How do I find a research position?

I applied to JHU for ED and I’m really hoping I can get in!
I keep hearing that I should really be making the most of student research opportunities at US Universities, especially with schools like JHU. I have a few interests, although they’re not really specific right now.

‘Research’ sounds kind of daunting, and I have no clue how I would go about finding a position. Can someone tell me what the process would look like?

Basically the most important thing is for you to find two things:

  1. Funding
  2. a professor who can advocate for you to

What sort of research are you looking to do? Clinical?

Hi Sophie!

First of all, congratulations on applying to JHU. Best of luck for the application. Make sure to apply to a lot of regular schools as well so you have a healthy mix of potential options.

Research includes a variety of different options:

  1. Structured research programs like which is an example of a well-designed summer research opportunity for Harvard undergraduates where a select number of students works on some projects with Harvard Business School professors over a summer.
  2. Research opportunities that pop up as a result of a student meeting a professor and then acting as a RA (Research Assistant) for that Professor
  3. Classes that involve a research component/research paper. Often advanced classes involve doing research papers (often junior seminars, prior to senior thesis year is one example).
  4. Referee reports - where you assess a piece of research and offer constructive praise and criticism and question empirical techniques

Many research opportunities exist that require no funding i.e. pure mathematics, theoretical economics etc and many more research opportunities exist where you can use normally expensive equipment at university laboratories to do research without any specific monetary funding. For the types of research that involve actual funding, most top universities have plenty of available funding and dedicated grants and programs you can apply for.

In order to find a position, you should first go onto the department website of the major you are looking at and find individual professors who are doing work in areas you are interested in (cast a wide net). Email these professors directly (you should find their email on their personal websites or department websites) and state that you are interested in exploring research opportunities with them and ask if you can meet. Before the meeting, pull up their CV (often available online) and read their recent literature/research using a platform like Google Scholar. In the meeting, you can reference some of their work to show you are interested and ask them what they are working on now and offer your assistance. It takes a few of these meetings before a Professor bites and offers you something in most cases. You need to start somewhere and keep expanding your horizons with research. My own research opportunities got progressively more involved over my time at Harvard as I built up more experience.

I was able to land 5 research opportunities at my time at Harvard - one with Prof Jeffrey Miron (Director of Undergrad Department, Economics) on the “Urban Heating Effect” which involved doing a lot of online literature research, one with Professor Desai (Dean of External Relations at Harvard Business School) on the impact of exchange-traded funds on the closed-end fund industry, one with Prof David Ager (Former Head of Sociology Department) on the use of contractors in businesses, one with Scott Kominers as part of Econ 2099 (Market Design) on refining Uber’s matchmaking algorithm and finally one with Prof Larry Summers (Former President of Harvard) for my thesis on the effect of low interest rates in driving reach-for-yield behavior in risky assets.

On top of the approach of reaching directly out to Professors, you should also look for the structured research opportunities available at John Hopkins which offers a more clear-cut path for finding a research project (although I recommend a combination of structured opportunities and opportunities you find yourself). In my case, I actively went out and found all 5 of my research opportunities and my Harvard experience was better because of it.

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If you want to explain some of your specific interests, we can point you in the right direction at JHU!