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 Research Bursaries

Careers Network offers bursaries in the University of Birmingham Undergraduate Research Experience scheme. These are for non-final year undergraduates who wish to undertake a research placement. You must first source your own placement before applying for a bursary. You will also have access to mentoring and post placement support from Doctoral Researchers, as well as the “Taking it to the next Degree Workshop” about studying for a PhD.

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.


The School of Psychology have a Research Volunteering Scheme for undergraduates (contact: Edward Ong, E.OngYungChet@bham.ac.uk ). A list of projects is sent out in the ‘Work Opportunities’ newsletters at the start of every academic year.

The School of Biosciences:

Watch this interview with a 3rd year Biosciences student who found lab experience over the summer:

LES student describing internal research experience

First years

The Birmingham Project

The Birmingham Project is a 2-week project at the end of the summer term, exclusively for first year undergraduates. Students tackle a 'real-world' challenge by conducting research and creating an innovative online resource. As part of your training, you will receive a session on research methods and Social Science skills delivered by academics. Learn more about the project here.

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. Students form College teams and research a topic of global importance to produce an original idea. Read more information about the 2019 Vice-Chancellor's 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 an 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 here.

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’.

More resources

Find out more about clinical research here.


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