UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH ASSISTANTS
Opportunities and information for undergraduate research positions
Last updated: 4/20/22
Getting involved in a lab as an undergraduate research assistant (RA) is one of the best ways to learn about how to conduct research, get exposed to new and interesting topics not covered in your coursework, and build your professional network. It’s also just a lot of fun!
This page provides information on basic expectations and requirements for participating in the lab as an undergraduate RA as well as answers to some frequently asked questions. If you are considering joining the lab, please review the information below prior to submitting an application. You may also contact me or any of my current graduate students directly if you have specific questions not addressed here.
What do undergraduate RAs in the lab do?
The undergraduate RAs who collaborate with me and my graduate students participate in many different activities. The specific things you may be asked to help with will vary depending on current projects and needs, but the list below provides examples of some common tasks:
- Running data collection sessions (i.e., setting up the lab, instructing and assisting participants on study tasks, debriefing participants, etc.)
- Scheduling and distributing credits/payments to study participants
- Working with data (i.e., coding, cleaning, analyzing, reviewing/interpreting)
- Providing input/feedback on study ideas and designs
- Assisting with the development and piloting of lab tasks, measures, etc.
- Contributing to the creation (and, depending on contribution, potentially serving as an author for) posters, presentations and papers
- Reading, presenting, and discussing research articles with lab members
What can I expect from you and what do you expect of me?
In my view, one of the key purposes of participating in a lab is to gain experience, learn new things that may not be part of your coursework, and get to know me, my graduate students, and some of your fellow classmates in a professional non-classroom environment. To that end, here are my commitments to those collaborating with me in the lab and the commitments I expect in return.
What you can expect of me:
- I will be available to provide advice, suggestions, and guidance to you on topics related to your coursework, graduate school, and career options
- I will do my best to provide you with opportunities and experiences that are important, relevant, and useful to your goals
- I will always treat you and all members of the lab with respect and courtesy
- I will ask for and take your input into consideration on questions and decisions relevant to the lab
- I wlil do my best to support and accommodate any unique life or school circumstances that may affect your participation in the lab
What I expect of you:
- I expect you to be an active participant in and willing volunteer for lab-relevant tasks
- I expect you to fulfill any and all formal obligations as part of your membership in the lab (i.e., attending meetings, fulfilling time commitments and course credit requirements, completing any required trainings)
- I expect you to communicate with me and my graduate students regularly (especially when asked for your input/assistance on lab-relevant tasks or when unusual circumstances arise)
- I expect you to treat me and all members of the lab with respect and courtesy
- I expect you to interact with all research participants in our lab in a professional and respectful manner
A failure to meet any of these expectations in a reasonable manner may result in dismissal from the lab.
Can I participate in the lab for course credit?
The University of Maryland psychology department offers the option for undergraduate RAs to earn course credit by enrolling in PSYC479. However, to participate in my lab for credit, you must meet the following eligibility requirements.
At least one of the following must be true…
… and all of the following must be true:
Please note that if you do not meet the above criteria, you are still eligible to apply for the lab as a volunteer undergraduate RA for no course credit.
How much time am I expected to commit to the lab?
The minimum time commitment I ask of all undergraduate RAs is 3 hours per week (i.e., 45 hours total per semester). Note that your time commitment will be greater if you are enrolled in PSYC479 for more than 1 course credit.
Please note that I expect all RAs to attend our regularly scheduled lab meetings. Only under very special circumstances will I allow an undergraduate RA to be part of the lab but not attend lab meetings. Attending and participating in these meetings is a critical part of the lab experience. It is one of the best ways for you to stay involved and get to know me and the other members of the lab–plus it’s more fun when everyone is present! Lab meetings are typically held bi-weekly, run for one hour, and count towards your expected time commitment. The specific dates and times for lab meetings will be set prior to the beginning of each semester; I will do my best to accomodate people’s course schedules, but it is not always possible for me to do so.
What projects will I work on?
The specific projects that we do in the lab and to which you might contribute varies from semester to semester. It is especially common for undergraduate RAs to work closely with my current graduate students on their thesis and dissertation research. To get a sense for some of the types of projects I do though, please check out the Projects page.
Can I do an independent research project or honor’s thesis with you?
Yes! Please contact me directly to discuss availability and options.
Additionally, I strongly encourage and assist all RAs working in the lab with preparing a poster submission for our department’s annual research fair. This may involve presenting data we’re currently collecting in the lab, data that has been previously collected by me or others in the lab, or new data that any RAs are interested in collecting for their research idea.