Getting involved in research at UC Berkeley can be an exciting yet daunting prospect as a new student, but there are many avenues available to help along the journey.
UC Berkeley is one of the largest research universities in the United States, as well as the world. Campus uses its research funding to facilitate 35 core facilities across several departments in STEM fields, as well as funding projects towards the individual research goals of its many distinguished faculty.
“The university has a long legacy of innovations and leaders that have created groundbreaking products, revolutionary companies, and entirely new industries,” the campus research website reads.
According to the campus research website, the current faculty includes 10 Nobel laureates, six recipients of the Turing Award, one Fields Medal recipient and 15 winners of the National Medal of Science among many other accomplishments.
Navigating how to approach the many specialized areas of research can be intimidating, so campus has several resources to guide students.
The largest campus-wide program is the Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program, or URAP. According to Stephanie Ebeling, Program Manager and Advisor for URAP, the program accepts 1650 to 1850 students each semester to work alongside faculty and research staff.
URAP provides a structured approach to applying, and lists specific requirements for positions. The program limits each student to three applications per semester.
“Not only do (students) learn how research is done in the respective field, they also learn how to be part of a research community,” Ebeling said in an email. “Many continue to do their independent research project with the help of programs such as the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program, or the Haas Scholars Program.”
The Fall 2022 URAP application is currently open and closes on Aug. 29 at 9 a.m.. Applying to a URAP position requires a UC Berkeley GPA of at least 2.8, though freshmen can apply without one. Applicants must also submit a statement of interest and list any research-relevant courses.
If a student is interested in an area of research not listed on URAP, they can also utilize other avenues to get involved.
The Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarships, or OURS, provides an overview of such programs. They also run workshops on various topics, from how to write a research proposal to how to email professors.
“OURS seeks to integrate undergraduates more fully into the dynamic and diverse research life of UC Berkeley,” the office website reads. “The center does so through a wide range of programs, workshops, partnerships, and communication platforms.”
Individual colleges and departments also have resources available to help undergraduate students participate in research.
The STEM Resources and Training, or STAR, website provides information on opportunities in STEM. It has guidebooks and databases on research fields UC Berkeley students can access. The engineering department has a website called BeeHive, with similar resources focused on engineering disciplines.
Such opportunities are not limited to STEM fields, however, with at least seven different colleges and departments offering specialized resources for aspiring undergraduate researchers. Haas Scholars, for example, accepts 20 students with financial need each year.
“Haas Scholars receive close mentoring from members of the UC-Berkeley faculty, seminars and workshops to assist them in the research and writing process, the opportunity to present their work at a professional conference, and up to $13,800 each in financial support,” the Haas Scholars Program website reads.
Another option is to simply approach professors directly. This is often done via email or attending office hours. When taking this approach, it is prudent to prepare a resume and cover letter in advance.
The Berkeley Career Center provides guidance on how to craft these materials. In addition, looking over the desired professor’s website and having an understanding of their work can demonstrate interest in their field.
OURS recommends approaching multiple professors to maximize the chances of finding a research position, as there are plenty of openings every semester.
“The success of our programs and advising demonstrate that Cal’s undergraduates are profoundly transformed through engagement in research projects,” the OURS website reads.