faculty mentors.

What research projects can I apply for now?

First-year students may apply for the Summer Science Program. The program runs for ten weeks between May and August each year.

All undergraduate students may apply for the Research Assistant Program. The program runs from September to April each year.

I am not a Rutgers-New Brunswick student - am I eligible?

No. The Aresty Research Center for Undergraduates is for Rutgers-New Brunswick undergraduate students only.

I'm interested in applying to Aresty - are your programs competitive?

Yes, our programs are competitive. For our Summer Science Program, we receive approximately 450 applicants for 60 research opportunities. For our Research Assistant Program, we typically receive about 1200 applicants for approximately 300 RA positions.

What does a competitive applicant look like?

While there is no minimum GPA required, students must be in good academic standing and demonstrate a genuine interest in becoming involved in research. No previous research experience is necessary.

Summer Science Program

How do I participate in Aresty's Summer Science Program?

First-year students may apply for the Summer Science Program. The program runs for twelve weeks between May and August each year.

How many Summer Science projects may I apply for?

With so many fascinating opportunities to choose from, we understand that it is difficult to choose just one. You may apply to a maximum of three projects; please submit a completely separate application for each.

What is offered through the Summer Science Program?

Students are provided with a $3,000 stipend and housing for the twelve-week program. Click here to learn more about the program.

May I apply to both the RA and Summer Science Programs?

Students who apply to the Summer Science Program may only apply to the Research Assistant Program if they are not selected for the Summer Science Program.

Research Assistant Program

How do I participate in Aresty's Research Assistant Program?

All undergraduate students may apply for the Research Assistant Program. The program runs from September to April each year.

I've already done the Aresty RA Program - can I do it again?

Students may only participate in the Aresty Research Assistant Program once.

I'll be a senior next year. Am I eligible to apply to the RA Program?

Yes, rising seniors are eligible to apply for our RA program.

How many Research Assistant projects may I apply for?

With so many fascinating opportunities to choose from, we understand that it is difficult to choose just one. You may apply to a maximum of three projects; please submit a completely separate application for each.


How do I apply for funding through Aresty?

All undergraduate students doing an independent research project under the guidance of a Rutgers faculty member may apply for an Undergraduate Research Fellowship. For more information and to learn how to apply click here.

What expenses are covered by funding from Aresty?

We invite students to submit proposals for funding to alleviate the cost of research for conference travel and various sources and materials including books, photocopying costs, and other supplies. Funding cannot be used for meals, living expenses, tuition, or equipment that will be used beyond the duration of the research project. In general, we do not fully fund student research projects; we encourage students to seek funding from multiple sources.

What are the conditions for accepting Aresty funding?

All Fellowship or Conference Funding recipients must submit receipts for all award money spent at the end of their project, and no later than the end of the spring semester. The money spent must align with the budget that was submitted with the application. Any funds not spent from the award must also be returned. Additionally, funding recipients are required to present their research at the annual Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Undergraduate Research Symposium

Am I eligible to present at the Symposium?

All Rutgers undergraduate students are eligible to submit an abstract for consideration for the annual Undergraduate Research Symposium. Participants in the Aresty Research Assistant Program, as well as recipients of funding through the Fellowship Program, are required to present their work.

Where do I submit my abstract for the Symposium?

Visit our Apply to Present  page and follow the directions to submit your abstract. Abstracts are due on March 1st.

Where do I find information to write an abstract and design a poster?

We offer workshops on various topics including selecting a research project, finding a faculty mentor, writing an abstract, how to develop an effective poster for presenting your research and many other topics related to undergraduate research. These workshops are open to all Rutgers-New Brunswick undergraduate students. Click here to learn more.

If you have more questions, or would like to discuss an idea, feel free to contact the staff at the Aresty Research Center for Undergraduates.