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Starting Your Research Journey

New to undergraduate research and creative activities and don’t know where to begin? The Office of Undergraduate Research & Creative Activities can answer your questions about investigation and creative inquiry opportunities at CU Denver | Anschutz and beyond. Whether you are looking for your first research position or stepping into independent scholarship - we're here to help.

Log on to our career resources platform, Handshake, to book an undergraduate research advising appointment or call 303-315-4000. 

Steps to Begin

1. Why are you interested in a research experience?

Are you curious about the world? Have an idea for a research or creative project? At CU Denver, students are involved in investigation and creative inquiry across all majors and disciplines. Whether you have your own research idea or want to get involved in an existing project, research may be for you!

2. When do you want a position?

The sooner you get started, the better - begin searching in your first year if possible! However, it is never too late to find your first research experience. Make an appointment with an undergraduate research advisor in Handshake to get started.

3. What benefits do you hope to get from the experience?

Are you looking for letters of recommendation, experience before graduate studies, hands-on work with a mentor? The benefits of research extend beyond your resume. Click Here to learn more about mentored experiences.

4. How much time do you want to spend on research?

Are you looking to attend a lab meeting, find a summer-long experience, or get involved for multiple years? Many positions are looking for volunteers, but it is possible to get paid for your research positions! Look into the EURēCA! Programs or search through other opportunities for paid fellowships and summer programs.

5. What are your interests and professional goals?

Think through your educational and professional goals, how will research help you get there? What specific topics interest you? Explore these questions and more with LynxConnect staff.

1. Meet with an Undergraduate Research Advisor

Book an individual appointment in Handshake or call 303-315-4000 to begin exploring research opportunities, get tips on searching, and have your resume and cover-letter reviewed before applying.

2. Search for open positions or a new mentor

First, talk to your professors to see if they have opportunities. Then see if your department has a web page describing faculty research interests. If possible, read their publications and watch videos of their lectures. Next, select two or three professors whose work most excites you to contact with your research assistant request.

View tips to get started. or look through the opportunities listed on the URCA website.

3. Find out what other undergraduates are doing

Talk to your classmates who are involved in research, many students find openings in labs or project teams by checking this way.

Read URCA student stories or explore the virtual RaCAS Symposium to learn about research that was done by students just like you!

1. Attend EURēCA! Discussions and Workshops

Register through Handshake to view details for URCA's in-person and/or virtual events.

Click Here to View Upcoming Events

2. Build your research-specific resume and cover letter to apply

Have your materials reviewed by the LynxConnect Peer Advisors to get started. Then set up an in-depth appointment with either an Undergraduate Research Advisor or the Career Counselors through Handshake.

Remember to tailor each cover letter and resume specifically to the research project you’re applying to join. The best cover letters are highly specific to the lab and researcher, not generic.

Click Here to view resources for your research resume and cover letter.

Want to start on your CV as? Click Here for resources

4. Learn how to present your work

Click Here for resources to write an abstract

Click Here to learn how to develop an elevator pitch and poster presentation 

Click Here to view previous student presentations for examples

Click Here for opportunities to present

1. Search for positions through Handshake Job Postings

Once you have built your research resume and cover-letter, had them reviewed by LynxConnect staff, and/or met with an Undergraduate Research Advisor, it's time to apply!

Many positions have an email for the supervisor listed in the job posting. Reach out directly with questions and to introduce yourself after sending in your application materials.

If you are blocked from applying, check your major, year, or label restrictions. Email with questions about Handshake.

View Steps to Apply for EURēCA! Positions on Handshake

2. Explore Other Opportunities

Look through the Other Opportunities page for lists of programs and opportunities at CU Denver | Anschutz and beyond. You will find semester-long programs, summer fellowships, mentored opportunities, and more. Look through travel and supply grants, and places you can present your work as an undergraduate for other ways to get involved. 

Working in an unpaid research position or needing support for an independent project? Learn about the 'Make it EURēCA!' option of the EURēCA! Student Assistant Program.

View Make it EURēCA! Application Process

Need help with your applications? Reach out to LynxConnect, or utilize the CU Denver Writing Center for assistance.

3. Email faculty you are interested in working with

After you've searched department webpages, found 2-3 faculty names, and read over their CV or publications, email with a specific ask

Are you looking to join a lab meeting, attend office hours, set up an informational interview, or apply for a longer-term research position? Be clear what you are asking for and include a request for additional information. Here are a few examples:

  • Is there an upcoming lab meeting where I can learn more about the type of research you conduct?
  • I am looking to explore the role of women in film, can I attend your office hours to get your thoughts on my research ideas?
  • If you are not the best person to ask, can you recommend who I can reach out to?'

Send you resume and cover-letter in an inquiry email. Use a clear subject line to grab the Faculty’s attention. Here are a few examples of email subject lines you might consider:

  • Dr. Carton, can I assist with your neural circuit research?
  • In need of a research assistant with brain mapping expertise?
  • Professor Manette recommended I reach out regarding your research (if you indeed can use a professor as a reference)

Consider the best time of year to email

 If you want to secure a research assistant position during the academic year, you should email your cover letter in the spring or mid-summer, before the fall semester starts.

If it’s already the middle of the fall semester, you have two options. First, you can reach out and inquire about becoming a research assistant for the spring semester. Otherwise, you can ask to join the summer research team.

Follow up if you don’t receive a reply

Wait a week—but no longer—before following up. Make your follow-up email very brief. Send it as a reply to your original email containing your cover letter and your attached resume, so the professor can easily review your initial research assistant request. See sample below.

It’s appropriate to send one follow-up email, but do not continue to pester the faculty if you still don’t receive a reply. At that point, widen your search and find other faculty to approach with your research assistant application.

Sample Emails

Example 1:

Dear Faculty Name,

 I am a sophomore here at CU Denver who recently declared a concentration in Health & Human Biology. I am writing out of interest in your research on global trends in emerging infectious disease. I was very excited to read about your work on the CU Denver News page last week.  

I am eager to pursue medical or graduate school after CU Denver and focus my efforts on immunology and global health. As I move toward my junior year I am hoping to line up a research experience, collaborative or independent, focused on similar topics.  

 I have course work and some voluntary experiences that I believe position me well for more in depth work in the lab. Do you have any opportunities for a student like me in your research group over the summer or following academic year? I have attached my resume and transcript and would be delighted to talk with you if an opportunity for me might exist.

I hope to hear from you soon,


Example 2:

Dear Faculty Name,

I am writing to inquire about potential research opportunities in your lab. I am a sophomore intending to pursue a Biology ScB (EEB track). I am specifically interested in your research on New England Cottontail infectious disease dynamics, and Conservation Medicine more broadly. I am available this summer and throughout the fall and spring semesters if you have openings in your lab. My transcript and resume are included. You will see that I have solid grades in relevant courses and experience working in the field.

Please let me know if I can schedule a time to speak with you.

Very best wishes,


Example 3:

Dear Faculty NAME,

Dr. NAME recommended that I contact you about potential opportunities to purse research in your lab. I am entering my senior year and very eager to pursue an independent research project where I can explore the global distribution of infectious diseases using new GIS tools. I have read your work published on disease biogeography and would be very excited to speak with you in person. Could I make an appointment for next week?


Example Follow-up:

Dear Dr. NAME,

I wanted to quickly follow up on the possibility of joining your team as a research assistant. I know you’re busy, and I hope that as your research assistant I could take some work off your hands.

Please see my original email to review my qualifications and the passion I have for your work examining how neural circuit function contributes to neurological disorders. I would love the opportunity to meet with you and discuss how I can contribute to your research further.



Tips and Resources


Glossary of URCA Terms  

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