Undergraduates: gain research experience

If you are an undergraduate interested in further study, there are many ways to gain research experience at this stage to give you a taste of academic research.

Research is an essential part of most postgraduate degrees and the foundation of an academic career. There are also many jobs outside of academia that value research and analysis.

This page provides some ways that you can develop research skills as an undergraduate.

Undergraduate Bursaries

Careers Network offers a bursary scheme to all undergraduate students to help fund unpaid or low paid work experience.  This is a popular scheme for students wishing to undertake a research internship where you may not receive any financial support. 

Our research schemes and work experience

We have a mixture of formal schemes and informal work experience opportunities at the University of Birmingham. Remember to ask about opportunities in your College, School and Department. Below are some examples of different types of opportunities.


The College of Arts and Law has a formal Undergraduate Research Scholarship Scheme aimed at non-final year undergraduates. There is yet to be confirmation if the scheme will run in 2022. Please check the website for updates.

College of Medical and Dental Sciences has a webpage on undergraduate initiatives in developing a Clinical Academic Career, which includes Intercalated degrees. This highlights a number of benefits such as developing your own research. 

First years

The Birmingham Project

The Birmingham Project is exclusively for first year students. You will work in a student team, with employers and academics, to develop business solutions to key social and environmental issues, using your research and digital skills.  As part of your group project you will be offered a suite of training support to allow you to enhance your skills, discover your strengths, and develop your confidence. The Birmingham Project takes place: 13 – 25 June; for more information visit The Birmingham Project website.

Second/penultimate years

Vice Chancellor’s Challenge

This is a challenge set by the Vice Chancellor for students in their second or penultimate year of study onwards. The Vice-Chancellor’s Challenge is a fantastic opportunity to work on a topic that excites you. As part of a team, you will develop your own unique solution to a real-world issue and gain invaluable experience and skills for your future career. Find out more and to register your interest for the 2022 challenge visit the Vice-Chancellor’s Challenge 2022 challenge.

Final years

Research poster conferences

Final years have the opportunity to take part in dissertation research poster conferences. This is a great chance to engage with the research culture of your Department by presenting a poster and testing your ideas. See a poster example from the School of History and Cultures.

You can also get insight into doctoral research by visiting the postgraduate Research Poster Conference, the flagship event for the University Graduate School. Postgraduate researchers from across the Colleges come together in the Great Hall of the Aston Webb Building to present their research to fellow researchers, a panel of judges and members of the public. See photos from the 2017 Research poster conference on Flickr.

Dissertation topic

For your final-year project, choose a topic that allows you to develop and demonstrate research skills. You may be able to carry out experiments or use specialist lab equipment. Discuss with your supervisor about how you can use this element of your course to gain research experience.

All undergraduates

Talk to academics

Talk to your Personal Tutor about their research interests or arrange an appointment with an academic in your department. You may be able to undertake work shadowing or receive feedback on your research ideas. They may also be able to point you in the direction of research centres and conferences that are relevant to your interests.

Off-campus work experience

You could also develop research skills by doing work experience with an external company or organisation. Consider speculative approaches: you may have a research project that you could pitch to an employer or you could enquire about working within a department, such as market research. Work experience with other organisations will give you transferable skills and insight into different types of research. This would be particularly useful if you do not wish to stay in academia after further study.

  • Remember to search Careers Connect for internship and work experience vacancies, which are either sourced by our internship officers or advertised by employers. You could filter your search by choosing the Business Area, ‘Science, Research and Pharmaceuticals’.



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