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Undergraduate Research Opportunities 

Undergraduates working in the lab

Undergraduate students have a unique opportunity to perform research in one of our many interdisciplinary research labs. Chemistry majors seeking a B.S. degree are required to take at least eight credit hours of research through CHEM 391, 491, 492, and 493. 

Most chemistry research students are chemistry majors. Although many work with Rice Chemistry professors, we also encourage and support students doing research in other Rice science departments, or even outside the University, most commonly at labs in the Texas Medical Center. In the first semester of independent research, students should enroll in CHEM 391 for at least 3 credit hours before the end of their junior year. Prior to enrollment, students must secure a position in a laboratory. In subsequent semesters, students should enroll in CHEM 491 for independent research (or CHEM 492/493 for honors thesis research), and may choose the credit hours in consultation with their research advisor. Students should expect to spend 3 hours/week for each credit-hour (or 42 hours per semester). This implies at least 9 hours in the lab for a 3-hour course, or 12 hours for a 4-hour course, each week. CHEM 491 is repeatable for credit and students wishing to pursue graduate school or other careers in research and applied science are encouraged to gain as much research experience as possible. Students are not limited to one lab, and may choose another lab in subsequent semesters. A major advantage of continuing in one lab may include obtaining results to co-author a publication. 

How do I register for Undergraduate Research?

First, start planning far in advance. The deadline for course enrollment is several weeks before the start of the semester. Some labs may have extensive laboratory or safety training that must be completed before the start of the semester. Labs at the Texas Medical Center often have access control regulations that require filling paperwork months in advance of starting in the lab.

UG Research Button 2.75You must fill out the application here. The information provided in this application can be used to apply for all Chemistry research, including for a thesis or for Honor’s Research. Once you have submitted this application, you must fill-out the Undergraduate Special Registration form from the Office of the Registrar (http://registrar.rice.edu/online_forms/) and bring it to the Course Instructor to be signed before being brought back to the Office of the Registrar.

If you are conducting research off-campus in the medical center your Research Advisor must email the Course Advisor in support of your research with them.

Undergraduate Honors Research, CHEM 492 (Fall) and CHEM 493 (Spring):

The Chemistry Honors Research Program, CHEM 492/493, offers students in their final year at Rice the opportunity to perform a two-semester, individual chemistry research project. These courses function as a pair and must be taken in the same academic year. Course requirements include (but are not limited to) completing a research proposal, a public presentation of findings, and a formal research report or thesis in the spring term. Students must formally apply into CHEM 492/493 with the recommendation of their research professor. If you are conducting research for a thesis outside the Chemistry Department you must have an on-campus Chemistry Department secondary advisor. Applications must be submitted to the course instructor February 1 - August 1 (early application submission is highly encouraged). Students who complete the Chemistry Honors Research Program are given primary consideration for "Distinction in Research and Creative Work," a university award for select undergraduates, chosen by the Department and granted at commencement, which appears on the transcript and diploma. 

How do I find a research opportunity?

Opportunities in the Rice Chemistry Department:

If you are a chemistry major, you probably want to begin by looking for positions in the chemistry department. Positions are generally not advertised, so the best approach is simply to investigate web pages and contact any faculty member whose research interests you regardless of whether research opportunities have been posted. To find out which faculty members are working in areas that you find intriguing, see the Chemistry Department website (http://chemistry.rice.edu/Content.aspx?id=123) and select an area of interest.

Opportunities elsewhere:

If you have a particular research interest that is not found among the current Chemistry faculty, you may find a faculty member elsewhere on campus or in the medical center willing to host you. You must then have the project approved by the CHEM491 instructor. To be approved, the research should have something to do with chemistry (defined broadly) and should be set up to provide a positive research experience. If you are interested in a particular lab or type of research outside the guidelines mentioned above, discuss this with the CHEM491 instructor to see if it would be appropriate.

In addition, the Chemistry Department has a Canvas site to post research opportunities at Rice and other institutions. Click here to join the site.  

Research in labs at the Texas Medical Center (TMC)

The Texas Medical Center holds enormous possibilities to do research, and students who are headed to medical school might be particularly interested in the possibility of working at the medical center. Nevertheless, several factors complicate off-campus research, which should not be taken lightly.

  • Travel time - The round trip takes 30-60 min and reduces the amount of time you have to spend in the lab.
  • Hard to drop in for a few minutes - Sometimes when you have a break between classes you will want to drop into lab for a few minutes to start a reaction, check on an analytical run or a calculation, or talk to your professor. These few minutes can often give you a head start or eliminate waiting time when you have your next block of time in the lab. The distance problem can preclude popping in and out of an off-campus lab.
  • Cultural differences between Rice and other TMC institutions - Most labs at the medical center are less accustomed to working with undergraduate researchers and may be less accommodating of undergraduate schedules and instructional needs.
  • Paperwork and safety training courses - Additional paperwork and safety training courses are required for most off-campus labs, so you will have to budget extra time to complete these before beginning research.

However, students who have prepared for these complexities have an unusual opportunity to undertake medical research as an undergraduate student. A hybrid approach is to join a Rice lab that works closely with TMC faculty. Please see the course instructor if you’d like leads in these directions.

For more information on how to find a research opportunity, click here. 

Summer Research Opportunities:

In addition to CHEM 391, 491, 492 and 493, a limited number of opportunities exist for undergraduates to do research during the summer. The summer research opportunities include the Dr. Paul S. Engel Fellowship, the George Holmes Richter Memorial Fellowship and the Zevi & Bertha Salsburg Memorial Fellowship in Chemistry. These are sometimes paid positions, as opposed to being taken for credit. Information regarding applying for these summer opportunities will be sent to all students on the Chemistry Undergraduate listserv in the late Fall of each academic year. To join the listserv, email chemhelp@rice.edu

In addition, the Chemistry Department has a Canvas site to post research opportunities at Rice and other institutions. Click here to join the site.  

Special Note for international students: Most international students interested in summer research should apply for an F-1 OPT (Optional Practical Training). An OPT is appropriate for all students working off campus, and most students working on campus as well. In limited cases where a student plans to conduct research at Rice for credit, the F-1 CPT (Curricular Practical Training) may be appropriate.

International students should make summer plans well in advance; OPT applications typically require 60 days (or up to 90 days) processing time. Please consult Rice OISS with any questions.