Undergraduate Research

2009 Undergraduate Researcher and Dr. Rich Laursen

2009 Undergraduate Researchers and Dr. Rich Laursen

Research Courses
Research Areas
Credits and Time Commitments
Honors Research in Chemistry
Choosing a Research Advisor
Undergraduate Research Outside the Department
Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP)
Summer Research

The faculty of the Chemistry Department believes very strongly that research is a vital component in the education of a chemist. We encourage our undergraduate students to begin research as early as possible in their academic careers; occasionally sophomores, and even freshmen get involved with it on a formal or informal basis. However, it is usually not until their junior or senior years that students can engage in independent work due to the demands of their schedules, and the necessity of their having sufficient preparation in the fundamentals of chemistry and other related subjects.

In recognition of the range of backgrounds students will have, the Department offers several undergraduate research courses, each with a different pre- and corequisite; all courses require consent of instructor and an approved application (below). Registration for research cannot be done on-line, but is accomplished through the department during the first two weeks of each semester.

Research Courses

Our new BU HUB research courses and course numbers will be added here soon!

  • CH 391/392 – Undergraduate Research III (Junior Standing)
  • CH 491/492 – Undergraduate Research IV (Senior Standing)
  • CH 401/402 – Honors Research

Research Areas

There are research opportunities for undergraduates in any of a number of faculty research areas such as bioanalytical chemistry, biological chemistry, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, photochemistry, physical chemistry, and theoretical chemistry. For more information on a specific research area, including which faculty are associated with that area, please visit the Research Areas section of our website.

Credits and Time Commitments

All the undergraduate research courses (except CH401,402) can be taken for 2, 4, 6, or 8 credits. Because research is an open-ended activity, it is not possible to correlate exactly the number of credits with the amount of time spent.

However, the faculty has established the rule that 4 credits should involve no less than 16 hours of research activity per week. Inasmuch as a student rarely can fit more than 4 credits of research into the program of any one semester, and a commitment of less than 16 hours per week does not usually result in a level of work that makes the activity particularly productive, most registrations for undergraduate research are at the rate of one course (4 credits) per semester. The exception would be for students just starting a research program, where registration for 2 credits gives them a chance to explore what research is all about without their having to make a very heavy commitment.

Honors Research In Chemistry

CH401 and 402, which can only be taken for 4 credits each, are the Chemistry Department’s components of the Honors in Chemistry Research. Completion of these courses is a requirement for graduation with a B.A. Degree in Chemistry “With Honors”. Note that Honors students are required to write a thesis and defend it orally before a committee of the chemistry faculty at the end of the second semester.

Applications for Honors, which can be obtained in here, must contain a detailed description of the proposed research with bibliographic citations. Students applying for honors must have a 3.0 cumulative GPA or higher. Honors cannot be awarded to students with less than a 3.0 GPA upon graduation.  Students applying for honors must have a 3.2 GPA in courses required for the chemistry major (includes all required math, physics, and biology courses). The continuation form for CH 402 can be found here.

For Honors research, periodic research reports, a final thesis, and a defense of the thesis are required. Seniors (including those in the B.A./M.A. program) who are completing a two-semester sequence in research or Honors are required to present the results of their activity at the Departmental Undergraduate Research Symposium at the end of Semester II; other undergraduates involved in research are also encouraged to participate.

All students engaged in undergraduate research their senior year are required to present at the spring semester’s Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Choosing a Research Advisor

The first step is to become aware of the research interests of the members of the faculty. These research interests are found in each faculty member’s profile (see the Faculty section of our website for this information). You should then discuss with several faculty members, whose research areas interest you, the problems they have available for undergraduates. You should note that for reasons of group size and suitability of problems, a faculty member with whom you wish to work may not be able to accept you. Upon reaching a mutual understanding about the nature and demands of the project, you are ready to register for the section of the course that is specific for your research advisor, and make application to the Chemistry Department.

Undergraduate Research Outside the Chemistry Department

The department recognizes that research endeavours outside the department with considerable chemistry components may attract chemistry majors. In order to be approved for research credit for work outside the department, the following guidelines must be followed.

  1. The research cannot carry a stipend. (university regulation, you cannot get paid for research done for credit).
  2. The usual application for undergraduate research must be filled out, and this application must be approved by the Undergraduate Affairs Committee.
  3. You must have an advisor from the chemistry department faculty who will monitor the progress of the research. This should be someone who is an expert in the field in which you are doing research. Regular meetings must be scheduled with this internal advisor to keep them abreast of the research.
  4. Two copies of a research report are required at the end semester. One copy goes to the chemistry faculty advisor and a second copy to the Undergraduate Affairs Committee. One cannot register for another semester of research until this report is submitted.

Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP)

UROP provides an opportunity for full-time undergraduates throughout all of Boston University to be involved in research.  The areas of research vary and open positions are frequently posted.

Summer Research

A number of summer research programs exist in Chemisty departments across the country in NSF-sponsored programs called Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs). These programs are generally between five and ten weeks long and introduce undergraduate students into methods of research. Visit the National Science Foundation website for more information, or go directly to Chemisty REUs.