Research and Summer Enrichment Programs

At FIU almost all of our science, engineering, and medical faculty are committed to conducting research aimed at answering many of the fundamental scientific and medical problems that are relevant to our ability to address the complex challenges our society confronts today. The opportunity to contribute and work in these research groups depends on a student's academic progress including coursework completed and the quality of that work. It also depends on availability of space within a given lab and the length of time a student is willing or able to commit to work with the researchers in that lab. Because many students desire to obtain research experience these positions are competitive and having faculty members who will recommend you is important. It is essential for a student to know their faculty and to be willing to visit and talk to them about research opportunities. It should go without saying that a real interest in a research topic and basic curiosity are essential qualities in a student who wishes to do research.

Research is not an OK leave as is activity. Research requires extended periods of time in the lab to become familiar with the instrumentation, research literature of the lab/project and to publish results. Students should understand that if they are hoping to do research they will need to set aside regular and long blocks of time to devote to this endeavor. At FIU, undergraduate students who work in research labs often spend two or more years working in a lab. A 20 hour per week commitment is a reasonable expectation on the part of a mentor who considers allowing a student to work in their lab. It is possible that some projects may require smaller time commitments, but rarely less than 8 hours per week. A research project involves doing something new and because it hasn't been done before it may not be possible for a professor to tell a student how long it will take to accomplish the planned work. It will depend on resolving some of the challenges associated with making the measurements or conducting the experiments. A student should take on a project with the realistic expectation that they will remain engaged in an effort to obtain meaningful results. A student whose efforts result in data and conclusions that address an important question will often become a co-author on a presentation made at a national or international scientific conference or a peer reviewed publication in a scientific journal.

Students who have become co-authors have almost all learned how research is conducted. They have come to understand how a problem is identified and what makes a scientific problem worthy of pursuit. They have also learned how to read the scientific literature and how to determine if this is a new problem or one that has an extensive scientific record. In conducting their research they will have learned how to use a wide range of tools and when to trust the results obtained from their measurements. It is likely they will have used techniques to manage and analyze data that they have gathered and how to interpret this information in the light of work already published in the literature. A few lucky students may even learn to write research proposals in an effort to obtain funding.

Many of the major research universities across the country provide undergraduate students interested in research an opportunity to spend 6-8 weeks working in the laboratory of a faculty member on their campus. Their purpose is to motivate students to consider a career as a research scientist and to attend a graduate program (hopefully on their campus). There also programs that are directed at providing clinical opportunities for students who may be interested in a health profession. Many of these programs are especially interested in students who may be the first member of their family to attend a university or whose ethnic/racial group is under-represented in the sciences or professions. Many of these programs will provide students financial support.

Application to these Summer Programs must typically be completed prior to the first week in February.