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Research Opportunities

Explore the Future of Computing

Research involvement can inspire you to continue your education and prepare you for a variety of careers in both industry and academia. As a top research institution, UMass offers a thriving interdisciplinary research community, including in the field of computer science, with award-winning research faculty and programs. Our CICS annual research funding exceeded $17.5 million in 2015 and the college maintains significant research collaborations with more than 30 industry-leading technology companies.

Computer science research is advancing rapidly, with headline innovations, problems, and algorithms. Here is how you can get involved in this exciting and fast-paced environment.

Opportunities at CICS

CICS includes over 30 research centers, laboratories, and groups, many of which involve students, both at the graduate and undergraduate level (SLANG lab Instagram Spotlight). Just as with the internship and job search, pursuing research opportunities takes more than applying/asking. Exploring and networking will increase your odds of finding a match.

Start by getting a better understanding of the various Research Areas. Then look into the different research labs (for a comprehensive list, see Research Groups). We recommend reading recently published papers and news to get more familiar with each lab's research. Ultimately, you may decide to reach out to the faculty and/or students in the lab to inquire about opportunities and express your interest in getting involved. As with all networking efforts, you will not always get a response, but if you do, please be respectful of their time and thank them for helping guide you in the right direction.

Participating in research events is a great way to meet researchers in-person and of course learn. For example, the Center for Data Science organizes notable events including the annual Research Symposium, as well as the recurring DS Tea and Machine Learning and Friends Lunches. Reading the abstract and speaker bio, preparing questions, and networking during the events are all strongly recommended.

Want to learn about research with other CICS students? The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) has a Machine Learning Interest Group as well as a Cybersecurity Club, both of which meet regularly and expose students to research.

If you are interested in doing research during the academic semester, independent studies are a great option. They require the approval and support of a faculty sponsor, which might be contingent on having completed certain advanced courses. Often, the best way to get an "in" with a professor is to do well in their course and actively attend office hours so you can express interest in their research. This extra effort is a natural and easy way to start building a relationship with a professor and gives them a preview on how you will perform. The graduate student form is available online and the undergraduate student form is available in the CS Building Main Office.

The Commonwealth Honors College also offers research funding to eligible Honors College undergraduates for needs such as purchasing equipment or providing incentives to research participants. There is the Honors Research Grant for juniors and seniors and the Honors Research Assistant Fellowship for rising sophomores to juniors.

Opportunities beyond CICS

Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) organized by the National Science Foundation (NSF) offer students an array of summer research opportunities and a valuable alternative to a traditional industry internship. There are 90+ REUs related to computer science at universities across the country. Since REUs are primarily funded through the government, many limit programs to students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. However, some select REUs have additional funding separate from the NSF, which allows them to include international students (see our list).

Conferences offer another way to grow your interest in research. UMass hosts an annual Undergraduate Research Conference where students from various disciplines present their research. The IEEE and ACM host major events and conferences. Also, employers often sponsor scholarships for select students to attend industry conferences. 

Finally, do not overlook the many other research centers throughout UMass. The Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS) is the home of many interdisciplinary research groups, and even offers a Core Summer Internship Program for STEM undergraduate students. The College of Engineering has numerous related research centers and opportunities. You can also make an appointment with the Office of Undergraduate Research & Studies to learn about on and off-campus opportunities.

If you are interested in adding research to your career plan, check out our list of Recommended Resources or schedule an appointment.