Finding a Research Lab/Mentor

Your research supervisor may be a faculty member in any Duke department, including Medical Center departments. In general, it is up to you to contact and speak to faculty members until you find someone appropriate that agrees to take you on. You should start your search for an independent study one semester before you plan to begin. You will want to speak with several faculty members and meet other people in their labs. Also, space in labs is limited and you must often reserve in advance.

The Undergraduate Studies Office cannot assign you to a lab nor make specific recommendations, however, some useful information is below.

Resources for Finding Mentors:

  • MUSER (Matching Undergraduates to Science and Engineering Research) - active at the start of each term.
  • Look for postings on DukeList ( Note that most mentors do not post their independent study opportunities. You don’t need to limit yourself to these postings.
  • Biology Faculty Research Pages: this site lists Biology faculty by research area. Use this site to identify Biology faculty that are working on subjects in which you are interested.
  • Scholars@Duke website provides info on faculty research.
  • Talk to other students who are doing independent study. Find out how they got started.
  • Talk to your Biology Advisor or any Biology Faculty in your area of interest for possible ideas on labs to approach.

Contact faculty and ask about the possibility of doing an independent study in their laboratory.

  • Some great advice for contacting mentors can be found here, on the website of the Office of Undergraduate Research Support:
  • If you get a positive reply from a potential research supervisor, meet to discuss both your and their expectations. Work out a weekly schedule, a semester timeline, and rules for your project. Discuss the overall duration of the independent study – many mentors will expect at least a two semester commitment. General guidelines for independent study are available from the web site.
  • Be sure to adhere to the Independent study guidelines. You can also refer research supervisors to Dr. Eric Spana, Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies, should they have further questions or concerns.