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Undergraduate Research

NRES and the College of ACES strongly encourage our students to engage in independent research as undergraduates. There are opportunities all around you as an NRES major. NRES faculty and adjunct faculty (such as the scientists at the Illinois Natural History Survey) have a lot of room for undergraduates in their research, and they welcome your inquiries.

It is important to seek out research opportunities early in your U of I career, because you will need to develop laboratory and field skills before you will be ready to conduct your own projects. Begin by contacting faculty who work in areas of interest to you. Ask them if they need any lab assistance. Sometimes they will be able to hire you; other times, they will welcome you as a volunteer. Once you have developed the skills to conduct your own research project, you can enroll in NRES 295 Undergraduate Research or Thesis. You can take up to 4 hours of 295 in a semester, and up to 12 hours of 295 can count toward your degree.

Finding a Faculty Member to Supervise your Research

Talk to the faculty members who are teaching the courses you are taking. If none of them are a good fit for you, explore the NRES Research page, which has lists of the NRES faculty and adjunct faculty by their areas of expertise. Choose the area(s) of interest to you, explore the research pages of the faculty members in that area, and contact the ones that are a good match for your interests.

There are also scientists in the Prairie Research Institute who are not affiliated with NRES but who might be interested in having you join their research. Explore the web pages for the division/unit and the directories to find scientists working on research of interest to you. The units within the INRS are:

  • Illinois Natural History Survey, where you will find scientists working on all kinds of ecosystem, plant and animal projects. Several INHS scientists are adjunct faculty members in NRES. The mission of INHS is, "to investigate and document the biological resources of Illinois and other areas, and to acquire and provide natural history information that can be used to promote the common understanding, conservation, and management of these resources."
  • Illinois State Geological Survey, whose mission is, "To provide the citizens and institutions of Illinois with earth science research and information that are accurate, objective, and relevant to our State's environmental quality, economic prosperity, and public safety."
  • Illinois State Water Survey, which includes four centers: Center for Atmospheric Science, Center for Chemistry & Technology, Center for Groundwater Science, and Center for Watershed Science.
  • Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, "a change agency that performs research, spreads awareness, and facilitates implementation regarding practices, technology and systems that improves sustainability."

You can often also find research positions on the Virtual Job Board hosted by the Office of Student Financial Aid. You can view all jobs or create your own search.

Resources for Undergraduate Research