Undergraduate Research Opportunities

“There are few experiences better suited to prepare a student for lifelong learning than an active participation in research early in his or her education." — Professor Herb Kroemer, Nobel laureate

UCSB Undergraduate Research

The chance to participate in the leading edge research at UCSB is an unbeatable opportunity for engineering undergraduate students. Take part in meaningful discoveries. Get your name on published academic papers. Present your research via poster presentation at colloquia and conferences. Below is our advice for landing a successful research opportunity at UCSB.

How & When to Get Started

It’s never too early to start considering how you’ll get involved in research. Most programs and internships will require an application, for which the deadline could be several quarters to a year before the program begins. You may want to get involved in several programs throughout your years at UCSB. Consider your interests seriously and reach out to faculty and advisors with questions. Give yourself at least six months in advance to plan, and in the case of education abroad or research abroad programs, at least a year.

Looking for step by step suggestions?  Read our Getting Started with Research at UCSB handout.

Undergraduate Research Programs

UCSB Research Programs

Course Credit for Research or Internships

Engineering departments offer courses for qualified students to earn credit for doing research projects or internships in industry. Students interested in course credit for internships should contact their department’s undergraduate advisor for more information and enrollment criteria. Courses include:

  • Chemical Engineering: ChE 196, 198
  • Computer Science: CMPSC 192, 193, 196
  • Electrical & Computer Engineering: ECE 192, 193, 196
  • Mechanical Engineering: ME 193, 197

Faculty Research Labs

Most professors in engineering and the sciences at UCSB are leading one or multiple research projects, and they encourage undergraduate students to intern in their labs. UCSB’s interdisciplinary approach to education and research makes it possible for engineering students to work with professors in any discipline, given the right mutual fit.

Approach professors doing research that interests you. Learn all you can about the professor and their work, and come prepared to talk about your qualifications, interests, and what kind of internship you are asking for (e.g. Credits? Senior thesis? Time commitment?). Most professors appreciate an email introduction that is clear, polite, and professional. Keep in mind they will likely be friendly and amenable to helping you, but can be quite busy or even traveling frequently.

Research programs at Other Institutions

Institutions across the nation and around the world host undergraduate research programs. Ask your department faculty and advisors about programs they might be aware of – after all, our faculty also studied at leading institutions. Most universities within the University of California 10-campus system also offer summer research programs. Students can search the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) database for programs.

Research Recognition

Undergraduate Research Colloquium

Hosted by the College of Letters & Science, Office of Undergraduate Education, the UCSB Undergraduate Research Colloquium and Undergraduate Research Slam event is open to students from all majors and disciplines that have completed research.

Matthew Tirrell Award for Distinction in Undergraduate Research

Presented at the College of Engineering’s annual Senior Send-Off event, the Tirrell Award recognizes a College of Engineering senior who has shown excellence and promise in research during his or her academic career. The award was established in 2009 in honor of former Engineering Dean, Professor Matthew Tirrell.  

Undergraduate Research Blog

Already involved in research? Consider joining the student bloggers who contribute to the Office of Research’s Undergraduate Research Blog. Meet the current bloggers. Contact the Office of Research about getting involved.


Research Stories

Undergraduate Aesha Parekh_head shot
Aesha Parekh (BS ’22) became involved in undergraduate research through the Computer Science Department’s Early Research Scholars Program, a year-long research apprenticeship program that provides undergraduate students with their first research experience. She was part of a team that worked with computer science associate professor William Wang, co-director of the National Language Processing (NLP) Group. The team wrote multiple papers about their research that were accepted to top NLP conferences, where they later presented their work. “When we started, the fields of NLP and machine learning were entirely unfamiliar to use,” explained Parekh, who accepted a position as a software engineer at LinkedIn. “We ramped up on the area and learned to read research papers, explore research questions, design and conduct experiments, and compose quality papers.” Prior to graduating with honors and a computer science degree, Parekh was named a finalist for a prestigious award from the Computing Research Association, distinguishing her among the top ten undergraduate researchers in the nation. She also received a 2022 Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research.


Henry Moise head shot
Henry Moise (BS ’21) was an average high school student in the San Francisco Bay Area and wasn’t thinking about going to college. He did attend community college, and then transferred to UCSB, where he found the transition challenging during his first two quarters as a chemical engineering major. Then, he found that he could put his experience working with tools in a hardware store to good use in chemical engineering professor Eric McFarland’s lab. Moise is spending the current year as an employee in McFarland’s startup company, C-Zero, Inc., before beginning a PhD program at Stanford, where he has already been accepted. “I would never have thought I’d be so excited reading science papers by other groups about methane pyrolysis,” he says. “It’s a cool feeling to be excited about things like that, and grad school will allow me to take that further.”

Read about undergraduate research stories in Science and Engineering