Innovation in research, design, and practice is one of the key learning outcomes for our students. Each year approximately 500 students work with faculty members on research projects. These include basic laboratory research; clinical, social, and behavioral research with human participants; field-based studies; evaluation of programs, designs, and materials; and analysis of socioeconomic trends using large data sets.  These experiences build on and extend the research-based knowledge and critical thinking skills students gain in classes and provide valuable skills and perspectives that students bring to their careers and passions after Cornell, even if they do not pursue research careers.

Explore strategies on how to identify research opportunities

of faculty members whose work interests you. CHE faculty members conduct a wide range of research projects including basic laboratory research; clinical, social and behavioral research with human participants; field-based studies; evaluation of programs, designs, and materials for real-world settings; and analysis of large data sets. CHE students may also work with faculty members across campus. Think about the types of projects that match your interest and skills.

Their research may interest you, or they may be able to suggest some contacts. Research experiences generally work best for all involved when students spend multiple semesters with the same research group. In this model, students progress from assisting others with projects to becoming more involved in the development and direction of a project, including training new undergraduate researchers. The right time to start research is highly individual and depends upon a person’s research interests, prior research experiences, course schedules, and the expectations of the research program you wish to join.

to learn about research opportunities in your department and elsewhere. Ask about the courses that would help you prepare for research experiences. Learn about the honors program opportunity and requirements in your major.

Connect with faculty members the semester before you wish to start. Some professors may not have openings in their programs until later semesters. Email professors whose research interests you and ask to meet. Do not send mass e-mails. Send individual messages that explain how the faculty member’s work matches your interests. They need to know that you have done your homework about their program.

Some faculty members enthusiastically welcome first-year students, whereas others may require several courses or other experiences.

to give to the professor for later reference. List relevant courses and grades, your career goals, and any other experiences you have had. Many non-research work experiences are relevant to research projects (e.g. working with people, language skills, working with equipment, data entry and management, working as a team member).

prior to meeting with him/her. Read one or more of his/her papers so that you are familiar with the general types of research approaches and methods that are used.

Faculty want students with a strong work ethic, who are organized and willing to work both independently and as a team member. They will need you to stay involved throughout the whole semester, so time management and commitment are key criteria for being accepted into a research program.

Typically, students do research for credit, taking an independent study course in the department of their research advisor and using this experience to substitute for one regular course. Some students do research for pay and a few begin as volunteers. Be willing to do research for credit at first; not all professors will be willing or able to pay you. If you will be enrolling under independent research (4010 courses), you will need to complete the independent study form to add the class. Pick up this form at the Registrar’s Office (101 Academic Surge A). Be aware of department and college polices related to independent research courses.

Many research programs require coursework before you can join the research program. Introductory courses in the subject area, statistics, and research methods may be particularly important.

in preparing resumes, writing cover letters, preparing for interviews, and searching for off-campus experiences. Email:

All CHE majors offer honors programs for academically eligible students who want substantial involvement in research through courses and an independent project. Requirements vary by major, but all involve multiple semesters of research with a faculty mentor, a written thesis, and the presentation and approval of the thesis in the final semester. Check out department websites for more information or ask your faculty advisor or department DUS.

Key Resources

Human Ecology Career Exploration Center
Cornell University Office of Undergraduate Research
Cornell Undergraduate Research Board
VIVO: Research & Expertise Across Cornell (Search engine for faculty working in different areas)
Human Ecology Student Development Counselors (125 Academic Surge A)

For additional information, including information about honors programs, contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies for your major.

Human Ecology Directors and Assistant Directors of Undergraduate Studies (DUS):

Design + Environmental Analysis: Rhonda Gilmore
Fiber Science & Apparel Design: Fran Kozen
Global and Public Health Sciences: Marla Lujan
Health Care Policy: Sharon Sassler
Human Biology, Health & Society: Marla Lujan
Psychology: Vivian Zayas
Nutritional Sciences: Marla Lujan
Policy Analysis and Management: Sharon Sassler

Frequently Asked Questions about undergraduate research

If you are earning credit for research participation as an independent study course (4010), the general guidelines are 1 academic credit for every 3-4 hours of work on the project per week over the term, including time spent with your faculty research mentor.  You must process an independent study form (available in CHE Registrar’s Office, 101 Academic Surge A) to request enrollment in 4010 courses.  On this form, you and your research advisor will specify the goals of this study, your activities, the deliverables, and the basis for the grade. You should be very clear about nature, quality, and quantity of work required for you to pass the course.  Your research advisor and the department offering the course may have more specific guidelines for awarding credit and grade options for 4010 courses.  Note that you may not earn both credit and pay for the same research hours.  

A maximum of 12 credits across all independent study courses (4000, 4010, 4020, 4030) may count toward your 120 credits required for graduation.  If you want to exceed 12 credits in these courses, you must still earn 108 other academic credits in addition to the credits in independent study courses.  If you are taking independent study research credit in another college (e.g. BIOG 4990), these credits will also count toward the maximum of 12 credit.  PLAN AHEAD and be sure to see the Registrar’s office if you have questions about how these credits will be counted.

Yes, within CHE you may enroll in 4010 courses outside your major.  You will process the independent study form through this department, and your enrollment will be subject to that department’s rules for 4010 courses.  If enrolling in research credit in CU departments outside CHE, you must process any special forms through that department’s office and college.

Research experience outside structured classes is not required for success after Cornell.  If you approach undergraduate research as earning a merit badge or simply as a necessary credential, then it is probably not for you.   Many students appropriately prefer spend their elective time or credits in student organizations, community engagement, off-campus study, or courses in diverse subjects. 

Before asking a faculty member to join their program, you should have some confidence that you could be involved in their program for multiple semesters.  Faculty members will need to train you and incorporate you into their team.  If you leave after one term, they have lost their investment and have to retrain others. In addition, research often involves long hours, repetitive tasks, intense concentration, detailed work, and many dead ends. You need passion, persistence, and patience to carry your through the dull and challenging days.  The rewards and excitement of research are usually not apparent in the day-to-day work. Instead, you need a long view to see the pay off of a project.  

Undergraduate research settings vary considerable, and students may have distinct preferences about what will work best for them.  Other than your preference for a topic understudy and the general type of research (e.g.  wet laboratory vs social science laboratory;  human vs non-human), you may prefer working in a  very large team in which most of your contact and supervision will be with  graduate students, post doctoral staff, and research assistants rather than the faculty member. In other settings, you may be working directly with the faculty member.  Some programs have very structured procedures or hours into which your schedule must fit, while others may be more flexible.  In some programs your work may be very independent from the start, but in other settings you will be conducting analysis in support of a pre-planned project.  You should always ask about the requirements of the setting when inquiring about a research opportunity.

 The two funding considerations are typically your time and then money needed to conduct the work. 

  • Some faculty members may be able to employ you during the academic year or summer to assist with their research using their own project funds. Faculty member also generally provide the funds to support their project costs. 
  • CHE offers a limited number of summer research stipends for CHE undergraduates who work with CHE faculty members on a competitive basis each year (See the undergraduate research website). 
  • CHE offers a limited number of summer stipends to students assisting with translational research and Cooperative Extension research projects (See the website)
  • The CHE Alumni Association also offers a limited number of awards for undergraduate research (See their website).  
  • The Rawlings Cornell Presidential Research Scholar program offers a limited number of scholar awards to continuing students who apply in the second semester of the sophomore year.  These funds can be used for the student’s stipend and also for project funds.  (see their website). 
  • CHE will fund the costs of printing posters for students whose abstracts are accepted for presentation at the Cornell Undergraduate Research Board annual Spring Forum.  Posters for other research presentations are not covered. (contact Kenna Snow Tompkins (kms3)
  • Unfortunately, at the college level, CHE is unable to provide other funds to support undergraduate research (e.g. project materials, training, travel, publication costs, stipends for working with non-CHE faculty).
  • Students and their faculty mentors may find leads to other sources of funding at the Cornell Undergraduate Research Office, the Cornell Undergraduate Research Board, and the CHE Career Exploration Center.

Yes, this is possible if you research mentor is willing.   It may seem convenient and desirable because of your close relationship, shared interests, and frequent contact with this faculty member.  However, another view is that it is important for you to build a  relationship with a separate faculty advisor who focuses on your overall Cornell experience.  In addition, you will likely need more than one faculty member to write recommendations for summer internships, graduate school, or jobs.  Take advantage of creating as many relationships with faculty members as you can.

All undergraduate research must be conducted under the supervision of a faculty member. This is necessary to be sure that all research conducted at Cornell meets the federal, state, and local compliance requirements (e.g. involving participants in research, using facilities or materials, ethical conduct). You should consult with a faculty member who works in the area of your interests to see if they are willing to supervise you in this project.  However, know that faculty members have a limited amount of time and may not be able to devote time to projects outside their own research programs.  In addition, you may learn more about research by working with a faculty member on a topic for which they truly are an expert in a cutting edge field.  Then, at a later time, you can apply the insight and skills you have gained to your own project.

Check out the resources in the CHE Career Exploration Center (119 Academic Surge A) for help in searching for off-campus experiences. Email:  The weekly newsletter Communecology, often lists research opportunities.  Also see the websites for the Cornell Office of Undergraduate Research and the Cornell Undergraduate Research Board.

Cornell credit may only be earned when the work is conducted under the supervision of a Cornell faculty member during a semester when you are enrolled to earn credit.  To earn Cornell credit, the project must also meet all Cornell research requirements such as compliance with the Institutional Review Board for Human Participants.  Therefore, all requests for using data acquired elsewhere toward Cornell credit must be presented well in advance so that they can be reviewed and approved by the faculty mentor and appropriate Cornell review committees.

Check out the requirement for honors in your major at the department websites and find the name of the faculty members who directs the honors program.  Ask your department office or DUS if you cannot find this information.  Then with understanding of the program requirements and timeline, discuss the possibility with your faculty research mentor and the director of the honors program.  You will have to have meet your department’s    GPA requirement for the honors program and any other requirements such as courses, proposal, committee, etc.  Many students appreciate the experience of writing a thesis in their final semester, while others learn a great deal from the research experience but do not want the responsibility of writing a thesis.

When you join a research program, you and the faculty mentor should have a clear agreement about the conditions of your participation.  For example, you may agree that the first semester is a trial semester and that at the end of the semester, each of you can decide whether you will be continuing.   Then at the start of each semester you should review your agreement about the upcoming semester and your responsibilities for the upcoming term. Know that either party may decide that the arrangement is not going to work. It is very important that     you should be honest about your interests and ability to commit to the project for the upcoming term.  Unless you are faced with uncontrollable circumstances, leaving a research program on very short notice reflects poorly on you.

At the start of your research experience, you will learn how the research project and team address problems that arise and whom you should contact when you have a problem or concerns.  Research methods do not always work out as planned, equipment fails, participants withdraw, materials don’t arrive on time, and team members may have different opinion or expectations of each other.  People also make mistakes.  You may find that you cannot accomplish all the tasks that you agreed to complete.  First, bring your concerns to the person supervising your work in a timely way so you can make a plan to address the issue.  If that is not appropriate or does not adequately address the issue, then discuss your concerns with your faculty research mentor.  If you continue to have concerns about your research experience, then you should make an appointment to speak with the DUS in your department.   The student development counselors are also available to consult with you about issues that may arise.


The Human Ecology Alumni Association awards grants annually to undergraduates who wish to further the three objectives of the college: research, teaching, and outreach.  Grants typically range from $500 - $1000. Grant information.

Human Ecology Summer Research Stipends for Undergraduates

The College of Human Ecology provides 16 $5,000 stipends to CHE undergraduates who will be involved in full-time summer research with a CHE faculty member. Both the student and the faculty member must be in CHE.