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Undergraduate Research

Our Undergraduate Research Program serves to acquaint students with the nature of chemical research and to provide rewards for creativity and good scholarship. Acceptance into this program is a privilege and an honor. Students conducting undergraduate research work closely with a faculty advisor and with the graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and other scientists in a group. They are expected to participate in all aspects of the research program: studying the original research literature, designing projects, and interpreting results. They are expected to contribute to the group by collaborating with other group members and actively participating in group meetings.

CHEM-X399/X499 - Chemical Research

Students can earn academic credit for their laboratory research through our Chemical Research courses, CHEM-X399 and CHEM-X499. There are scholarships offered annually through the Department of Chemistry, as well as the Honors College, for undergraduates who conduct research during the summer. At the end of the research experience, students prepare a written thesis and may also have the opportunity to present their findings at scientific meetings.

Eligibility for Enrollment

CHEM-X399 Chemical Research is normally open only to students with a chemistry GPA of 3.0 or better who are making good progress toward the completion of a major in biochemistry or chemistry or related field. Students who are retaking a course either to remove an incomplete or achieve a C-, will normally not be allowed to enroll in X399 until the course is completed satisfactorily. Prior to each semester of X399 enrollment, an X399 application must be completed. For the first semester of X399, the X399 application must be approved by both the research advisor and the Director of Undergraduate Studies. The applications for subsequent semesters of X399 require only approval by the research advisor. The approval by the research advisor must include acceptance of the hours of X399 credit. Students may enroll in X499 after completing two semesters of X399.

The Application Process

Although the Undergraduate Office will provide assistance with CHEM-X399 placement, students who are interested in undergraduate research are ultimately responsible for establishing a position with a research group. The best method to begin this process is by reading the faculty profiles and research group descriptions found on the Research Faculty page. After examining the faculty profiles, students should be able to identify 3-4 faculty members whose research corresponds with their own interests. Students should then contact these faculty members in order to make an appointment to discuss possible research opportunities. Students should include their name, class standing, G.P.A., and a listing of all completed chemistry coursework in this communication. Once a meeting is arranged, students should find out as much as possible about the goals and work environment of the research group. Some questions students may wish to ask are:

  • What projects are currently available in the lab?
  • What are the real world impacts of this research?
  • Could future undergraduate research in this lab be applied toward a peer-reviewed paper?
  • What are the expectations for skill level and time commitment?
  • Will I need to attend group meetings?
  • Will I be working with a graduate student or post-doctoral mentor?
  • How often will I have direct contact with the faculty member?

Students should also be prepared to answer questions about their academic and employment background from the faculty member.

If, after the meeting, an undergraduate research position is amenable to both the student and the faculty member, students must obtain a CHEM-X399 application from the Undergraduate Office. This form will require the signature of both the student and the faculty member as well as an outline of the proposed research. The completed form can then be turned into the Undergraduate Office and, upon final approval of the Director of Undergraduate Studies, the student will be enrolled in from 1-3 credit hours of CHEM-X399.

Credit Hours and How They May Be Used Toward a Degree

X399 may be taken for a total of l0 credits with a maximum of 3 credits per semester. Generally, a student should register for at least one credit hour but not more than three credit hours per semester. Approximately five to six hours per week of laboratory work are expected for each hour of credit in the fall and spring terms; 10 - 12 credit hours per week for each summer session. X399 credits cannot be substituted for any courses required to complete a major in chemistry or biochemistry. Chemistry BA and Biochemistry BA majors may take X399 Chemical Research but should be aware that the hours will not count toward their chemistry major course or hour requirements. The hours do, however, count toward their total graduation hours. Biochemistry BS and Chemistry BS majors must enroll in CHEM-X499 to receive research credit that will count towards one of the required laboratory course electives for these BS majors.


Each semester an assessment form to track student progress is sent to the X399 research advisor for completion and is returned to the Undergraduate Office. If the student does not continue on to X499, the research advisor will assign an X399 grade. If the student continues his/her research in X499, a grade is assigned after the research thesis is presented and turned in.

Chemistry Honors Program

Students who qualify for the Chemistry Honors Program will receive a Chemistry Honors Notation on their diploma and transcript upon graduation. To qualify for the Chemistry Honors Program, students must satisfy the following requirements:

1. Complete the B.S. in Biochemistry or B.S. in Chemistry
2. Complete an undergraduate research project, including the research thesis (X499)
3. Earn an IU cumulative GPA of 3.3 or higher

Summer Scholarships

Chemistry majors are eligible to apply for summer undergraduate research scholarships. These scholarships are intended for undergraduates already engaged in research activities who can benefit from essentially full-time summer research. Only those students who will be enrolled as undergraduates during the next academic year are eligible to apply. Applications may be obtained by contacting the Undergraduate Office at (812) 855-2700.

Please see the Scholarships & Awards page for more information.

Other Opportunities

The Initiative for Minority Student Development (IMSD)
The NIH-IMSD Scholars Program at IUB is an undergraduate summer research program that also offers academic support throughout the school year. The Initiative for Minority Student Development (IMSD) Program is funded by the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) General Medical Sciences' Division of Minority Opportunities in Research, through their Minority Biomedical Research Support (MBRS) Branch. The IMSD Program at Indiana University at Bloomington is one of a limited number of NIH funded "Initiative for Minority Student Development Programs."

IU Science, Technology, and Research Scholars Program (IUSTARS)
If you're an outstanding high school student and you're planning a career in science, you may qualify for an opportunity to conduct research over four years while earning a bachelor's degree at IU. Students in the IUSTARS program connect with IU research faculty at the start of their freshman year and begin laboratory research during their first semester. Several IU faculty from a variety of scientific fields, including Chemistry, participate in this program. Interested high school students should go to the IUSTARS homepage for more information and to apply.

National Reseach Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Programs
NSF funds a large number of research opportunities for undergraduate students through its REU Sites program. An REU Site consists of a group of ten or so undergraduates who work in the research programs of a host institution during the summer. The REU sites host students from other institutions. Each student is associated with a specific research project, where he/she works closely with the faculty and other researchers. Students are granted stipends and, in many cases, assistance with housing and travel.

Chemical Cooperative Education Program
The primary purpose of the co-op program is to provide students interested in future employment in the chemical industry with an integrated program of university classroom education and actual work experience. Our co-op Program is usually five years in length, during which the student completes all course requirements for a B.S. in Chemistry or a B.S. in Biochemistry and gains approximately two years of practical experience as a working chemist. Though the program is not intended for every student, those choosing to enter the program will learn to relate chemical theory encountered in textbooks and the classroom to applied situations in industry. Students will gain valuable knowledge needed to make a realistic long-term career choice. Finally, the salary earned during the periods of employment may enable a student to complete his or her undergraduate education. Academic credit toward graduation is received from participation in the Co-op Program.