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Articles / Preparing for College / At UChicago, Research Defines the Academic Culture

At UChicago, Research Defines the Academic Culture

Written by | April 11, 2022
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Photo courtesy of University of Chicago

A University Committed to Research

Original research is central to the University of Chicago’s mission. Any student who wishes to get involved in research has over 160 research centers and committees to choose from. Over 80 percent of undergraduates choose to participate in research, and many start as early as their first year on campus.

At UChicago, research is not just for science majors! The University offers undergraduate research opportunities in programs ranging from economics and psychology to cinema studies and sociology. Centers that offer research opportunities outside of the physical sciences include:

UChicago's newest major, Inquiry and Research in the Humanities (IRHUM), is intended for students who wish to design and pursue humanities research projects under close mentorship of faculty. Students can design an individualized program of humanistic study and inquiry, which culminates in an original research project.

For students with pure or interdisciplinary interest in the sciences, the University of Chicago Medical Center is a major host of research and practical experience for students.

“After volunteering as a teacher’s assistant in UChicago’s Neighborhood Schools community service program, I became interested in early childhood development,' said Kate F. "I found a research position with the Thirty Million Words Initiative, a lab in the UChicago Medical Center that researches and works to close the literacy gap that can grow within the first three years of a child’s life. I applied and got the position—as a first year!”

Conducting Research Off-Campus

Most of UChicago’s research labs and centers are right on campus, but some undergraduates can be found conducting research at the two UChicago-managed U.S. Department of Energy labs—Argonne National Laboratory and Fermilab. One student, An L. says, "As someone who’s never done research before, working with Professor Chang [at Argonne National Lab] has been an incredible learning opportunity. I’m amazed by the hands-on experience that I get to be involved in, whether it’s learning how to set up samples in the cryostat, manipulating data, or participating in South Pole Telescope team meetings."

Some students choose to combine research with a travel experience—whether that's spending Spring Quarter studying Astronomy at the UChicago Center in Paris, or Fall Quarter at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts.

“Just a month ago, my dad drove me from our home near Boston, MA to a small, picturesque, seaside town on Cape Cod called Woods Hole," said Nora B. "This town isn’t like any other coastal spot; it’s a world-renowned hub of marine biological study. Scientists come from all over the country and the world to study and work here. So, for a young scientist like me, traveling to Woods Hole was a dream come true.”

Design Your Own Research Project

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"As a Molecular Engineering major, I knew that I wanted to join a Molecular Engineering lab," said Christina P. "After going through training, my PI (principal investigator) gave me the responsibility of taking on my own project! I am now designing my own procedures and collecting data with the goal of publication!"

The Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) provides a unique opportunity to pursue molecular level science in both academic and research contexts. Engineering and physical sciences students explore and advance the development of technologies across a wide range of research themes, including all components of quantum information processing: sensing, computation, storage, and communication.

Watch the video below to learn more about undergraduate programs and research at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME)

Choosing a Research Project

With so many options available, how do students choose which research opportunity to get involved with? The College Center for Research and Fellowships provides guidance and helps students find opportunities that align with their academic interest and goals. Funding is also available for some students through paid research positions, or an abundance of grants and fellowships offered by departments, the Study Abroad office, and numerous other sources.

Learn More About Research at UChicago

The academic culture at the University of Chicago is defined by open inquiry, interdisciplinary approaches, and a commitment to generating new knowledge for the benefit of present and future generations. This spirit of innovative thinking is the backbone behind some of the notable breakthroughs that have occurred at UChicago, including discovering the link between cancer and genetics and establishing revolutionary theories of economics.

To learn more about hands-on experiential research at UChicago, visit UChicago's Research Opportunities page. Or connect with other applicants and alums the in UChicago forum.

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