Undergraduate Research Opportunities

The Department has an active undergraduate research mentoring program in which undergraduate students work on a research project with a faculty member and are mentored by one of that faculty member’s graduate students.

Link to the list of graduate student mentors with research opportunities. Additionally, please email us (envisci-mentoring@virginia.edu) if you are interested in chatting with a grad student from the department. Conversations range from environmental science research, grad school, career fields, and science in general!

Goals of the Environmental Sciences Department Undergraduate Research Mentoring Program:

  • To encourage involvement of undergraduates in original scientific research.
  • To expose undergraduates to the development and investigation of scientific questions outside the classroom.
  • To provide valuable assistance to graduate students with field and laboratory research.
  • To allow graduate students to gain experience with advising and instructing on an individual basis.
  • To bridge the gap between undergraduates and graduate students by encouraging interaction through active science.


The undergraduate research mentoring program seeks to connect undergraduate students who are interested in gaining experience with scientific research in the environmental sciences with graduate students who can provide those opportunities. Undergraduate students may either 1) assist a graduate student with an existing research project or 2) develop their own research project under the guidance of a graduate student. Due to the varied nature of student interests, research projects, and graduate student needs there is no single prescribed format for the research program or the mentor-mentee relationship.  The undergraduate student often receives academic credit for their work (see below) although volunteering–especially for shorter-term research experiences–and employment are also possible outcomes. The skills and relationships developed through assisting a graduate student with their work often serve as a gateway to developing an independent research project for a senior thesis or the Distinguished Majors Program (see above).

  • Fall 2020 Programming

We will be continuing our COVID-19 programming into the fall semester. Online learning, plus limited lab and field work available to undergraduates will make this fall semester challenging for everyone. However, we can still connect undergraduates with remote work. We recognize that there are a variety of priorities that you may have at this time, we still want to offer undergraduates opportunities for continuing engagement with our department and our research.

One-on-one research consultations: We will be offering personal consultations for anyone who wants a one-on-one mentoring session. Along with listening and learning from you about your interests in research and Environmental Sciences, we can offer personalized guidance on how to make the most of your goals for this semester. These sessions are 30-45 minutes: sign up here.

EnviSci Resource List: Our general Resource List and Grad School Prep Resource are curated lists of online resources specifically targeted to Environmental Science students.

Fall Career Panels: This fall we will be working with the UVA Career Center to host three career panels. We will have a panel for three different job sectors: consulting, non-profit, and government/policy. 


Interested undergraduate students should browse the list of graduate students who are seeking students to find the mentor who best fits their interests. Then, use the provided information to contact that person directly to further discuss research opportunities. This discussion should clarify the nature of the research and the mentor’s needs as well as begin to flesh out what the mentor and mentee can expect from each other.  By the conclusion of or shortly after this discussion the undergraduate and graduate student should decide whether to work together, forming a mentoring team.


Academic credit, though not a requirement of the program, may be assigned, typically under EVSC 4995 Supervised Research. EVSC 4995 Supervised Research is undertaken by a student involved in the activity of research. The acquisition of new knowledge may arise from developing and applying some skills of observation or analysis. The student may learn a new analytical method or tool for data analysis. The student may collect or analyze samples or data. The student should know enough about the topic of the research to understand the context of the research activity. Menial tasks such as washing bottles or data entry, while an inevitable part of the practice of scientific research, should not comprise the majority of effort toward Supervised Research credits.

1–4 credit hours is recommended for each semester the undergraduate participates in the mentor program. To insure that academic credit is justified by an appropriate educational component, each credit hour should correspond 3–4 hours of activity per week. Receiving academic credit for Supervised Research also involves an end-of-semester written report, the extent and depth of which will depend on the number of credits taken.

After forming a grad student-undergraduate pair (the mentoring team), the pair should meet with the graduate student’s faculty advisor to discuss expectations and a tentative research plan. For academic credit to be awarded, this meeting must take place prior to the Add/Drop deadline for the semester. The faculty advisor and mentoring team will come to an agreement on the appropriate number of credit hours for the semester and set expectations for evaluating the student’s progress. The mentoring team should update the faculty advisor regularly throughout the semester, and the faculty advisor and the graduate student will meet at the end of the semester to evaluate the undergraduate student’s fulfillment of the goals and objectives established at the beginning of the semester.

Questions can be addressed to the Program Directors, Kate LeCroy, Elise Heffernan, and Clare Rodenberg, via email at envisci-mentoring@virginia.edu