Neuroscience: Undergraduate Research Opportunities

Undergraduate Studies in Neuroscience at Duke University provides rich opportunities for undergraduate students to explore neuroscience with faculty from diverse disciplines and perspectives. Accordingly, there are research opportunities with DIBS faculty and Psychology & Neuroscience faculty. In addition to mentoring independent studies, many of these mentors have also been instrumental in developing a student's senior thesis for Graduation with Distinction. 

Once you identify faculty with research opportunities that interest you, here’s how to get involved:

  • STEP 1. Write an email to a faculty member introducing yourself and expressing why you are interested in her/his research (e.g., mention something from a recent paper that you may have read and piqued your curiosity). This email should be brief, but personal. It should also include a simple question asking if if there is opportunity to get involved. There may be opportunity to meet the faculty member and discuss the research, attend a lab meeting, or shadow a more advanced student who is conducting a project or running an experiment. You might also simply volunteer to assist or inquire about employment under the work study program. You should also explore the resources linked below for other strategies of making an initial connection to faculty with research opportunities at Duke and elsewhere.
  • STEP 2. Once you meet the faculty member and learn more about the research opportunities, you should consider registering for NEUROSCI 150 Research Practicum, which is a half-credit course unit that may be used to account for your activities in the lab for a semester.
  • STEP 3. Research Practicum is a great way to get involved in research. But it is not an essential pre-requisite for research independent study. You could skip STEP 2 and enroll in NEUROSCI 493 Research Independent Study 1 without prior completion of a practicum. However, you and your prospective faculty mentor should plan one semester in advance of when you do expect to enroll in NEUROSCI 493 (if enrolled in NEUROSCI 150, the planning phase can be part of what you do in your research practicum—one very good reason for progressing through STEP 2!). Research Independent Study carries a full course unit of academic credit and should be thought of as equivalent to an upper division science course.
  • STEP 4. Consider pursuing Graduation with Distinction in Neuroscience. Once a research independent study project gets started, most students are eager to continue with subsequent terms of research course credit (NEUROSCI 494-496) so that they can fully benefit from the maturation of the science and completion of the research aims. If that’s you, then consider making your research project a two- (or more) term effort that could culminate in a successful senior thesis and graduation with distinction honors.

Visit the Undergraduate Research Support Office site for other helpful details pertaining to research.

Check out the Charles Lafitte Foundation Program for information on funding departmental research grants. 

Other summer research opportunities at Duke

Deans' Summer Research Fellowships provide funding for faculty-mentored undergraduate research projects in all disciplines. The Fellowships can be used for most research-related expenses, including international travel and living expenses during the fellowship period. 

Also, please note that there are over 20 fellowships and grants for undergraduate summer research available from many offices and departments at Duke, including the Summer Neuroscience Program described above. Students are welcome to apply for and are eligible for co-funding for single projects. Undergraduate funding opportunities can be searched on the Undergraduate Research Support website.