Undergraduate Research

Honors majors are required to complete two consecutive semesters of research. Other advanced undergraduate students are also encouraged to seek research opportunities with regular full-time faculty.

Why research?

Besides the intellectual challenge, there are many practical advantages in getting engaged in research.

  • You must have some research experience if you intend to pursue a Ph.D. after you graduate, whether or not you take gap years. The recommendation letter you get from your research advisor is usually one of the most important piece of material in your graduate school application.
  • Research is much more challenging than classes. If you are doing very well in classes, you should consider doing research. Unlike homework, projects and exams which deal with easily-solvable problems, research projects are open-ended, take a much longer time to solve and is a lot more difficult.
  • Research projects are usually collaborative. As a result of working closely with PhD students and your faculty advisor, you end up making strong connections with them. These connections may become very handy when it comes to being recommended to graduate schools or industry jobs.

All the above benefits do not come by easily, as research is a serious undertaking. Typically, the workload of research is equal to that of one or two regular classes. Therefore, make sure you can devote the required time and energy before searching for research opportunities.

How to prepare yourself for research

Discover your research interests

Contrary to what some NYU advisers may tell you, you should take as many CS classes as early as possible. To make room for CS classes, postpone your humanities and other general class requirements to your senior year if possible. Doing many CS classes early on allows you to start taking advanced undergraduate classes (the electives) and graduate-level classes in your junior or even sophomore year. Sample a few of these advanced classes in different areas and you will find out what you like and what you are particular good at.

You should consider attending the CS colloquium in the spring. The colloquiums in the spring are typically given by faculty job candidates. They target a broad audience. As such, they provide a good overview on the current state-of-art in a specific field of research.

Find a faculty research advisor

The best approach is to take an advanced class from a full-time faculty member who has active research projects. You need to do really, really well in his/her class. As faculty members usually teach classes in their area of research, taking their classes gives you some required background to do research in that area. Faculty members are also more open to providing research opportunities to top students in their class.

You can browse the homepages of individual faculty to find out his/her research interests and active projects. For the list of research areas and the corresponding faculty, please see here.

You may also directly email faculty members to ask for research opportunities without having taking their classes. In this case, you should attach an informal transcript and your Github projects to show your level of experience.

Funding

Summer is a great time to gain research experience. Faculty research advisers typically provide funding to undergraduates who have demonstrated productivity in the projects. Sometimes, faculty advisers also fund undergraduates during normal semester time. As such funding comes from a faculty member's own research grant, it varies across individual faculty and you should talk to your faculty research advisor about funding.

The department has a dedicated fund for undergraduate summer research. You need to be nominated by a faculty member. Again, talk to your research advisor about this.

NYU also provides the Dean's Undergraduate Research Fund that you can apply for.

Getting advice

Every Fall semester, the department runs a "how to prepare for graduate school" panel where faculty and interested students get together to discuss their graduate-school plans. The undergraduate advisor will advertise this event via email.

You are welcome to ask for advice in person from individual faculty member that you've taken classes from, the undergraduate director and administrator.

Getting credits for research

Undergraduate students can get credits for their research work by registering for either of the following two courses.

  1. CSCI-UA.0520/0521 (Undergraduate Research)
  2. CSCI-UA.0997/0998 (Independent Study)

CSCI-UA.0520/0521 Undergraduate Research

To fulfill the research requirement, honors students are required to register for CSCI-UA.0520/0521 for two consecutive semesters, starting in their sixth semester of study (spring of junior year). Non-honors students may also register for this course with either a one or two semester commitment. In order to register for this course, the student must have an approved research proposal and a faculty sponsor, who will have agreed to guide and review the research project. The faculty sponsor will need to send email to the Program Administrator confirming the arrangement.

At the conclusion of the research project, the student will be required to submit a write-up (or a thesis for Honors students) on the research work, which the student can then present at NYU's Undergraduate Research Conference.

CSCI-UA.0997/0998 Independent Study

Honors and non-honors students may also participate in research projects and receive credit by registering for CSCI-UA.0997/0998, which may be taken for either two or four credits per semester. Research done under Independent Study will not count toward the CS major and will not fulfill any program requirements. The steps for registering for the Independent Study course are similar to the ones listed above: the student must have an approved research proposal and a faculty sponsor.