Undergraduate Student Research

Broaden your experience, enhance your resume or CV, and strengthen your graduate studies application with undergraduate student research at Athabasca University!

Research at Athabasca University

Did you know that Athabasca University is a Comprehensive Academic and Research University (CARU)? Existing and emerging research at AU can be grouped into four broad themes not inclusive of all the research being done. They are:

Environmental and societal dynamics

Related to social, economic, and ecological dimensions of sustainability.

Society, culture, health, and well-being

Related to human experience, individual or collective, past, present, or future.

Pedagogies and pedagogical theory

Examining traditional education, including how learning is nurtured and measured.

Digital futures

The design, application, and impact of digital technology on society.

Check out the University’s 5-Year Strategic Research Plan.

What is research and what does it do for me?

Academic research is the pursuit of new ideas and knowledge. If you are considering graduate school, want to pursue a passion project, or have an interest outside of AU’s course offerings, then undergraduate student research may be for you!

Whether you are participating in a research project run by a faculty member or doing your own research project or special studies course, conducting academic research is a fulfilling and fantastic addition to your resume, CV, or graduate school application.

What kind of research opportunities are there?

There are two ways to get involved with research at Athabasca University. You may join a project run by a professor or take an undergraduate project course and conduct independent research.

Faculty-Run Projects

An important part of a professor’s job is conducting research and they often appreciate help. This type of position does not count as credit towards your degree, but it provides valuable experience and may include a paycheque!

Research is also an opportunity to develop working relationship with faculty members. Professors get to know you, understand your interests, and evaluate your work ethic, making them ideal references to enhance any future job or graduate school application.

You can look for potential supervisors on athabascau.ca. Start by checking out AU’s Academic faculties and centres. Each faculty page will have a directory. After you find a professor of interest, start with a basic internet search to see what they focus on. Once you find a professor whose research fits your interests, email them and introduce yourself. Explain what you find interesting about their research and ask whether they have any current opportunities to get involved.

Undergraduate Project Courses

Project courses allow students to do their own research under the supervision of an AU faculty member. These courses count as credit towards your degree while you gain valuable experience for your resume, CV, or future job or graduate school applications.

Follow the Research Pathway

What to include in an introductory email to a professor:

  • Your name, year of study, and program.
  • Your learner goals, e.g. graduate school, app development, career preparation, etc.
  • What you find interesting about the professor’s research.
  • Your relevant skills, e.g. programming, Microsoft Office proficiency, copywriting, editing, etc. Describe your skills candidly and avoid overstating your abilities.
  • Ask if they have any available opportunities to get involved.

Tip: if a professor has an opportunity, take the time to consider whether it is the right fit for you. Any research relationship should be mutually beneficial. If you determine it is not the right fit, there is nothing wrong with politely declining. “Thank you so much for telling me about this opportunity but it isn’t the right fit for me at this time.”  

What to consider before agreeing to participate in a project:

  • What is the time commitment, is it reasonable, and will it work for you?
  • What will you learn? The relationship should help the professor, the project, and you.  
  • Is it paid? If so, how much, for how many hours, and when? If not, are you receiving something sufficiently valuable such as training you would otherwise have to pay for?

Tip: draw up a learning contract with the supervising professor before joining the research project. A learning contract clearly outlines project details, deadlines, educational goals, and possible compensation. Doing this sets clear expectations and helps everyone!

“How do I prepare for academic research?”

Start Preparing for Undergraduate Student Research, a Learner Pathway available on the AUSU LinkedIn Learning page for AU learners wanting to get involved in research. The three-part pathway includes Preparation, Research and Data, and Presentation sections, each with courses you can pick from to help build knowledge and confidence in research processes.

If you have any suggestions for resources that could help fellow AU students interested in undergraduate research, please email [email protected].