Undergraduate Research

We welcome inquiries and applications from responsible, enthusiastic, motivated, collaborative undergraduate students who are passionate about research. Students who are selected to join the lab become full members of the lab. This means they are expected to follow all lab and university policies, keep lab notebooks, attend lab meetings, and participate in lab activities. Undergraduates in our lab are not viewed as temporary workers who put in hours to help our research. Rather, they are considered active participants in research and are treated as junior collaborators. It is also important for students to receive mentoring and training in research methods, research integrity, and ethics.

In most cases, students will be part of a well-defined project and/or a small team of students and/or postdoctoral researchers. The responsibilities, expectations, and workload depend on the particular project and are discussed at the start of project and revisited regularly. Most students work on behavioral experiments with adult humans, but it is also possible for dedicated students to become involved in developmental, eye-tracking, or neuroimaging research. Students are required to present the PI with reports on the research conducted at least quarterly. In the event that there are new, interesting findings that emerge from the project, students typically will have their name on any resulting conference presentations or journal papers. Authorship as well as presentation or writing responsibilities depend on the particular project, but students who want to gain experience in presenting and publishing scientific research are always encouraged to become active in the process.

Our lab is committed to undergraduate research. However, since there is often a relatively short time within which to perform a meaningful research project, the management of undergraduate research is challenging. Students may be expected to make a minimum 2-3 quarter commitment to the lab, as for some studies, shorter research experiences simply won’t not benefit students. Although this is not a rule, we also prefer students in sophomore or junior standing so that there is sufficient time to assess whether there is a good match between the student and the lab that could lead to a senior thesis, or a research assistantship.

Undergraduate students who are interested in research opportunities, including 199s and senior theses, please contact Professor Saygin (asaygin at ucsd dot edu). Please include your name, standing (junior, senior etc), major, GPA, and include a CV and ideally, a transcript (unofficial is fine). Please also mention whether you are writing in response to a specific advertised 199 opening.

Any student who is serious about conducting research in the lab is strongly encouraged to take¬†Dr. Saygin’s Matlab course or self study these materials. This class is designed to give students computational skills directly applicable to experimental research. Students who work on developing computational and programming skills are able to achieve productivity and independence much faster than students who do not develop these skills, and are generally able to take part in more ambitious research projects.

Students are always encouraged to be proactive in finding support and funding for research. Contact us if you’re interested in applying for special programs or for funding for undergraduate research.

Last but not least, here’s a student’s perspective on why you should do research as an undergraduate.

See also: Joining the Lab, Research Integrity and Ethics, Lab Notebooks, Lab Policies, Lab Meetings, Graduate School, Undergraduate Research, Funding, How to Contact a PI

Resources:
UCSD Undergraduate Research Homepage
UCSD Faculty Mentor Program
UCSD McNair Program
UCSD Summer Research Program
UCSD Summer Research Opportunities
UCSD Undergraduate Research Conference
UCSD Cognitive Science Department 199 Information
Faculty for Undergraduate Research Resources (SFN)
Sigma Xi Grants

Links:
Advice for Undergraduates Considering Graduate School
Choosing a Graduate Program
Grad School Application Essay