Research Opportunities for Psychology & Neuroscience Majors
About 300 undergraduates take advantage of the opportunity to conduct research with Psychological & Brain Sciences faculty members each year.
As a research assistant (RA) you'll work as part of a team to collect data that will be published in scientific journals. Exactly what you'll do as an RA depends on the lab to which you apply. You may help create stimuli, recruit or interview subjects, observe subjects and record data, analyze data or....
Why should you take advantage of research opportunities?
- You'll acquire skills and knowledge that are not easily gained in the classroom. You'll learn psychology by doing, by observing some of the phenomena that you've read about, by developing and expressing your own ideas, and by gathering your own evidence for scientific fact.
- If you earn course credit working in a PBS faculty member's research lab, it may count as your capstone course - required for the psychology or neuroscience degree.
- Research opportunities in faculty labs are the primary way that psychology and neuroscience majors can receive personal mentoring from faculty. Developing a close relationship with a faculty member can be helpful for acquiring letters of recommendation for graduate schools or employers.
- You'll get to network with other highly motivated undergraduate and graduate students and can share information about internships, careers, and more.
- Also consider:
Frequently asked questions about research opportunities:
Should you wait until your junior or senior year?
- You are welcome to explore and apply to research labs any time during your academic career. Some faculty prefer to begin working with students during their first year because those students will have the option to develop advanced research skills over several years time.
- If you are considering attending a research-oriented graduate school program to prepare for a career as a psychologist or neuroscientist get involved early! Students who don't do any research until their junior or senior year sometimes end up struggling to obtain adequate research experience before they submit their graduate school applications in the middle of their senior year.
How much research experience should you get?
- If you are planning to apply to a research-oriented graduate program to prepare for a career as a psychologist or neuroscientist, then a good goal would be to complete at least 3 semesters of research as an undergraduate. It is common for students admitted to top notch research-oriented graduate programs to have completed 4-6 semesters.
- If you are planning to apply to a graduate program or professional school that is not research-oriented, then a good goal would be to complete 1-2 or more semesters of research.
- If you'll be entering the job market after you complete your bachelor's degree, then you might want to aim for 1-2 or more semesters of research.
What can you do to make yourself a good candidate for a research assistantship?
- Begin thinking in your first year about which research labs are most interesting to you so that can enroll in an appropriate upper-level courses. If, for example, you are interested in working in a cognitive psychology lab, take Cognitive Psychology (P335) as soon as you've completed introductory psychology.
- Complete P211 and K300 as soon as you can because some faculty prefer that students have taken one or both of these courses before applying for an RA position.
- Talk to your professors and academic advisors about your interest in participating in a research lab - network!
Can psychology and neuroscience majors conduct research in other departments?
- Yes. Our majors conduct research with faculty in other departments -- biology, chemistry, cognitive science, kinesiology, gender studies, medical sciences, optometry, physics, speech & hearing sciences and beyond. If you are interested in the research of a faculty member in another department then talk with that faculty member about opportunities on their research team.
- If you are a neuroscience major, you can earn PBS course credit (P493/P494) for conducting research in other departments provided that the faculty member's lab is a neuroscience approved lab - download the Application for Neuroscience Certificate & Approved Neuroscience Lab List.
- It is unusual that psychology majors receive PBS course credit for working with a faculty member outside of PBS, but if the faculty member's research is related to psychology or neuroscience and you want to enroll for PBS course credit, you should meet with a Psychology & Neuroscience Academic Advisor to ask about applying for special permission.
- Are you interested in a career in school psychology or education? You can earn P493/P494 credit as a research assistant in the IU School of Education's Academic Well Check Program. Read about the AWCP Undergraduate Research Experience and contact the AWCP team for more information. If you are accepted to the AWCP team then contact Dr. Hoffman (hoffmanc [at] indiana.edu) to enroll for P493/P494 credit.