Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate Research

Version 1, January 29, 2021



    The evidence to support these practices comes from numerous sources, and there is an extensive peer-reviewed literature on the benefits of undergraduate research in the sciences, as well as a much smaller literature that is physics-specific. While large-scale studies have found clear evidence that undergraduate research confers benefits, because these experiences vary so widely, it is more difficult to determine the causal mechanisms behind these benefits. The following is a small sample of the many studies on the benefits of undergraduate research.

    1. S. Laursen, A.-B. Hunter, E. Seymour, H. Thiry, and G. Melton, Undergraduate Research in the Sciences: Engaging Students in Real Science, Jossey-Bass (2010).
    2. G. D. Kuh, “High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter,” American Association of Colleges and Universities (2008).
    3. M. J. Chang, J. Sharkness, S. Hurtuado, and C. B. Newman, “What matters in college for retaining aspiring scientists and engineers from underrepresented racial groups,” Journal of Research in Science Teaching 51(5), 555–580 (2014).
    4. N. G. Holmes and C. E. Wieman, “Examining and contrasting the cognitive activities engaged in undergraduate research experiences and lab courses,” Physical Review Physics Education Research 12, 020103 (2016).


    The practices in this section are discussed in several reports and guidebooks on undergraduate research, including:

    Training and education programs for research mentors and mentees:

    • Physics Research Mentor Training Seminar: A guide co-produced by the Center for Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (CIMER) and APS with a mentor-training curriculum for mentoring undergraduates in research environments. This manual provides a week-by-week curriculum that can be used to improve mentoring skills
    • Entering Mentoring: a program produced by CIMER that provides training modules, curricula, and interactive sessions for training research mentors and mentees in STEM
    • Culturally Aware Mentorship (CAM) Training: a program from the National Research Mentoring Network that supports mentors and mentees in addressing cultural diversity matters. The program includes a one-hour online module, a six-hour intensive training, and a skills survey for self-assessment.
    • Mentor Tips and Training: guidance from the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, including an online research mentor orientation program
    • Mentor Training: The University of Minnesota offers a 90-to-120 minute online course preparing faculty to be research mentors
    • Peer Mentoring in STEM: training from the Canvas Network

    Assessment tools to evaluate the quality of student experiences using self-reported data:


    Numerous physics and astronomy professional organizations have made statements in support of undergraduate research experiences: