Undergraduate Research

Students performing undergraduate research under the direction of a faculty member.

Undergraduate research looks great on your transcript and resume. Most employers and graduate programs in chemistry strongly recommend, if not require, some prior independent research experience. It may also offer insights into career possibilities by giving you an idea of what research fields interest you.

CHE 99, 199 and 194H are independent study options that allow you to conduct state-of-the-art scientific investigations under the supervision of one of our faculty members. These units may be used towards your chemistry major requirements.


How to Get Involved

First assess the areas of chemistry that most interest you by drawing from your own coursework and talking to graduate and undergraduate students currently involved in research. You can then compare your interests with the research being carried out by individual faculty, as described on their profiles and group pages. We suggest you begin your search at least one quarter before you wish to enter the lab. Most chemistry students begin undergraduate research in their sophomore or junior year.

After you have identified a few faculty members whose research interests you, send them an email to explore the opportunity of conducting research in their lab. It is best to include a copy of your resume and let them know specifically why are you interested in their research, the courses you have taken, etc. Faculty often prefer you to have completed relevant courses in the area of the research, but this is not always required. It is also generally recommended that you commit to several quarters of research with the same faculty member, as there is often a significant learning curve before productive research can be obtained.

If a faculty member accepts you into their lab, the two of you will need to discuss and document expectations and the assignment for each quarter. Please download, fill out, and follow the instructions in the PDF below for documentation and course credit/registration.


Honors Program

The focus of our Honors Program is undergraduate research performed under the direction of a faculty mentor starting in the sophomore or junior year, which provides the basis for a senior research thesis or project. Participants in the program often present their research results at annual conferences, such as the Larock Research Conference, the R. Bryan Miller Symposium and the Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities Conference at UC Davis. 

For more information, contact the Department's Undergraduate Advising and Student Affairs Office at chemundergrads@ucdavis.edu.


Students who wish to complete the honors research sequence (CHE 194HA/HB/HC) must meet these basic qualifications to be eligible:

  • Completed at least 135 total units.
  • Have a minimum GPA of 3.5 in courses counted towards their major.
  • Have completed at least two quarters of CHE 99/199 under the direction of their faculty mentor. (Note: This requirement can be waived if the student's faculty mentor sees just cause for an exception.)

Students may be notified of their standing by the department before or at the beginning of the Fall quarter of their senior year. Potential candidates may be recruited in their freshman and sophomore years to encourage them to become involved with research in preparation for the Honors Program, which includes the completion of a senior honors thesis or project. 

For more information about  the Department's Honors Research Program, please contact the Department's Undergraduate Advising and Student Affairs Office at chemundergrads@ucdavis.edu.

Departmental Honors Distinction at Graduation

To graduate with Departmental "High" or "Highest" Honors Distinction, students must complete CHE 194HA/HB/HC and have a minimum UC GPA of 3.65 at the time of graduation (see General Catalog). Students must also submit a senior honors thesis or project to cap their honors research experience. For more information about this process, please contact the Department's Undergraduate Advising and Student Affairs Office at chemundergrads@ucdavis.edu.

Note: Graduating with regular university honors does not require the completion of a senior honors thesis or project.


All chemistry majors are encouraged to discuss their interest in the Honors Program with their Staff Academic Adviser as early as possible to learn about research opportunities. Start to consider research opportunities during the Winter or Spring quarter (or earlier!) before you plan to complete CHE 194HA/HB/HC in your senior year. Be thoughtful about your research interests and seek a faculty mentor whose expertise aligns with your interests. Take into consideration the significant scholarly commitment required to complete a senior research thesis or project for the Honors Program when planning the schedule for your senior year.