Undergraduate Research and Creative Collaborations

Guidelines for Undergraduate Research Participation

Guidelines for Undergraduate Participation in Faculty Research Projects, including Independent Laboratory Research and Research Volunteers

Approved Oct 27, 2021

Participating in independent research as an undergraduate within laboratories and other research and creative project opportunities directed by Brandeis faculty is a valuable educational experience encouraged across the academic disciplines. The following guidelines are based on historical practices at Brandeis and provide a basic outline for the process.

  • Students must have permission from the faculty mentor (principal investigator [PI] responsible for operation of the group or leading the research project) to participate in the research or lab project.

  • A member of the research team should be designated to act as a direct supervisor (grad student, post-doc, research staff member and/or the faculty mentor/PI themselves).

  • Student researchers must comply with all applicable safety, confidentiality and compliance rules, documented through completing mandatory online or in-person training, including human subjects policies (IRB) or animal research rules (IACUC). The faculty PI is responsible for ensuring that all students have completed all required training before commencing research, and that they comply with all relevant rules and protocols.

  • In normal circumstances, students either should be paid or receive academic credit for independent research.

    • Students will normally register for a course during the academic year. The one-credit courses numbered 91g (“Introduction to Research Practice”) will cover most students starting on a research project.

  • In exceptional circumstances, students may petition to volunteer outside of the employment and course structures for a period of up to four months. Petitions should originate with the faculty mentor and be approved first by the department chair or their designate, and then by the Undergraduate Research and Creative Collaborations Office (URCC). Volunteers are not allowed to participate until the petition is approved.

    • Situations for which a volunteer position may be appropriate might include:

      • Starting research during the middle of a semester.

      • Working during the summer if fellowship or grant funding is unavailable.

    • Volunteering in a lab for more than one summer or semester should be avoided.

Only projects with a research or learning component are governed by these rules. Students whose only task is support (e.g., making media, flipping flies, copying documents, etc.) should always be paid as hourly student employees. Faculty can review the defining characteristics of an unpaid volunteer position as described in the U.S. Department of Labor Fact Sheet on unpaid internships.

  • All students are strongly encouraged to contact the URCC which can assist in finding appropriate research opportunities or fellowships to fund their research participation.