Profiles is an information sharing tool. We hope to provide a centralized source of faculty profiling information to be consumed and utilized by other websites and services on campus.
Who controls the information?
As a faculty, you have complete control over all the information on your profile - simply log in and edit any of the information. We also work with school and departmental web developers to update the information.
Which parts are automated?
Currently, we offer automated updates via UT Dallas directory and publications via ORCID. We are working with other groups to automate advising, news, other publication feeds, and any other information possible - the more automation, the easier to keep the data up-to-date.
What are tags?
Tags provide a mechanism for grouping different concepts, departments, and other information. You can add tags that already exist, or create your own.
Who can view Profiles?
Profiles is public and accessible to everyone. Log-in is not required to browse or search for researcher information.
Can students create a profile for themselves?
We currently do not support profiles for student researchers. However, students can still utilize this platform to help aide their educational and research prospects.
I don't want a profile or I have left the university. Can I delete my profile?
Yes, you also have the option of deactivating your profile by toggling the profile visibility option. Information will still be accessible to university administration via the API. For a full deletion, please send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information about student research and becoming an Undergraduate Research Assistant (URA).
Why should I participate in research?
The best reason to participate in research is because you are fascinated by discovery and want to become part of that process! Of course, research experiences teach you new techniques and provide hands-on applications of concepts you’ve learned in class. But more importantly, conducting research requires you to develop your critical thinking and problem-solving skills, to work well both independently and as part of a collaborative team, and to enhance your scientific communication skills. If that all sounds amazing, research is for you!
Keep in mind that research requires hard work, and it takes time to practice and perfect new technical and scientific skills. That’s why it’s so important to find a research environment that is a great match for your interests – so that when things get hard or boring, you’ll be motivated to stick with it!
It’s worth noting that there are also some good reasons not to participate in research. Obviously, if you aren’t that interested or don’t have the time, a URA position is not for you. But we also often hear from students who tell us that they “need” research experience for their graduate or medical school applications. This point is addressed in more detail below, but the truth is that unless you plan to apply to research-intensive PhD or MD/PhD programs, you don’t need research experience. If your primary motivation is resume-padding, but you are not actually invested in the research, you should look for other ways to strengthen your applications.
What are faculty really looking for in URAs?
In general, faculty are looking for student volunteers that 1) are enthusiastic about their research, and 2) have considerable time to commit to research. Often, preference is given to students who can commit to 10+ hours/week for multiple semesters, though these specifics vary a lot by lab. Consider: a lab will be investing substantial time and resources into your technical and scientific training – they expect you to devote similar effort.
Occasionally, some labs may be looking for more specific skills, especially for short-term projects. These might include knowledge of a specific language or lab technique, programming skills, or the ability to access off-campus locations, for example. Many of these types of requirements are addressed through specific items on the application form. You may choose to highlight other skills in the “other relevant information” section.
Can I get paid to be a URA?
Most students receive 1-3 hours of course credit for their research work each semester. Consult with your academic advisor to determine how this credit fits into your degree plan.
Some labs on campus are able to provide a small number of paid URA positions to those with demonstrated financial need. Typically, funding for these positions is through the Federal Work-Study program, or through state or federally funded training grants. Talk to the lab head to determine whether these types of paid opportunities are available in their lab.
Should I contact faculty if I am interested in working in their lab?
To get an idea of the kind of work a lab does, it’s best to check a lab or faculty member’s website, and to look at their recent publications, before contacting faculty (or other current lab members). Lab websites may also provide additional information on the principal investigator’s (PI’s) preferences regarding communication with prospective applicants. Once you are ready to apply, or if you have specific questions about the research, it can be useful to email the PI. Keep in mind that while emailing the PI may be useful, it should not take the place of uploading an application through the Research Portal.
If a PI doesn’t respond to your email, don’t take it personally. PIs are busy, they receive many requests, and some may only review applications at certain times of the year. If it is particularly important that you receive a reply, it’s fine to follow up with a second brief, respectful request.
When should I apply for URA positions?
Most undergraduates apply for research positions during their sophomore or junior years – after they have gained enough experience (usually through coursework) to develop more specific research interests, but while they are still more than 1 year away from graduation. That said, plenty of students land RA positions earlier or later in their undergraduate careers, so you should apply whenever you are ready.
Is any prior experience required for becoming a URA? Are there other prerequisites?
In general, undergraduates are not expected to have prior lab experience or any specific coursework to become a URA. That said, if you happen to have relevant prior experience, it is probably worth highlighting it in the “other relevant information” section. Rarely, a PI may have a specific project that requires skills that aren’t taught in the lab (e.g., foreign language proficiency), or a lab may set a GPA minimum, but these types of requirements are uncommon. Again, PIs are primarily looking for enthusiasm and dedication – the rest you will learn in lab!
How are undergraduate research assistants (URAs) selected?
The process varies considerably by lab. Faculty, or a designee from their lab, will review applications on the Research Portal, typically filtering by the PI’s name and the semester for which they are hiring URAs. Other criteria may be considered at this stage, depending on the lab. Selected applicants will then be contacted for additional information or to schedule an interview.
The frequency with which applications are reviewed also varies by lab. Most labs look for new RAs to start at the beginning of each semester (Fall, Spring, & Summer), which means they are looking at the Research Portal three times per year, usually about 4-6 weeks before the next semester starts. Some labs may have special projects for which they will review applications mid-semester, but these opportunities are less common.
I’m interested in everything! How do I select appropriate faculty and topic interests?
This is super important! In general, faculty are looking for lab members who are specifically interested and want to contribute to their research. Faculty are not typically impressed by students whose interests are highly unfocused – it raises concerns about whether they will stay focused and committed when they are in the lab. So think carefully about what topics most excite you, and about the kind of research experience you would like to gain. Would you prefer to work with humans or animals or computational methods, e.g.? Are there specific topics or techniques you are most eager to learn? Select 1-4 topic areas that best match your top interests, and 3-5 labs that focus on the kind of research that you most want to get involved in.
It can be hard to choose from among so many exciting areas of research, of course, but a slightly more focused application is likely to catch the eye of a PI and to convince them that you are a serious candidate. Keep in mind you can always update your application as your interests and preferences change.
But I need research experience for my medical school applications!
Medical schools are looking for students who demonstrate that they are prepared for the rigors of their program, but applicants can gain the experiences they need in many different ways. Yes, some highly competitive, research-intensive MD and MD/PhD programs will look for applicants that have prior research experience, but most other programs place significantly more emphasis on an applicant’s prior clinical experiences (and grades and test scores, of course).
Research experiences can be beneficial for med school applicants because they help develop critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and communication skills that admissions committees are eager to see. But you won’t develop these skills in lab if you aren’t really invested in the experience, nor will you get that great rec letter you were hoping for from your PI – and admissions committees won’t be impressed. It’s worth thinking carefully about whether research is something that excites you before you apply for URA positions. And if you are taking a full course load, working part-time, volunteering, and studying for the MCAT this semester, now may not be the right time for you to take on a research commitment.
If research isn’t part of your undergraduate experience, that’s ok. You can impress admissions committees through other work, school, clinical, volunteer, or club activities – the important thing is to invest your time in work you are passionate about, and to find where you can make an impact. If you don’t have a research PI to ask for a letter, other faculty members or supervisors who know you well can fill this role instead. Admissions committees want letter writers to vouch for your intelligence, motivation, creativity, leadership, problem-solving abilities, etc., but there are many ways to demonstrate these qualities outside of research.