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Undergraduate Research

Engaging in research is the most effective way of learning how real science is performed, and undergraduate research has become an increasingly important component of graduate school applications. Working in a lab is a great way to develop the experience and skills necessary for both graduate school and industry. The UW Physics Department aims to provide research opportunities for all Physics majors regardless of financial need.

University of Washington faculty perform internationally recognized research across a very wide range of areas. From the highest energy particle collisions to single ions for quantum computing, from gravity to dark energy to the universe’s first stars, from quantum materials to batteries for green energy, from the evolution of SARS-Cov-2 and HIV to measuring faint magnetic signals from the brain, from neutron stars to dark matter, from quantum gravity to quantum chaos, there are diverse opportunities for undergraduate students to become involved in ground-breaking research.

Getting involved in research

The first step is to find a faculty research mentor. Our Door Knocker page provides a list of Physics faculty who serve as undergraduate research mentors. Before you approach a faculty member to ask about research opportunities, please read over the Student Research Guide and be prepared with good answers to the questions. (Both pages are available on MyPhys under Student Information.)  Because lab openings change and some research requires specific skills, you will likely need to approach a number of faculty to find a research opportunity that matches your interests and current skills. Be patient, open-minded, and persistent. If you would like advice on which research areas and groups might be a good fit, you are encouraged to schedule an office hours visit with the Undergraduate Research Coordinator. Once you have found a research mentor, you will work with them quarter by quarter to agree on how many hours per week you will work, plan your schedule, and discuss whether your effort will earn Phys 499 credit, be performed as a volunteer, or be compensated as part of Work Study or as an hourly employee.

Undergraduate Research Coordinator

The Physics Department Undergraduate Research Coordinator is Prof. Miguel Morales. Feel free to send email to or arrange an office hour visit to discuss questions about the department’s undergraduate research programs.

Work Study Program

The Physics Department has allocated significant resources to enable students to use Work Study hours to perform undergraduate research. If you have Work Study as part of your financial aid package, you may arrange to be paid for your research. Once you have found a Physics faculty member to serve as your research mentor, simply go to the physics front office with your Work Study confirmation email and, contingent on available funds, staff will arrange for you to be hired as an undergraduate researcher. As an employee you will submit your hours bi-weekly for approval by your research mentor. The number of hours you work will be agreed upon with your research mentor up to the maximum provided by the Work Study award.


Can I sign up for both research credit (499) and Work Study? No. School and employment are legally separate, so it is not possible to obtain credit for the same hours you are paid.

I would like to be part of this program, but no Work Study hours were included in my financial aid award. Every financial aid award is unique, but in cases when there is a particularly promising opportunity (like research) it is sometimes possible to adjust a financial aid package to include Work Study hours. Please talk with your financial aid counselor to see if Work Study hours can be added to your financial aid package.

Other research access programs

In addition to the Work Study program the physics department has a number of additional programs designed to broaden access to undergraduate research. Please explore the following to see if they are a good match for you.

Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP)

A wide range of internship, mentorship, and leadership programs for under-represented STEM students.

Physics Program for Advanced Training in Hands-on Science (PATHS)

A Community College transfer program using the power of research. Community College students can be paid to start research before they transfer to UW, seeing what real research is like and building strong interpersonal connections at UW.

INT Undergraduate Research Network (INTURN)

Both school year and summer research positions working with members of the University of Washington’s internationally famous Institute for Nuclear Theory.

UW Physics Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)

A 10 week summer program of intense research hosted at the University of Washington.