We are passionate about actively involving students in our research. To ensure that this is the right experience for you, please note the following:
- Any research experience requires a minimum weekly commitment of 5 to 10 hours. If you are not able to do it in a given semester, it would be best to wait until it works with your schedule. One way to make it work is to enroll in an Independent Study (3 credits) with Dr. Giabbanelli.
- Making a research contribution requires a minimum training. We recommend that you start with taking one of our courses and/or an independent study before embarking on a new research project.
- The main vehicles to involve undergraduate students in research are to do a honors thesis or take an independent study. We’re willing to support these in any semester.
- We are willing to consider students in any major as long as they have taken sufficient computer science courses.
Undergraduate research can provide you with a great opportunity to explore cutting-edge projects and gain experience that will help you obtain a job or admission to graduate/medical school. You could consider doing research at any stage: there are suitable projects for sophomores, juniors, or seniors. While graduate students work on research projects that are typically supported by external funding with a 2-years commitment and set deliverable, undergraduate research can offer a more flexible introduction to what researchers do.
As part of your experience, you will be given a dedicated desk in our lab, with a desktop computer. You are welcome to use that desk as long as you are on campus: you can come do your assignments for other courses too! We prefer to see desks used rather than empty because you contribute to the research community of the lab. By being in the lab, you get a chance to speak with other students, see what research is going on, and contribute to a productive atmosphere.
What are the expectations?
We understand that you are a student and not an employee. The time commitment that you have to do research is much less than the graduate students who will be around you in the lab, so it is important to be clear that you are not expected to do as much. The three main expectations are to:
- make a good use of your desk by regularly coming to the lab, and not just when you have your weekly meeting with the instructor. Doing research isn’t like doing assignments for a course, which you can just do at home. Research is about being part of a team and interacting with others.
- ask for what you need. If you have questions about the software that you are using or need some help to understand a research article, start by asking around you in the lab. Chances are that the other students will have had some experience on what you need and can assist you. If not, you can search it more online, or email the instructor. Unlike a class where you can just go to the TA for questions, in research you gain more independence.
- keep track of time. Because you work in a lab, what you have to do for a given time may impact others. For example, you may have to send in some code by a given day and time. If you don’t do it on time, it could cause problems in other projects that you were not aware of. This is different from a class in which being late for an assignment results in some penalty but doesn’t have broader implications. If you think that you won’t be able to deliver on time, you should contact the instructor ahead of time and explain what barriers you have faced. Because it’s research, we never really know how things turn out, but we need to be dependable.
How do I join?
Preferentially, start by taking a class with the instructor. This will give you the first experience during one term. After this, you can extend the experience by doing research for credits through an independent study, or write your honors thesis. There are diverse mechanisms at Northern Illinois University to which you can also apply for a paid extension (e.g. research rookies, summer research opportunities program, USOAR, student engagement fund…).
We encourage all interested students to read about Our values, which defines the way we work. You may also want to have an overview of our current projects to see which projects are currently looking for students while keeping in mind that we are very flexible to support new projects that fit our Research area.