A student experiments in a lab

Why Undergraduate Research?

As a pre-health student you may be wondering, "Why should I get involved in undergraduate research? I already have enough to do with my classes, labs, volunteering, work commitments and exam preparation."

There are several reasons.

  • The University of Minnesota’s status as a major research institution means that there are multiple opportunities to learn about how research can improve health outcomes or lead to new treatments.
  • You can work on your own supervised research project - through the UROP program or directed research - or assist faculty researchers by working as a paid research assistant. Participating in such research can demonstrate initiative, an ability to stay on task, communication skills, and persistence in dealing with setbacks.
  • Some programs (i.e. MD/PhD programs) require substantial research experience. Other programs that emphasize direct patient care value research experience and an interest in health research.
  • Your work may lead to a poster, publication, or conference presentation; these are all demonstrable achievements that are valued by health professional and graduate programs.
  • You may find out that you enjoy research and want to pursue it later in your health professional career!

Health Sciences Research

There are three types of health sciences research: basic, clinical, or translational.

  • Basic laboratory research focuses on increasing knowledge or understanding disease mechanisms. 
  • Clinical research involves clinical trials with human participants to assess the safety of new drugs and devices.
  • Translational research also involves human participants and transfers laboratory results to clinical trials or to new treatments.

Many students conduct basic research through their lab courses or directed research projects. If you are interested in learning more about clinical research, consider PubH 3315: Clinical Research: From Lab to Bedside to Populations.

How Should You Get Started?

If you need help finding a mentor to work with, use UROP's guide to help you get started. Any project involving human subjects requires approval from an Institutional Review Board (IRB). If you are designing an independent project, consult with your faculty mentor or supervisor about the IRB process. If you are conducting research with animals, you must also receive approval by the IACUC. HIPAA and CITI training are required if you are working with human subjects or if you will be utilizing private health information. Your research supervisor can help you obtain the appropriate training in order to begin your project.

A good first step is to think about health care topics you find interesting. You should also review the departments within the Health Science Schools and Colleges to learn about faculty research interests. Probably the most direct way to get involved in research is by offering to volunteer for a faculty member’s research project. You can also find paid employment opportunities by searching for Undergraduate RA positions online in the University’s Human Resources web site.


Click on one of the links below to learn more about different research opportunities