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Student-Faculty Collaborative Research and Creative Activity

A “Mark of Excellence” of UW-Eau Claire is its emphasis on student participation in scholarly and creative activity. In 1988 it was named the Center of Excellence for Faculty and Undergraduate Student Research Collaboration within the UW System. Put plainly, this means we are the center of undergraduate research in Wisconsin. UW-Eau Claire provides opportunities to undergraduates to engage in research and creative inquiry that larger universities give primarily to their graduate students.

Working on a scholarly research/creative project with a faculty member is an opportunity for you to go beyond learning in the classroom and become actively involved in creating knowledge and new meaning within the discipline. You get to do it instead of just learning about it. Not only that, it is typically challenging, fun, and very satisfying. You will learn things you don’t learn in a classroom. Support for student research and creative activities is a fundamental part of ORSP's mission. In addition to sponsoring the Celebration of Excellence in Research and Creative Activity (CERCA), ORSP provides funding for faculty-student research collaborations, research abroad, student travel to present at conferences, as well as application support and documentation for external grants and scholarships. 
Watch this short video about what undergraduate research can do for you!

"Undergraduate research was by FAR the most influential factor in post-school offers (grad school and jobs)."  

See the links at the left for details on research and creative activity funding opportunities. Before completing and submitting any funding proposal, please read ORSP Internal Guidelines. If you are doing research with human or animal subjects, you need to apply for approval of your research protocol from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) or the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC).

What is Research?

What Is Research?

"Research" implies any in-depth scholarly research or creative project in which a student engages in the scholarly work of the discipline with the goal of creating new knowledge or perspectives. Every research project has the following basic steps:

  • Ask an unanswered question, pose a new problem or envision a creative work
  • Research how others have approached a similar problem
  • Develop your process and methodology
  • Carry out your study or create the work
  • Communicate what you learned or present the creative work  
What Will I Learn?

What Will I learn?

You will learn not only about the specific content area you are researching but also important skills such as:

  • How to pose an important question or identify an important project in your field
  • How to design a research plan or an approach to answering the question or tackling the project
  • How to collect and analyze data, or analyze texts or other information to test your hypothesis, support your argument, or accomplish the project
  • How to communicate the results of your work through posters, oral presentations, papers, art displays, or artistic performances depending on your topic

You are also likely to increase your self-confidence in your ability to carry out a major project and recognize whether or not post-graduate research (graduate school) is for you.

"My time doing undergraduate research was an invaluable experience. I learned more from my hands-on training with my advisor than I did during my course work. The course work only amplified my understanding of what we were doing in our research. If I could have stayed on after graduation I would have."

Technical Skills

When you conduct research, you will also learn how to use software, techniques, and equipment that will serve you well beyond a single research project.

"Undergraduate research is essential in the field of science. Without experiences like these, students lack real-world application of their education. I gained cultural and scientific knowledge on my trip to study MRSA and Chagas Disease in Ecuador. Additionally, I participated in lab work after the trip, giving me experience in that as well. These are the type of experiences that students remember and learn from. I am in medical school now and even last week I was able to apply what I had learned about MRSA (a bacteria) to studying antibiotics[.]"

What are the Benefits of Participating in Student-Faculty Research?

Stand Out When Applying for Jobs or Graduate School

No matter what you plan to do after you graduate, experiencing in-depth scholarship will help you along. The skills you learn will be applicable in a job environment or in graduate school. Both prospective employers and graduate schools recognize that students who have this kind of experience are better prepared than many of their peers. Many students give presentations at professional meetings, co-author papers, or produce other published or juried products that help build impressive resumes.

This is likely what most think of when they think of student researchers. By the time you graduate, you can list research, presentations, and (possibly) publications on your resume if you participate in undergraduate research. Your research experience will tell graduate schools that not only are you a competitive candidate for graduate school, but you are already doing graduate-level work. In a 2013 survey of alumni who participated in Undergraduate Research from 2007-2012, 32% were in graduate school, and 79% of them agree that their undergraduate research experience was a significant factor in their admission to a graduate program.

"Undergraduate research was by FAR the most influential factor in post-school offers (grad school and jobs). My undergraduate research assisted in me landing a full-time graduate assistantship at a prestigious university, which in return helped land my current job. Best experience and so glad that it was offered at UWEC. At the University I work at now, it's disappointing to see such little interest from the entire school in undergraduate research and experiences!"

"My research professor connected me to an alumnus whose company needed an intern. Became full time."

"It was another impressive accomplishment to speak about during my interview, I'm sure it played a part in showing the quality of the education I received and my ability to work and complete tasks independently." 

Get to Know Your Professors

Talking to and working side-by-side with your professor will help you immensely and can result in a life-long collegial relationship, excellent recommendations, unexpected opportunities.

"My research professor connected me to an alumnus whose company needed an intern. Became full time."
"The skills I learned during my 2+ years of working on these research projects made me a more attractive applicant to graduate schools, helped me succeed once I was accepted into graduate school, and helped me become good friends with the professors that supervised/advised me along the way. The undergraduate research aspect of UW-Eau Claire is an invaluable part of the university, and I would encourage every student to take advantage of this."

"Try on" a Discipline

Research will let you test the waters of a chosen career. If you have ever wanted to know if a major is for you, research is the best way to find out. You can learn what the daily life of a researcher in a discipline feels like. You get to 'try out' a discipline.

"The undergraduate research at UWEC is excellent. It provides first-hand experience and develops a relationship with a mentor that helps to guide your career path. Being able to independently spend time on your own project was invaluable for helping me choose my career and advancing me further in science."


UW-Eau Claire helps fund student research around the country and even the world! Recent research projects have occurred in the following locations:

  • Southwest China
  • Germany
  • Galápagos, Ecuador
  • Argentina
  • Peru
  • Manitoba, Canada

"I was given the opportunity to work on a variety of different projects ranging from the Rocky Mountains in western Colorado to streams in northern Wisconsin to labs on campus… The undergraduate research aspect of UW-Eau Claire is an invaluable part of the university, and I would encourage every student to take advantage of this."

Present Your Work

Presentation options. Funding is available to help with travel and registration costs.

You can present your research and creative activity at local, regional, and national conferences. Below we outline some presentation opportunities, and you can find more information at presenting your work on our Presentation/Publication Opportunities page.

Get Published

Each year, UW-Eau Claire students publish scholarly articles in prestigious and international journals. You may either co-publish with your research mentor or attempt to publish independently in an undergraduate journal. You can find a list of undergraduate journals on our Presentation/Publication Opportunities page.

What Does Student-Faculty Research Involve?

What Does Student-Faculty Research Involve?

Faculty in every department and students of every major at UW-Eau Claire are doing research: Art, French, Economics, Kinesiology, Latin American Studies, and Psychology to name a few. Students can and are doing original and impactful research in and out of their major.

No two projects are alike, however, some activities/attributes are common to most or all projects. You need to:

  • Be self-motivated and work on the project consistently
  • Meet deadlines
  • Communicate often with your advisor/collaborator and any other project participants, and be clear on your role in the project
  • Read the literature of the discipline related to your project
  • Think deeply and creatively about your project
  • Produce a presentation on the results of your project, typically a poster but perhaps also an oral presentation, paper, performance or a show, or some combination of these
  • Enjoy the project for the intellectual stimulation and sense of accomplishment you feel

You need to budget sufficient time to work on the project. Two possible ways to plan for this time are:

  • Take fewer course credits in a semester, and take directed studies or research credits in their place.
  • Seek funding in the form of a stipend so that you can cut back on hours worked at other jobs.
Can I Get Paid to do Research?

Can I Get Paid to do Research?

The Office of Research and Sponsored Programs has several grant opportunities for students, summarized here.  Professional organizations in many disciplines have small grant opportunities for students to do research and/or travel to conferences to present their results.  Faculty and staff mentors can help you identify these.  Some faculty have research grants they have applied for from outside agencies and have funds from to pay students to work on their projects.  However, the reality is that research is typically under-funded. You are very likely to work on a project for more hours than you can be paid.

How Do I Get Started?

How do I Get Started?

There are two basic sources of research ideas: projects you propose to faculty and projects that faculty are already involved in. Most commonly, students work on faculty-driven research projects (73%). A faculty-driven research project may be an easier way to start. But, if you have an idea of your own, feel free to pursue it!

There Are Several Ways to Find a Research Project – for Best Results, Do All of Them:

  • Talk to peers.
    • Ask if any have done research. Consider talking to your RA or any juniors/seniors.
  • Browse department pages that list faculty research activities.
  • Talk to your advisor or the chair of your department.
  • Talk to faculty or staff you like and ask about their research projects. Let them know you are interested in getting involved.
  • Talk to faculty or staff who have research interests that match yours.
  • Read academic and scholarly journals.
  • Attend CERCA in the spring.
  • Browse CERCA/Student Research Day Abstract Books from previous years.
  • Go to Minds@UW, and find UW-Eau Claire Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. Here you will find a collection of past student research posters.
  • Email the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs ( or visit Schofield 17.
  • Attend a Seminar Series. Many departments have their own or you can attend a Faculty Forum Presentation.
  • Be a good student in class.

Talking to Faculty and Staff

Talk to a faculty or staff member you like or who has similar interests. Find out if they might be interested in doing collaborative research with you. Find out if they are doing any research you can help with. Or, if you have a topic in mind, share your own ideas.

You can browse department pages to find faculty and their research interests. Many faculty pages include areas of expertise -- there may be several faculty members that overlap in any one field. Dive deeper into a faculty member's history. You can also look up all UW-Eau Claire faculty publications in our annual Report on Publications.

Make an Impression when Talking to Faculty and Staff

  • If you collaborate with a faculty member, they are investing in you– it takes time to mentor and bring a new student up-to-speed. Therefore, you will need to sell yourself to them. Faculty members are looking for someone who is smart, interested, committed, and professional, but not necessarily the top GPA.
  • When talking to a faculty member, email or meet with them after one of their classes or open office hours and explain that you are interested in doing research. Ask if they might be interested in meeting in person to discuss further.
  • Be sure to clearly explain who you are. Remind the faculty of any history you have with them – perhaps include (good) grades if you took a class with them – don't expect the faculty to remember you. If you don't have a history with the faculty member, clearly explain how you got their name.
  • The faculty member's first impression of you will be important – so be sure that your email is well written and clear.
  • Always be sure that you are receptive to faculty suggestions. Handling a suggestion or rejection well may make a good impression.
  • Do a bit of research on the faculty member and their research interests. Faculty members want to work with a student who shows initiative.
  • Show that you are interested. No professor will want to help an uninterested student. Keep in mind that a professor's research interests are likely their life's passion.
  • Remember that faculty are busy and may be forgetful. Be patient enough to give faculty time to reply but be prepared to follow up.
  • Don't misinterpret hesitation as a no. Be polite, but persistent!
  • If a faculty member does turn you down, learn, adapt, and move on. Think of a 'no' as just another step.
  • It is OK to say "no" to a research project but do so tactfully.

Find a Research Project by Reading Other Research Projects

Find journals in your field and area of interest. Skim a few recent issues to get an idea of what topics are 'hot' in your field. You might even find an article that identifies new avenues of research. Journals can be broad or highly specific. Journals also serve different audiences – many journals only publish work done by the experts, some journals only publish work from their university, and some journals publish undergraduate student work. You might want to look at the list of undergraduate journals here. McIntyre Library also provides access to databases of journal publications oriented towards specific fields on their website.

Get Liberal Education Outcome Skill 3 for your Research

Get Liberal Education Outcome Skill 3 for your Research

Students may satisfy Liberal Education Outcome Skill 3: Create original work, perform original work, or interpret the work of others through a research project.

Apply to get credit for achieving Skill 3: Create original work, perform original work, or interpret the work of others.

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