The purpose of undergraduate research is to foster an understanding of the scientific method, prepare students for life beyond school, and tie concepts learned in the classroom to the real world. The experience of each undergraduate researcher is, in part, up to the student themselves. Research advisors can be from the chemistry department, or any other department on campus or through University Hospitals, at the discretion of the student’s advisor.

Requirements for graduation:

BA in chemistry: SAGES capstone (any subject)
BS in chemistry: 3 credits of 397 or 398
BA in chemical biology: 3-6 credits of 398

Nature of research as a chemistry or chemical biology major:

Chemistry research is not limited to the laboratory setting, but can also include literature reviews, surveys, and even clinical projects.  Research projects should align with the student’s interests and can be used for preparation of a future career. However, all research projects should have a component of chemistry, which is fairly broadly defined.

A note about advisor selection:  Selecting an advisor should not be a shot in the dark, but a targeted search that a student takes seriously and puts time into. Professors receive many requests each year, and many undergraduate lab positions fill up six months prior to start. When emailing potential research advisors, it is best to include why you want to work with them, your CV, and times you are available to meet. Make sure your research interests align with theirs. Some faculty members require you to volunteer for one semester before taking CHEM397 or 398, to ensure the position is mutually suitable.

If you want to go to graduate school in chemistry:

The landscape for attending graduate school in chemistry is constantly evolving and becoming more competitive.  Typically, students apply directly to PhD programs and start the programs directly after undergraduate. PhD programs may or may not include an MS degree.  CWRU chemistry holds seminars every Thursday at 12.30 pm in DeGrace 312. which can be useful in evaluating your research interests and identifying professors from other universities you may want to go to graduate school with.

A typical timeline would be:

  • 1st year: Get acquainted with CWRU, shadow/volunteer in labs. Attend one of the weekly SOURCE info sessions: “All About Finding Research,” ( for dates and locations. Register and attend the 4-part Responsible Conduct of Research Seminar Series sponsored by SOURCE.
  • Fall 2nd year: Begin research in a laboratory (this requires emailing professors Fall of 1st year) Spring 2nd year: continue research and apply for summer funding to do 10 weeks for full time research. CWRU resources include SOURCE, P-SURG, and faculty grants
  • Summer after 2nd year: complete full time research at CWRU with research advisor (10 weeks)
  • Fall 3rd year: Continue research (CHEM397)
  • Spring 3rd year: Continue research (CHEM397) and apply to REU programs at different institutions
  • Summer after 3rd year: Complete a 10 week summer program at another university through a NSF sponsored REU program
  • Fall 4th year: Continue research (CHEM397) and apply to graduate schools
  • Spring 4th year: Do capstone (CHEM398), visit graduate schools, and make a decision on where to go.

CHEM 397:

CHEM 397 is an undergraduate research course of 3 credit hours that can be taken at any time in the undergraduate curriculum, and is pass/fail.  If research is done with a faculty within the department, the student registers for the class through SIS with that faculty member.  A 3 credit hour course requires 10 hours per week doing research, which can be established with the faculty member.  If the faculty advisor is outside of the chemistry department, the student registers for CHEM397 with their academic advisor within the chemistry department, after approval.  To get approval to do the work outside of the department, it is best to put together a document of no more than half a page on the goals, scope, and timeline of the project and email it to both the external research and departmental academic or research advisor is also required prior to the beginning of the semester.  In addition, all students pursuing 397 and 398 should upload this document to the Canvas site of the course. The successful pass of this course is at the discretion of the external research advisor, which is communicated to the departmental academic or research advisor at the end of the semester.  There are no formal requirements for passing, but is typically taken as satisfactory progress over the course of the semester.

CHEM 398:

CHEM 398 is the chemistry capstone, and is typically taken the second semester of the senior year; this class receives a letter grade.  Selection of a faculty research advisor is similar to that listed for CHEM 397.  The distinct difference for CHEM 398 is the requirement of a research summary write up after completion, and public presentation of the work.  Many students chose to do CHEM 397 the first semester of their senior year, and CHEM 398 the second semester of their senior year, so they have a reasonable body of work for presentation (though this is not required).

Requirements for paper: The final paper should be in the format of an applicable ACS journal, uploaded on Canvas and submitted to the student’s research advisors (departmental and external) for grading.

Requirements for presentation: The presentation of work completed with CHEM 398 can be oral or poster and can be completed at the school, local, regional, or national level.  Many students chose to participate in RESEARCH SHOWCase poster session held at the end of the spring semester (registration typically closes in early February). If the student does not participate in SHOWCase, an alternative poster session at a university or professional organization is suitable, though it must be approved by both the research and academic advisor beforehand.

Counting Credits as Electives

CHEM 397 or CHEM 398 credits above and beyond those required for earning the BS degree in Chemistry can be counted as either Chemistry Electives or Technical Electives.

Chemistry Electives: Only 3 additional credit hours of CHEM 397 or CHEM 398 may be applied as a Chemistry Elective. Six additional credit hours of CHEM 397 or CHEM 398 may be taken as Technical Electives. (Further additional credit hours of CHEM 397 may be taken as Open Electives).

Technical Electives may be chosen more widely from any of the natural sciences, math, or engineering courses and may include introductory level courses, i.e., 100, 200 level courses, in technical disciplines other than chemistry.

In summary, no more than 9 credit total hours of combined CHEM 397 and CHEM 398 can be applied to your degree.