Finding research opportunities on campus
The first and most important step is to choose your research area and your project advisor. You must choose your faculty project advisor as early as possible in the semester preceding that of the project.
Faculty research areas
In addition, the types of projects that each faculty member will advise and a list of 460 projects that faculty have recently directed can be found in the Student Research Guide.
From your examination of this list and from other sources of information about each faculty member's interests (courses, readings, or from talking with other students and faculty), approach one or more of the faculty and discuss the possibilities. Don’t be shy: we expect you to come and talk!
Once you have scouted the territory, make your decision. Directly ask the faculty member if he or she will serve as your project advisor. While all faculty will accept 460 students, there are limits to the number of students that each faculty member can advise. If you start your search late, it is possible that the project advisor with whom you want to work will have a full load and cannot accept you. The faculty member may suggest that you do the project in another semester or work with another advisor. Don't take a refusal personally!
Finding research opportunities off campus
Off-campus summer programs can offer exposure to research techniques not available at Gettysburg, as well as giving you a close-up view of the kind of research university where you might go to graduate school. You’ll be working in close proximity with graduate students, so you’ll get a good feel for what the life of a graduate student is like. However, the programs are generally very short (about 2 months), and practically even shorter, considering travel, move-in, and adjustment to living in a new place on your own. Keep in mind that this constraint can greatly restrict project possibilities - it is very rare (though not impossible!) to accrue enough data to publish or present at a scientific conference. Another potential downside to these programs is that if you are in a big lab, you'll often be working much more closely with a graduate student than with a professor.
In exploring off-campus summer research programs, you also want to start looking early. A multitude of institutions around the country each admit a small group of students (usually 6-12) to spend 2-3 months over the summer designing and executing a research project with a faculty advisor. Travel and housing are usually covered and stipends cover food and living expenses. The websites listed below contain lists of such programs at various universities all across the country, and these are a good place to start looking. Application deadlines for these programs are typically early in the spring semester (January or February), though this can vary.