Undergrad Research Opportunities

Undergraduates in the School of Molecular Sciences can enhance their preparation for careers in science by getting involved in cutting edge research. Working in a research group allows students to:

  • Develop critical thinking skills and cultivate independent work
  • Work with faculty mentors in interdisciplinary research groups
  • Experience the excitement of scientific discovery
  • Use state-of-the-art equipment
  • Publish results in scientific journals
  • Present results at scientific meetings
  • Receive college credit

Research requires a substantial time commitment but can be very rewarding. Research requires persistence, and a willingness to pursue difficult paths that may not reap immediate rewards. If you are interested in attending graduate school in chemistry or biochemistry then obtaining laboratory research experience is essential for a competitive application.

Get Started

How do I get started doing research?

Follow these steps to become involved in undergraduate research at Arizona State University School of Molecular Sciences:

STEP 1: Evaluate your goals, interests, and existing commitments.

STEP 2: Decide which research option fits you best (volunteer in a lab, be employed in a lab or gain course credit for a research experience).

There are several options available to create your own pathway:

• Volunteer:
Get to know a faculty member through the courses or seminars you attend. Talk to the faculty member about volunteer opportunities available in their laboratories.

• Work as a paid lab assistant:
Lab assistant jobs can be found through the ASU Student Employment link. Although these jobs may primarily involve routine tasks, such as glassware cleaning and chemical stock preparation, there are also opportunities for motivated students to perform research projects under faculty guidance.

• Gain course credit:
Obtain permission to work with a faculty member and submit your request online. The following courses are available for course credit for research: CHM/ BCH 392 Research; CHM/BCH 484 Internship; CHM/ BCH 492 Honors Individual Study; and CHM/ BCH 493 Honors Thesis.

STEP 3: Review faculty research profiles to find out what ASU research interests you.

Alternatively, you may consider off-campus research at:

STEP 4: Approach faculty or research project coordinator to learn more about the projects and opportunities in which you have an interest (contact faculty/unit from Step 3.)

Students are often tentative about approaching faculty but the fact is faculty and health care professionals not only want to share their work with you but they need your help to run their labs.

  • Make an appointment to visit with the professional in-person. You can call them or make an appointment via email correspondence but it is important to go speak with the professional in-person to discuss the project and your interests.
  • Make a list of questions to ask at the meeting.
  • Discuss your interest in being a part of the research team.

STEP 5: If you are a School of Molecular Science chemistry or biochemistry major please proceed to sign up using the Sign Up Now link.

For all other majors, please contact us at SMSAdvising@asu.edu and provide us with the following information:

  • Your ten-digit student ID number
  • The course prefix you are interested in (i.e. BCH 392, CHM 392, etc.)
  • The professor you will be conducting research with for the semester
  • Prior to beginning the application process, we will need to provide you access to the application. Once we receive the above information, we will contact you by email regarding your request and notify you when you have access to the application tool and will need to use the Sign Up Now link below to complete the application process.


Please note, the Sign Up deadline for each semester is same as the ASU session C add/drop deadline posted on ASU Academic Calendar.

Sign Up Now

Getting into a Lab

The following presentation provides valuable insights on how to get involved in a research lab as an undergraduate. It was presented at an undergraduate research symposium by SMS graduate student Bethany Kolbaba Kartchner.

Click here to download A copy of the presentation slides.

Select Class

How Do I Select The Research Class and get credit?

There are several different options for research classes depending upon your particular program as explained below.

  1. All classes have a BCH or CHM option. The BCH option should be selected by students who are in the BA Biochemistry, BS Biochemistry, or BS Biochemistry-Medicinal Chemistry concentration degree programs. The CHM option should be selected by students in the BA Chemistry, BS Chemistry, or BS Chemistry-Environmental Chemistry concentration degree programs. 
  2. All research classes are 1, 2, or 3 credit hours. Each student should choose the number of credits depending upon the time they will spend in the laboratory. Here is the credit hour guideline:

    Spring or Fall semesters (1, 2 or 3 credits permitted):
  • 1 credit = minimum of 45 hours in the lab for the semester
  • 2 credits = minimum of 90 hours in the lab for the semester
  • 3 credits = minimum of 135 hours in the lab for the semester

  1. Students may sign up for a research class for more than one semester.
  2. Students who are not completing a thesis for Barrett Honors College will always select the BCH 392 or CHM 392 class. 
  3. A student in the Barrett Honors College will choose:

a. BCH 493 or CHM 493 if you will write your thesis this semester and have completed BCH 492 or CHM 492 already 
b. BCH 492 or CHM 492 if you plan to write your thesis next semester 
c. BCH 392 or CHM 392 if you have no immediate plans to write your thesis.

For additional information about the thesis requirements of students in the Barrett Honors College see: BARRETT THESIS


What Are the Expectations of Students (Syllabus)?

BCH/CHM 392 - Introduction to Research Techniques Spring 2023

Instructor: Your mutually agreed upon research advisor

SMS Administrator: Prof. Chad Borges
Email: chad.borges@asu.edu

Class Meetings: 
There are no official class meetings. Meet with your research advisor as needed.

Course Description:
Introduction to Research Techniques is a course designed to give credit to chemistry and biochemistry majors who are conducting undergraduate research in the laboratory of faculty members of the School of Molecular Sciences or chemistry- or biochemistry-related undergraduate research with faculty members of other departments.

Students conducting chemistry- or biochemistry-related undergraduate research with faculty members of other departments (e.g. School of Life Sciences) can enroll in the class with PRIOR authorization of the instructor. These students MUST include in the web-based authorization page a short description of the research project in which they will be participating. Approval to enroll in this class will ONLY be granted after the student has provided the required information and the research advisor has approved the request for enrollment in this class.

Credit Hours and Time Commitments: 
Students have the option to enroll in this class during the fall and spring semester session for one or three credit hours. Students are required to dedicate a minimum of four hours per week per credit hour, as indicated below:

  • 1 credit = minimum of 45 hours in the lab for the semester
  • 2 credits = minimum of 90 hours in the lab for the semester
  • 3 credits = minimum of 135 hours in the lab for the semester

Research advisors have the right to increase the minimum hours that a student must dedicate to undergraduate research per research hour. Faculty members have been asked to take into consideration the time that a student spends in the laboratory when determining the final grade. Failure to comply with the minimum time requirements could serve as the basis to grant a lower grade.

Honors Contracts: 
Honors contracts are NOT available for this class. Honors College students are able to obtain honors credit for their participation in undergraduate research while working on their honors thesis through our two Honors Thesis courses: BCH/CHM 492 (Honors Directed Study) and BCH/CHM 493 (Honors Thesis) courses (see adjacent tab). These courses are usually taken during the senior year.

Your final grade will be determined based on the grade recommendation from your research advisor and completion of final report. Students are required to turn in a final report no later than April 28, 2023 (last day of classes). If a student fails to turn in the final report, an Incomplete grade (I) will be assigned until this requirement has been fulfilled. If a student completes the final report, the grade that the faculty advisor assigns will be awarded. Research advisors are required to provide the final grade through our web-based system by May 8, 2023. If a professor does not provide a final grade for a student by this date, an Incomplete grade (I) will be assigned until a grade is provided by the professor.

Final Reports:
All students will be required to turn in a Final Report. The final report is due no later than April 28, 2023(last day of classes). The final report (usually 5-6 pages, single or 1.5 lines), should include an abstract, an introduction, a short list of the specific research goals, a short description of the results indicating the techniques used to obtain these results, a short discussion/conclusion, and a final statement indicating the future plans for the project. Include any pertinent references.

Only the final version of the report should be uploaded. As your research advisor will need to approve the final report and he/she may require you to make changes or corrections to your initial report, it is imperative that you start working on your final report before the due date to allow time for this process. The quality of the final report is an important factor in determining the final grade for the course. An incomplete or deficient final report will be the basis for assigning a lower grade.

Upload Report 

BCH/CHM 492 & 493

BCH/CHM 492 – Honors Directed Study

BCH/CHM 493 – Honors Thesis

Instructor: Your mutually agreed upon research advisor

SMS Administrator: Prof. Chad Borges
Email: chad.borges@asu.edu

Class Meetings: There are no official class meetings. Meet with your research advisor as needed.

Course GuidelinesPlease download and read this important PDF document!

Course Description:
Barrett students are required to complete an Honors Thesis/Creative Project. SMS students should enroll for 3 credits of CHM/BCH492 (Honors Thesis Research) in the semester before they plan to defend their thesis. In the following semester, they should take CHM/BCH 493 (Honors Thesis) for their thesis defense. Note that the 493 course is not repeatable for credit. Please submit your Thesis Prospectus to Prof. Borges when you register for 492 to ensure that your thesis topic is appropriate for SMS and that your committee is properly constituted (see details below).

It is expected that in most cases a student will have started their research project before taking CHM/BCH 492. Students can take research for credit as CHM/BCH 392 in that case. Remember that students taking research for credit will be expected to spend at least 3 hours per week in the lab on average for each credit hour received. Most people will take research for 3 credits each semester and work at least 9 hours (on average) per week on their project.

Students may choose any area of interest to complete their project. For credit in CHM/BCH 492/493, the student must (1) be a chemistry or biochemistry major, and (2) be engaged in a thesis project with substantial (bio)chemistry content. It is not necessary that the project be undertaken in the laboratory of an SMS faculty member. (Majors doing research in other areas can always get credit in HON 492/493.) All chemistry and biochemistry students are encouraged to consider the opportunities within SMS and elsewhere at ASU, as well as in the Phoenix area or at other research institutions.

Tips for undertaking research in chemistry/ biochemistry at ASU can be found at: https://sms.asu.edu/student-life/undergraduate-experience/undergrad-research-opportunities. The American Chemical Society provides exceptional guidance for the advantages and challenges of undergraduate research in chemistry as well as tips for selecting a supervisor on their website. There are books on the topic as well. (Getting In by Oppenheimer and Grey is an excellent book published in 2015 and available on Amazon in softcover.)

Guidelines for Thesis Committee Membership: The Director must be an ASU faculty member (per Barrett’s rules) and preferably a member of SMS. Although Barrett specifies a minimum of 2 thesis committee members, SMS requires all majors to have 3 members on their committee. The Director and Second Committee Member are required to be ASU tenure-track faculty. At least one member of the committee must be a faculty member of SMS. The Third Committee Member must have a PhD and does not have to be a faculty member but cannot be a subordinate of either of the other two members (e.g. postdoctoral fellow or research professor in the same research group). For a student doing research with a mentor who is not an ASU faculty member (e.g. at TGen, Barrow, VA Hospital), the research mentor would have to be the Third Committee Member and the student would have to recruit from among the ASU faculty (preferably in SMS) a Director who is nominally in charge of the thesis.

BCH/CHM 492 students who perform satisfactorily automatically receive a grade of “Z” for the semester. Once they have completed  BCH/CHM 493 and a grade is assigned by the research advisor, both courses are given the same final grade.

BCH/CHM 493 students must submit a thesis and complete an oral defense of that thesis. Final grades are assigned by the research advisor.