Undergraduate Research

Are you interested in learning more about psychology research? Are you considering graduate school or a professional program? We encourage you to consider enrolling in a lab class or an independent study during your undergraduate career.

Important: if you wish to get join a research lab as an undergraduate at UCSD, it is best to start early.  Search for and contact labs at the start of the academic year, and ideally well before you are planning to graduate.  Many labs will not accept students that have only one or two quarters remaining.

For further information about getting involved with research, please see the FAQs below.  You may also be interested in attending this department’s “Getting Involved with Research” workshop (for dates and times, please check the undergraduate workshops calendar).

Benefits of Assisting with Research

  • Hands-on experience
  • Opportunities to work more closely with faculty
  • Maximizing the advantage of being at a top-ranked RI research institution - participating in cutting edge, groundbreaking research

Special Studies Paperwork

FAQs: Getting Involved with Research as an Undergraduate

What's the difference between lab courses and independent research?

Lab Courses

In these courses, you will be expected to attend both lecture and lab weekly. The lecture component will have a fixed time and place in the Schedule of Classes. All lab courses will require significant writing, typically in APA style. These courses must be taken for a letter grade, if you are using them toward the psychology major requirements.

Independent Research

These courses allow you to assist with research in a psychology-related lab. There is no lecture component; research assistant schedules are determined between the student and PI. The process for enrolling in these courses is very different from structured courses in that you are expected to take independent initiative from the start. You will need to submit paperwork every quarter to enroll. Many research labs have limitations on enrollment, such as requiring a multiple quarter commitment or a minimum GPA. You may earn either 2 units (60 hours/quarter) or 4 units (120 hours/quarter) each quarter. This class must be taken as Pass/No Pass only. There is no significant writing requirement to earn a passing grade in PSYC 99/199, however, those students who choose to complete their major research requirement with two PSYC 199s must complete a BS Research paper. 

PSYC 199s may only count towards the Research Requirement for our BS majors. PSYC 199s do not count toward upper-division Psychology Core or Elective Requirements for any Psychology major!

How do I obtain approval to enroll in lab classes?

The following outlines how to enroll in the psychology lab classes:

  • PSYC 114Psychophysiological Perspectives on the Social Mind Lab
    • Directly enroll via WebReg, no approval required
  • PSYC 115A/BLab in Cognitive Psychology
    • Instructor approval required
  • PSYC 116Lab in Clinical Psychology Research
  • PSYC 117Lab in Educational Research and Outreach
  • PSYC 140Human Behavior Lab
    • Class must be taken concurrently with PSYC 120; directly enroll via WebReg, no approval required
  • PSYC 193 Lab Topics
    • ONLY classes labeled “Lab” or “Laboratory” will count toward the psychology major Research requirements
    • Department or instructor approval required (instructions on WebReg)

Why should I consider a PSYC 99 or PSYC 199?

In general, you will learn how research is carried out through assisting in running subjects, collecting data, and evaluating data under the supervision of a faculty member or graduate student. Because you will have a close working relationship with lab members, this experience can also contribute to stronger letters of recommendations from lab personnel.

Independent study research with our faculty is highly regarded by graduate schools because it gives you insight into the research process and if this is a career path you'd like to pursue. PSYC 99/199s can count towards the research experience requirement for the B.S. (with at least one culminating in a research paper accepted by the PI). Because there is no parallel research requirement for the B.A., we cannot accept Psychology 99/199s towards the B.A. major. For B.A. majors, these courses will be counted as upper division credit towards your GE requirements.  

Do I qualify for a PSYC 99 or PSYC 199?

Although the prerequisite for PSYC 199 is 90 units, we encourage students who have earned at least 45 units to enroll in PSYC 199. This will require additional approval from your college.

  • Prerequisites for PSYC 99: Lower division standing, completion of at least 30 units of undergraduate studies at UCSD with a minimum UCSD GPA of 3.0; completed and approved Special Studies Form. May be taken for P/NP credit three times.
  • Prerequisites for PSYC 199: Upper division standing, completion of at least 90 units of undergraduate studies at UCSD with a minimum UCSD GPA of 2.5; completed and approved Special Studies Form. May be taken for P/NP credit nine times.
Please note: Students who do not meet these minimum University requirements for enrollment may obtain additional approval from their college.

How do I find a PSYC 99 or PSYC 199 position?

  1. Look on the REAL Portal
    • Search for psychology and locate opportunities that are marked with the PSYC 199 approved logoPSYC 199 approved badge.  
    • Follow the application instructions listed in the research posting.
  2. Review individual Faculty Research on the Psychology Department website
    • Find out how each research lab prefers to be contacted by visiting the professor’s website.
    • E-mail the lab contact, including in the email why you are interested in their lab and what skills and traits you would bring to a position there.
  3. Look through the Primary Investigators (PIs) listed on TritonLink under PSYC 199
    • Consider checking through last year’s PIs as well.
    • Find the PI’s lab information and look into their research topics and how they prefer to be contacted.
    • E-mail the lab contact, including in the email why you are interested in their research lab and what skills and traits you would bring to a position there.
  4. Consider alternative research opportunities related to Psychology. Look within Cognitive Science, Linguistics, Biology, Business, Education Studies, and other related fields.

Once you locate lab, you may be asked to interview for the lab research assistant position. If accepted, complete the PSYC 99/199 paperwork.

Many faculty in the Psychology Department and other departments regularly mentor PSYC 199 students.  In a given quarter, there may be approximately 150+ students taking PSYC 199 under the supervision of 50+ faculty/supervisors.  All areas of the Psychology Department are represented.  Students interested in clinically-oriented research commonly complete PSYC 199 under the supervision of a faculty member in the Psychiatry Department [link].  

What types of research can I become involved with?

In this department, there are many types of psychological research.  Many diverse areas are represented, ranging from neurobiology and child development to social psychology.  Some areas of interest may however require additional searching (for example, there are few full-time clinical or industrial-organizational faculty, and qualitative research is not commonly conducted).

What if a Primary Investigator (PI) I want to work with is not listed?

If you have a specific research interest and the Primary Investigator (PI) is not within the Psychology Department, you may still be able to earn PSYC 99 or PSYC 199 credit. 

  1. Make sure that the PI’s research is related to Psychology.
  2. Find the PI’s lab information and look into their research topics and how they prefer to be contacted by students.
  3. E-mail the lab contact, including in the email why you are interested in their research lab and what skills and traits you would bring to a position there.
  4. Interview for the research assistant position.
  5. Once you’ve been approved by the lab as an Undergraduate Research Assistant, send a message to PSYC Advising in the VAC with the PI’s name and UCSD e-mail address; we will send them a survey about their research. They need to have a current teaching appointment at UC San Diego in order to be approved as a PSYC 99/199 PI.
  6. If the professor is approved as a PSYC 99/199 PI, we will write back to that professor and let them know. You can then move on to the next step, see "How do I enroll in a PSYC 99 or PSYC 199."

How should I contact potential labs of interest?

If you are not able to speak to a PI or lab personnel directly, email is a viable option.  When emailing, it is important to clearly convey relevant information about yourself and to demonstrate that you are a potentially suitable candidate. You should state your name, major, class standing (freshman/sophomore/junior/senior) and other information that you believe to be relevant.  It is common for labs to also request:

1. A brief statement of goals and/ or interest (i.e., why you are interested in the lab).
2. A CV or resume (or a statement of the skills and traits you would bring to the lab).
3. An unofficial academic transcript.
4. Your upcoming course schedule.

Other information may also be required (if the lab advertises its 199 opportunities on the REAL portal or via its website, there may be instructions regarding what information they seek).  Your email should be respectful, free from errors, and carefully written.  Further, the email should be appropriately addressed. Potentially acceptable ways to begin the email include "Dear [insert lab name]", "Dear Professor [insert name]."

It is also recommended that you carefully research the lab before applying.  This will help you decide whether the lab potentially suits your interests. It will also provide you with useful background information prior to contacting the lab.

How do I enroll in a PSYC 99 or PSYC 199?

  1. Fill out the PSYC 99/199 paperwork
    1. Section I: You complete.
      • Fill in the section (3 digits) and section ID (6 digits) information that you locate in the Schedule of Classes under your PI’s name under PSYC 199. If this is not listed, let the Psychology Department know via the VAC.
    2. Section II: The research lab Primary Investigator (PI) and you will complete together. There must be information listed for all areas:
      • Nature and frequency of contact: at least 12 hours per week for 4 units, 6 hours for 2 units.
      • Means of evaluation: what do you need to do to satisfactorily complete their 99/199?
      • Pproposed plan: what will you be doing in the lab; what responsibilities will you have?
      • PI (faculty member) has to sign this section under the instructor’s signature area, unfortunately, our office cannot accept signatures of a lab manager or a graduate student.
    3. Section III: You will bring the form to the Psychology Student Affairs Office, 1533 Mandler Hall, for review and a departmental stamp. Sections I and II must be completed prior to coming to our office.
    4. Section IV: If necessary, bring your form to your college for a signature (less than 90 units for a 199, less than a 2.5 GPA, more than 1 Special Studies class in a quarter, or more than 22 units).
    5. After all sections are completed, you should take a photo of your completed form to have a record; keep this until you receive your grade, to have a record that you have requested to enroll in the correct section of the class.
    6. You, yourself, will take the completed form to the UC San Diego Registrar’s Office for processing and enrollment in the course. 
    7. You should double-check your Academic History (using the question mark icon next to the course number) to check the instructor of your PSYC 99/199 is correct.

What is the time commitment for a PSYC 99 or PSYC 199?

For both PSYC 99s and 199s, the time commitment is outlined as such:

  • 2 units: requires 6 hours per week for a total of 60 hours in a quarter
  • 4 units: requires 12 hours per week for a total of 120 hours in a quarter

Do I need to complete a BS research paper?

If you choose to use 8 units of PSYC 99/199 for the research requirement for your Psychology B.S. major or 8 units of PSYC 199 for your Cognitive & Behavioral Neuroscience (CBN) B.S. major, you will need to complete a B.S. Research paper. If you take at least one lab class, a separate research paper is not required.

How many times can I repeat PSYC 99/199?

PSYC 99 may be taken up to 3 times for credit.  PSYC 199 may be taken up to 9 times for credit.

Departmental Funding Opportunities for Research 

Undergraduate Research Fellowship 

The Department of Psychology would like to offer funds to those students who are engaging in departmental psychological research (PSYC 199s, 194s). These funds may assist students with the cost of research, data collection, study equipment, participant needs, etc. The limit per award will be $300 (for actual expenses). All funding must be spent and reimbursements submitted by Friday, April 20, 2018. Applicants must be active, enrolled UCSD undergraduate students declared in one of the Psychology majors. The Research Fellowship application deadline was 4pm on Wednesday, March 14, 2018. Fellowship applications and funds are no longer available for this year.

Undergraduate Anderson Research Travel Award

Provides funds to assist undergraduate psychology majors with travel expenses to present at scholarly conferences related to the field of Psychology. Applications should include proof of the invitation to present at the research conference, an abstract of the paper/poster and details on the travel expenses. The limit per award will be $200 (for actual expenses). The Anderson Research Travel Award application deadline is 4pm on Thursday, April 19, 2018.

Other Undergraduate Research Opportunities

Below are lists of potential research opportunities that undergraduates in this department may wish to participate in.  Please note that many of those take place outside UCSD.  Further opportunities can be potentially found via web searches, inquiries with faculty mentors, and through other listservs.

UCSD Undergraduate Research Programs and Presentation Opportunities

Undergraduate Research Internships, Summer Research Internships, and Scholarship Programs

Further Undergraduate Research Presentation and Publication Opportunities