The Chemical Engineering Department encourages undergraduate students, especially those interested in eventually attending graduate school, to consider maximizing their research experience during their undergraduate years. Ways to gain research experience at WPI include volunteering to work in a Professor’s laboratory, work study, paid internships, and independent study for course credit, in addition to a research-based Major Qualifying Project.
Entry into the world of research normally begins via two ways 1) a student taking the initiative to ask one or more professors about current opportunities in their labs or 2) open position advertisements sent by Chemical Engineering faculty to the general Chemical Engineering student body.
Major Qualifying Project
The MQP is an especially good opportunity to gain research experience. Some research labs have a high demand and have limited room for MQP projects. Those students who plan to continue work already begun via volunteering, interning, and/or ISP are more likely to be selected for these projects.
Independent Study Credit
Students can earn independent study course credit for research work in a laboratory. The student and faculty should complete an Undergraduate Independent Study Registration Form and agree on the scope of the work and the amount of credit in advance: ISP credit awarded at 2000 level or above for either Engineering Science or Engineering Design can be used towards the Engineering Science and Design distribution requirement. That is, 1/3 unit of ISP credit can count as an engineering elective (not a core) course. Students typically register for 1/6 unit or 1/3 unit of ISP in a given term. Normally, a faculty member will require some form of documentation, like a written report, before awarding a course grade.
Students often volunteer to help out in active research labs to get exposed to laboratory research work in general and to learn about a particular research field. This is a good starting point for freshman and sophomore students.
Example student path to gaining research experience:
- Volunteer 5-10 hours per week in the lab during the year; many students start in C term of the sophomore year
- Summer after sophomore year - stay in faculty lab and get paid for research
- A term: Get paid for research ($10/hour for 5-10 hours per week)
- B term: IQP abroad
- C/D term: take 1/6 unit ISP credit for research (together counts as one engineering elective)
- Summer after junior year - NSF REU program