Research for Undergraduates

Participating in research as an undergraduate is both rewarding and beneficial. When participating in research, you gain practical experience and knowledge of the field, that will benefit you in your career or graduate school. Plus, you will get to work closely with a faculty member and/or a graduate student or postdoc and contribute to cutting-edge research. There are research opportunities both within the Department of Statistics and outside the department.

You may also be interested in the Undergraduate Research Scholars (URS) program and the Inter-LS 250 course on "Undergraduate Research Experience" for undergraduate research scholars, or the Inter-LS 260 course on "Internship in the Liberal Arts and Sciences".

How to find and enroll in research opportunities

Note that you may find a research opportunity and enroll at any point of the semester.

Within the department

Undergraduate research opportunities in the Statistics department tend to be more focused on the development of new methods rather than the application of existing methods to new problem areas. For example, method development may involve simulations, or comparisons between different statistical methods.

Tips for finding and identifying research opportunities:

  1. Review faculty on the Faculty Directory website page and learn more about their research focus areas by clicking on the website link next to each faculty listed. Ideally, you want to look for information on their research and determine if their research is something you are interested in.
  2. Contact the faculty you would like to do research with using a professionally written email. In the email, make sure to introduce yourself, express why you are interested in their research, and include a resume and a list of relevant courses you have taken. Make it personalized, but keep it short!
  3. Following up on your email, usually, the faculty will suggest a time to meet and talk about a potential research involvement, which is an opportunity for both you and the faculty to identify whether this is of mutual interest.

Enrolling

Once you have found a faculty member who agrees for you to join their research team, you and the faculty member should be in contact with our Curricular Coordinator (enroll@stat.wisc.edu) to give you permission to enroll into STAT 699 (or STAT 681/682 for Honors students).

As per L&S and campus policy, "The student and faculty member should prepare a study plan, determine the time and place for regular meetings, the number of credits to be earned, and how to enroll in the course. These agreements should be maintained in the department/program office." Students and faculty in Statistics are encouraged to use this template study plan, fill it out as appropriate, and send it to the Chair of the Statistics Undergraduate Committee.

Outside the department

Undergraduate research opportunities outside the Statistics department tend to be more data-centered, allowing you to sharpen your data wrangling and data analysis skills. Researchers dealing with large and noisy data are interested to welcome in their labs statistics undergraduate students, who can bring a complementary set of analytical skills.

  1. Look on the Guide to see a list of departments on campus and create a list of departments of high interest that you would like to do research in.
  2. Review the faculty in those departments, and look at their research interests. Most departments will have a list of faculty with either a personal website page or a list of research interests.
  3. Contact the faculty you would like to do research with, using a professionally written email. In the email, make sure to introduce yourself, express why you are interested in their research, and include a resume and a list of relevant courses you have taken. Make it personalized, but keep it short!
  4. If you are unable to secure a research opportunity within your first-choice department or first-choice faculty, repeat steps two and three with other departments / faculty members that are at some interest to you.

Enrolling

Once you have found a faculty member who agrees for you to join their research team, you and the faculty member should be in contact with the department's enrollment manager to give you permission to enroll into the department's research/independent study course. This may be a 399, 499, 599 or 699 course typically.

If you are wanting to receive elective credit in the statistics department for a research opportunity outside the statistics department (instead of credit in the department where you will conduct your research), have your faculty member who has agreed for you to join their research write a short description on the type of research you will be doing and how it relates to statistics. Send that description to your statistics advisor for review. Once you have been approved, connect with our Curricular Coordinator (enroll@stat.wisc.edu) to get permission to enroll into STAT 699.

Tips

  • Start early! You should begin researching different opportunities your second semester of your freshman year.
  • Set some time aside each week to research and reach out to faculty. Typically, you would want to set aside one hour a week.
  • Make sure your resume is up to date and organized. Visit a career advisor for review of your resume.
  • Be patient. Faculty members are busy so do not panic if they do not respond to your email immediately. They also receive many requests, so make sure to personalize your request and explain why you are specifically interested in their research. With that in mind, make sure to reach out to multiple faculty members in case your first-choice faculty members do not have openings for undergraduate students.
  • Give something to respond to. Ask a specific question about their research, or propose a time to meet, or ask if course x or y would be good to take to join their team some future year. This will prompt the faculty to respond, especially if your questions are specific.
  • Follow up with the faculty if they do not get back to you after some time.