Academic Year

for Washington University undergraduates

Computer Science & Engineering

Research Experiences for Undergraduates


What background do I need?

Generally, you should have taken several CSE courses and done well in them. Most faculty members expect that you have completed at least CSE241, but some may require additional more specialized courses. Sometimes, students can begin working in a group as early as the sophomore year, and often by the junior year.

How do I get matched up with a faculty member to be my research advisor?

This process happens informally. It usually begins by taking a course in a faculty member’s research area. If you take a class with a professor and make a strong impression, there can be a natural transition from that to an independent study. Most faculty have descriptions of their current research projects on their web pages. Many faculty members have also given us descriptions of possible projects in conjunction with our summer research program. This year (2014), we are also trying out a new online facility for searching research interests called ScholarBridge. If you see a project or research group that interests you, set up an appointment to talk to people involved. When you meet with them, it would help to bring with you a list of CSE courses you have taken and your grades in those courses.

Can I get course credit for doing research?

Yes. If you and a research advisor can identify a topic with sufficient intellectual content, you can arrange to receive credit through CSE400E Independent Study. Projects should pose an intellectual challenge—more than just programming assignments.

What is an undergraduate thesis?

If you get involved in a project and make good progress, you may decide to write an undergraduate thesis that describes the research you have done and relates it to other research that has been done in the field. Students who write an undergraduate thesis enroll in CSE499 Undergraduate Honors Thesis. If you write a thesis and maintain a cumulative 3.5 GPA, then you will graduate "with distinction" and your thesis title will appear on your transcript.

Is it possible to get paid?

Yes. Some research groups have funding for undergraduate programmers or research assistants. You can work out the details with your research advisor. (Generally, students either get paid or receive course credit, but not both at the same time.)

One of the hallmarks of Computer Science & Engineering is our  commitment to undergraduate involvement in research.

Working on a research project is a great way to apply and refine the skills learned in class. Students work with graduate students and professors on significant, open-ended problems.

Your acquired research skills will prove valuable for both a career in industry   and graduate school.