An Impactful Faculty-Mentored Research Experience for Every Student

The importance of undergraduate research to student learning and long-term success cannot be overstated, particularly in highly technical disciplines like chemistry and biochemistry. Employers and graduate schools place a high value on students who have done independent research due to the acquisition of hands-on experience and intellectual independence, as well as knowledge and skills relating to critical thinking, problem solving, data collection and analysis, written and oral communication, information literacy, teamwork, ethics, and safety.

CMU is the only public university in Michigan to have compulsory capstone research experiences for both chemistry and biochemistry majors. Our capstone research program has been the cornerstone of our undergraduate programs for over 50 years—since CMU's Department of Chemistry was founded in 1964. In that time span, hundreds students in have completed research projects and undergraduate theses. Many of these projects culminated in peer-reviewed publications and presentations at national scientific meetings, and many more propelled students into jobs and graduate schools while building a foundation for life-long success.

For more general information about undergraduate chemistry research, see the American Chemical Society's Guide to Undergraduate Research here.

How Does Undergraduate Chemistry Research Work at CMU?

CHM 491WI is the writing-intensive undergraduate research course required for all majors in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. To complete CHM 491WI, you will work one-on-one with a faculty member to devise, propose, and execute an independent research project, then communicate your findings through an undergraduate thesis and a poster presentation. The steps taken prior to and during enrollment in CHM 491WI are detailed in the following two documents:

  • CHM 491WI Enrollment Form
  • CHM 491WI Syllabus

Please pickup these documents at the department office, read these documents carefully and work with your research advisor to create a plan and schedule for completing CHM 491WI.

What Types of Research Can I Get Involved in?

It is important to do research that you are passionate about and that will develop knowledge and skills that are relevant to your career goals. Faculty members in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry work in all of the major chemical disciplines (analytical chemistry, biochemistry, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and physical chemistry) on topics ranging from clean energy and renewable materials to understanding and combatting cancer and infectious diseases. Please visit our department's areas of research and faculty profiles for more information. Also, keep your eye out for the department's annual research recruitment events, which are open-house events held every year where faculty and students congregate to share the department's research activities and get new students involved.

Students can also perform their CHM 491WI research outside the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. Chemistry majors have previously worked with scientists from nearby chemical companies. Biochemistry majors have previously worked with faculty members from Biology, Neuroscience, and the College of Medicine.

When Can I Get Started with Research?

Students are encouraged to start undergraduate research as early as possible. Some students even begin during their Freshman and Sophomore years. Students can register for CHM 491WI any time after they have taken 14 credit hours of chemistry courses. Any research completed prior to enrolling in CHM 491WI can still be included in the thesis (typically, CHM 491WI research is a continuation of the same project).

Are There Funds Available for Doing and Presenting my Research?

The Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry provides the basic supplies and materials needed to complete an undergraduate research project. Other funding sources are also available to undergraduate students to support their research activities:

  • Undergraduate Research & Creative Endeavors Grant – Competitive grant of up to $500 to offset the costs associated with a student's research.
  • Summer Scholars Program – Competitive award provides summer stipends to research students.
  • Undergraduate Presentation Grant – Competitive grant of up to $350 to offset the costs associated with a student presenting their work at a conference.
  • Department and College Presentation Funding – The Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry and the College of Science & Engineering provide $350 each to offset the costs associated with a student presenting their work at a conference.
  • ACS Student Members Group Presentation Funding – The student ACS group coordinates trips and provides some support for presenting and non-presenting students to travel to national chemistry meetings.
  • Summer Research – Some faculty members have grants or other funding sources to provide summer stipends to research students. Consult your research advisor about these opportunities.

What's Next?

If you are a prospective student, please contact us for more information about our Department, our programs, and capstone undergraduate research. Click here to apply to CMU.

If you are a current student and interested in beginning undergraduate research, please view our department's areas of research and contact faculty members whose work you are interested in to discuss research opportunities.

If you are a current student who is preparing to enroll in, or are currently enrolled in, CHM 491WI and are looking for detailed information on course requirements and procedures, please pick the necessary documents up at the department office (Dow Science Complex 268), read them carefully, and work with your chemistry academic advisor.