How to Get Involved with Purdue HHS Research

This information is supplemented by the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR). You can find more information on their website.

Determine what you want to research:What areas of study are you fascinated with?

  • Evaluate what interests you the most in your classes.
  • Is there a specific study you are determined to learn more about?
  • Are you open to topics outside of your area of study?

Defining what you are most interested in studying can help narrow down who you want to approach about
research. This can make it much more exciting, as you are actively pursuing something that you are passionate about! It can be very intimidating to start looking for research, but this can make it feel slightly more manageable.

Prepare yourself:

Make sure you have an up to date resumé that shows your best skills. Try to steer away from what you did in high school and instead on your academics and current accomplishments. If you are a freshman, try to start building your experiences. Research mentors want to know what is going on currently and what is most relevant to the research at hand.

The Purdue Online Writing Lab and Purdue CCO handbook has an immense collection of how to get your resumé started.

Look into potential research mentors:

  • Browse the HHS research website for research labs that are welcoming new students in their lab
  • Talk to your professors and discuss if they are performing any research or know others who have openings.
    Having a personal connection with a researcher can significantly improve your chances of being invited onto a research project.
  • Talk to fellow students and see what kind of research they are in and how their experience has been thus far.
  • Continually check the OUR website and HHS research website.
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out to your advisors, professors, peers, etc. for advice—that is what they are here for!

Research the research:

Look into possible research mentors research websites or scholarly articles. Attend research conferences or
read previous abstracts to locate past undergraduate research mentors and their projects. It is important to
be informed on what you are trying to get involved in. If you are not prepared to talk about that topic when
you reach out and meet with them, it may reflect poorly on you.

Reach out:

  • Inform your potential research mentor that you are interested in their research and that you would like to discuss what opportunities they may have.
  • An email is normally the best option for contacting mentors, but remember to have proper email etiquette.
  • In the email (see example email at the end of this page), express your interest and knowledge about their research. Then, continue to ask questions to show that you want to learn more.
  • Researchers love to talk about their research! So be assertive, ask questions about their research and what interest you about it.
  • Tell them about yourself and what you are passionate about.
  • If you don’t hear back within 1-2 weeks, send another email. It is likely that your email just got lost within their inbox, not that they don’t want to talk to you.

Come ready to talk:

  • Bring your resumé and even a transcript to outline the courses you are taking.
  • Express what you are looking for and how much you would like to be involved.
  • Make sure to assert your interest and express your enthusiasm to learn more about their project.

Follow up: Reach out and thank them for meeting with you. Further note how interested you are and that you are hopeful you will speak to them again. If they requested anything of you from your meeting, provide that in this email.

Questions to ask future research mentors (provided by OUR):

  • Do you have a potential research project that needs an undergraduate student’s help?
  • How did you get involved with this particular area of research?
  • Where does funding come from for your research? (Only ask if you were unable to find this information online.)
  • What are the typical responsibilities for undergraduate students engaged in your research? What are your expectations of them?
  • What skills or characteristics do you expect an undergraduate to have before beginning a project with you?
  • Are there specific courses you suggest that I take or skills that I should develop?
  • Do you have any suggestions for other research mentors for me to contact?

Choose your research mentor and start working!

Understand what is expected of you and start actively communicating with your research mentor. Agree on
whether you are working for credit or not. If so, contact your advisor to set this up. Stay on top of your tasks and reach out to your mentor for help—that is what they are there for!

Dr. Jianming Li has a great amount of information on what a faculty member is looking for in an undergraduate researcher.

Email Template:

Dear Dr. _____________,
I am (name) , and I am a (academic year) in Purdue’s (major) and (other involvements on campus; i.e.
Honors College or relevant clubs) . I am currently looking for (express what you are interested and what you are currently looking for in a research lab) . Currently, I am looking looking to get involved in research here at Purdue, as it is a major goal for me at this time.

After reading about your research, I am very interested in learning more about what you study. (Discuss here what you are most intrigued about in their research and any questions you may have) . I would love to meet with you to learn more about your research and discuss the possibility of a research position, if you have any available. [Insert chucks of time you are generally available.] As noted in my attached resume, I do/do not have previous research experience, and I am very eager to learn new skills.

Sincerely,
(Name)