Physics & Astronomy

Undergraduate Research

in Physics and Astronomy


The Department of Physics and Astronomy offers a wide range of research opportunities for undergraduates.  Though the bulk of the opportunities are available to more advanced (junior and senior) students, younger students often succeed in finding research positions in the Department.  The research can be done during the academic year for pay or credit (39x classes) or during the summer for pay through the Department’s competitive NSF-supported REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) program.  Also, many of our majors participate in REU programs at other research universities during the summer.    
Students working with research groups in the Department of Physics and Astronomy usually work on the River campus, particularly during the academic year.  However, the faculty in the Department conduct research at many facilities elsewhere, both nearby (e.g., the Laboratory for Laser Energetics, C.E.K. Mees Observatory) and farther afield (e.g., Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the European Organization for Nuclear Research - CERN).  Undergraduates can work on research at the near facilities during both the academic year and the summer.  During the summer, undergraduates can work on projects at the distant facilities.
Physics and Astronomy students who participate in undergraduate research have many opportunities to share and discuss that research with others, including: the Rochester Symposium for Undergraduate Physics Students (RSPS), the Undergraduate Research Expo, the Journal of Undergraduate Research, numerous topical conferences such as those run by the American Physical Society (APS) and the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), and, occasionally, prestigious peer-reviewed research journals such as Physical Review Letters.

A few examples of recent undergraduate research projects in the Department:

How to get started:

Generally, the best way for a student to get started in undergraduate research in the Department of Physics and Astronomy is to do well in their coursework.  In addition they should network with other students in the Department (e.g., through the Society of Physics Students functions), attend seminars and colloquia of potential interest, and chat with professors.  For many projects, some knowledge of a computer language (such as C++ or java) is useful.  Students should spend time learning about the research done in the Department as well as other departments doing research in similar areas (such as the Institute of Optics, Chemistry, Earth and Environmental Science, Mechanical Engineering, etc.).  A good place to start is the faculty listing in the Departmental website and associated links.  This list includes faculty with joint appointments in other departments.  After considering areas in which they might want to work, students should contact the appropriate professor(s) and request a meeting to discuss the professor’s research and the possibility of working with them.  Good advice about this procedure can be found on the pages of the Office of Undergraduate Research website.  Students interested in doing research with faculty in the Department during the summer should apply to the Physics and Astronomy REU program.