Undergraduate StudyResearch Opportunities
There are many research options for undergraduate biomedical engineering students, both inside and outside the department. The McCormick undergraduate research section contains a wealth of information about this topic including:
- How to get started in research
- Open research positions
- Peer advising
- Research grants
Frequently Asked Questions
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- Why should I do research?
- When should I start research?
- How do I find out about BME-related research?
- What sorts of things will I do in research?
- How much time will research take?
- Will I get paid for research?
- How do I sign up for a BME 399 or 499?
- How does this fit into departmental honors?
- Can I have an adviser outside the BME Department?
- What are some options for becoming involved in paid summer research?
Becoming involved in research while you are an undergraduate has several advantages.
- It allows you to put into practice some of what you learn in what is often the more passive format of regular courses.
- It allows you to become deeply engaged in a problem of current interest in your field and work on it over an extended time.
- It gives you an opportunity for independent learning and creativity, which prepares you for industry and graduate work.
- It generally allows you to generate a written product and obtain significant feedback from your adviser.
Some students may be able to get involved as early as freshman year, helping out in a lab and learning by doing. Sometimes you can informally volunteer, and sometimes you can obtain a lab position as a work-study student. Most commonly, students begin to think about doing research for credit junior year.
Your first for-credit research experience in a lab will be taken as a BME 399 and graded on a P/N basis. Subsequent research experiences in the same lab can be taken as BME 499 and graded on the typical letter-grade basis.
The BME faculty webpages will give you brief overviews of the research being pursued by BME faculty.
The NU Scholars database can help you find all faculty engaged in a particular research topics at Northwestern, along with links to their publications.
Undergraduate Research Ambassadors for each BME lab can provide interested undergraduate students additional detail about the type of research going on in the lab. This list is posted in Tech E333.
This depends entirely on the lab. Often undergraduates work closely with graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, but in BME the labs are generally relatively small, so significant interaction with the faculty member is standard.
Whether you are given a project that is entirely yours will depend on the time you spend in the lab, your capabilities, and the nature of research in a particular lab. Generally you should expect to produce a written document about what you have done.
Research expands to fill the available time. You should discuss the time expectations with your regular academic adviser and your research adviser.
If you are taking BME 399 or 499, it will count as one unit, so you should plan to spend at least as much time on research as you spend on another course. BME 499 may count as a technical elective, and you can always count BME 399 or 499 completions as unrestricted electives.
It is not unusual for a student to accumulate several quarters of 399/499 by the time of graduation. During the summer, research can easily be a full-time job, and this is often the best time to get a lot done.
During the academic year, it is uncommon for students to be paid unless they are work-study students. There are, however, Academic Year Undergraduate Research Grants to pay for research expenses. If you are registered for 399 or 499, you cannot be paid. During the summer, payment is more common, but is not universal. You will have to discuss this with your adviser. See the FAQ on paid summer research below.
Please see the Logistics section of the BME 399 and 499 Student Guidelines.
Juniors with high enough GPAs (>3.5) will be invited to participate in the Honors Program by the Dean's office, and successful completion will allow you to receive your degree with honors.
Yes. There are many opportunities in other departments and at the medical school.
If you are doing 399/499 for credit, a BME faculty member must be your formal research adviser, be aware of what you are doing, and sign off on the grade sheet. Please see the BME 399 and 499 Student Guidelines.
If you go outside the department, you are likely to obtain a valuable research experience, but it may not be very closely related to BME. On the other hand, you will be valued by other labs because you have technical or quantitative expertise. Ideally you may be able to bring engineering to bear in a way that your adviser may not have foreseen.
Below are some paid summer opportunities for research in Biomedical Engineering
- Biomedical Summer Undergraduate Research Awards (BMESURA) - for Northwestern undergraduate Biomedical Engineering students conducting summer research with a Northwestern Biomedical Engineering faculty member
- Summer Undergraduate Research Grants (URG) – for Northwestern University undergraduates from any major to conduct summer research
- McCormick Summer Research Awards – for Northwestern undergraduate engineering students to conduct summer research
- Chemistry of Life Processes (CLP) Summer Scholars Research Program – for Northwestern students conducting summer research with a CLP faculty member
- Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) Summer Internship in Engineering and Neuroscience – for undergraduate students to join research teams located within the RIC
- National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) – for undergraduate students to do research at one of the many NSF REU sites (both US and foreign locations)