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Undergraduate Research

Are you interested in learning more about psychology research? Are you considering graduate school or a professional program? 

Most Psychology courses teach you what we already know about the mind, the brain, and human behavior. If you want to participate in the process by which we gain new knowledge in psychology, please consider applying to be a research assistant (RA) in one of the labs in Psychology or related fields (e.g., Neuroscience, Cognitive Science, Psychiatry, Linguistics)! We encourage you to consider enrolling in a lab class or an independent study during your undergraduate career.

Important: if you wish to 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.

PSYC 99/199 Common Application

  • Interested in Psychology research and PSYC 199? Fill out the PSYC 99/199 Common Application to indicate your research interests, previous lab experience and determine your eligibility. Your application will be reviewed by Faculty (PIs) to determine your match with research labs. 
  • The goal of this form is to help match undergraduate students with PSYC 99/199 opportunities. 
  • Applications for Fall 2021 will open toward the end of the summer. Please check back for final dates and deadlines. 

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

  • Paper forms are no longer accepted for enrollment into PSYC 99/199; please use the EASy System and follow the instructions below.

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 71: Laboratory in Psychological Research Methods
    • Directly enroll via WebReg, no approval required
    • MUST have taken PSYC 70
    • Applies only to students in the Psychology BS (with or without Specialization).  Students MUST be a part of 2018 Major requirements to apply this class toward their major.
  • PSYC 81: Laboratory in Brain, Behavior, and Evolution
    • Directly enroll via WebReg, no approval required
    • Applies only to students in the Psychology BS (with or without Specialization).  Students MUST be a part of 2018 Major requirements to apply this class toward their major.
  • PSYC 113: Electroencephalogram (EEG) Lab
    •  FA19: Apply for the class by September 10th using this Google Form.
  • PSYC 114: Psychophysiological Perspectives on the Social Mind Lab
    • Directly enroll via WebReg, no approval required
  • PSYC 115A/B: Lab in Cognitive Psychology
    • WI21: Apply for the class by November 25th using this Google Form.
  • PSYC 116A-C: Lab in Clinical Psychology Research
  • PSYC 117: Lab in Educational Research and Outreach
  • PSYC 118: Laboratory in Animal Behavior
    • Request authorization via the EASy system for approval
    • Students may not have taken PSYC 81
  • PSYC 140: Human Behavior Lab
    • Directly enroll via WebReg, no approval required
    • Class MUST be taken concurrently with PSYC 120
  • PSYC 193L: Lab Topics
    • Department or instructor approval required (instructions on WebReg)
    • Some topics require prerequisite coursework; check WebReg for course descriptions
    • If no instructions are listed, use the EASy System for approval

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 EASy request. 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 EASy request. 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?

Spring 2021- PSYC 99/199 Common Application

  • Interested in Psychology research and PSYC 199? Fill out the PSYC 99/199 Common Application to indicate your research interests, previous lab experience and determine your eligibility. Your application will be reviewed by Faculty (PIs) to determine your match with research labs. 
  • The goal of this form is to help match undergraduate students with PSYC 99/199 opportunities. 
  • Applications for Spring 2021 are due March 3, 2021. 

 Other ways to find PSYC 99/199 opportunities: 

  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. 

Complete the PSYC 99/199 Common Application open for Spring 2021 (due March 3, 2021). 

It is easiest to select Psychology labs/PIs, but there is an “Other” option on the form to indicate PIs in other departments. If you are interested in PSYC 99/199 opportunities with a specific outside department faculty member, you can indicate that on the form.

Make sure that the PI’s research is related to Psychology.

Other options: 

  1. Find the PI’s lab information and look into their research topics and how they prefer to be contacted by students.
  2. 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.
  3. Interview for the research assistant position.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?

Complete the PSYC 99/199 Common Application for Spring 2021 (due March 3, 2021)

We encourage students to reach out to PIs via email even after they complete the PSYC 99/199 Common Application to communicate their interest in a specific lab/PI. 

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.

Sample email to a faculty member:

Dear Professor X, 

My name is X, and I am an undergraduate student at UCSD. I just wanted to let you know that I recently submitted the common application to do research in the psychology department, and am thrilled by the prospect of working in your lab! 

In particular, I find your work on X particularly fascinating. [Briefly expand on why that research is interesting to you, and then why you would be a good fit for the lab (e.g., do you have relevant skills?)]. 

Thank you for considering my application! 

Best regards, 

[student first name and last name]

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

Starting in Winter 2019, all students will use the EASy System to enroll in PSYC 99/199 courses. 

REMEMBER: You must have received approval from the lab/PI in order to request authorization to enroll in PSYC 99/199.

Step-by-step instructions can be found below.1) Choose your quarter of enrollment. 2) Select Special Studies. 3) Select Psychology. 4) Select course (99/199) based on the number of units you have completed. 5) Select instructor from the drop down menu.1) Leave Section and Grading Option as-is.  2) Choose the number of units based on your weekly work hours (2 units = 6 hours, 4 units = 12 hours); 3 units are available ONLY for PSYC 116 cohort members. 3) Do not fill out the justification box or attach files under Supporting Documentation.  4) Click 1) Fill in the number of units you have already completed for the same course number (PSYC 99 or PSYC 199).  2) Fill in prerequisite knowledge discussed with your PI or lab manager.  3) Fill in the number of hours you'll be working in the lab per week, based on the number of units you requested.  4) Fill in the way you will be graded.  5) Fill in the proposed plan (what you'll be doing in the lab) discussed with your PI or lab manager.  6) Do not attach files.  7) Check the box to certify that you have discussed the PSYC 99/PSYC 199 with your PI.  8) Click Submit Request to complete your portion of the authorization request.

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 Psych lab course (or CBN lab course for CBN majors) that includes an APA-style research paper (6 pages minimum of text), 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.

Can we still email faculty in addition to completing the Common Application?

Yes. If there is a particular faculty member or graduate student you are especially interested in working with, we encourage you to reach out to express this interest and let them know you will be filling out the common application and selecting their lab as one you would like to work in.  See below for an example of how this email might read.

Sample email to a faculty member:

Dear Professor X, 

My name is X, and I am an undergraduate student at UCSD. I just wanted to let you know that I recently submitted the common application to do research in the psychology department, and am thrilled by the prospect of working in your lab! 

In particular, I find your work on X particularly fascinating. [Briefly expand on why that research is interesting to you, and then why you would be a good fit for the lab (e.g., do you have relevant skills?)]. 

Thank you for considering my application! 

Best regards, 

[student first name and last name]

Am I required to complete the Common Application to get a PSYC 99/ 199?

No. It is fine to set up a position for PSYC 199 credit via another route, if the opportunity arises. The common application is also primarily meant to help students find research assistant positions in the psychology department, but it is possible to get PSYC 199 credit for research done in another department, with specific approval from psychology advising.  If you have a specific non-psychology lab in mind, you should reach out to them via email to inquire about open positions, and then get in touch with psychology advising for PSYC 199 approval once you have secured a position.  You can also search the UCSD REAL portal for non-psychology labs that may be appropriate for PSYC 199 credit.  Filling out the common application is not a necessary step for receiving PSYC 199 credit for an out-of-department position.

Will PSYC 99/199s be on campus or remote?

The transmission of COVID19 is widespread. Although research at UC San Diego will continue, most Psychology labs are conducting online research only until further notice (this varies by lab).

When do I hear back about my Common Application?

The application will typically be due several weeks before each quarter.  You should receive a confirmation email within a week after the deadline (not the week after your specific application is submitted). If one of the labs you applied to would like to chat further about your application or invite you to join as a research assistant, you will hear from them between the deadline and the start of the next quarter.  

What happens if I submit a Common Application but I am not matched with a lab?

This is, unfortunately, a likely outcome. There are more students interested in research assistant positions than the department’s labs can support each quarter.  If none of the labs you indicated interest in are able to offer you a position, you will likely just not hear from any of them.  However, if not you are not matched with a lab in any particular quarter, you can always reapply before the next quarter.

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 flyers.

UCSD Undergraduate Research Programs and Presentation Opportunities

Undergraduate Research Internships, Summer Research Internships, and Scholarship Programs

Further Undergraduate Research Presentation and Publication Opportunities