Undergraduate Research in BME

Undergraduates have the opportunity to join a faculty lab and play a meaningful role in advancing its research agenda.

Form to Propose BME 4995 Research or Design for Credit

Form to Propose BME 4995 Internship for Credit

Undergraduate researchers are mentored by faculty and work closely with the lab’s graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. They are valued lab members, attending lab meetings and participating in journal clubs. They co-author publications, present at national meetings, and fund their own research through competitive awards.

The typical trajectory is to begin by shadowing a graduate student or a post-doctoral fellow and reading assigned articles. Students next volunteer in the lab, learning techniques and beginning to gain some skills. At this point, many students will apply their newly acquired skills to internships, REUs at other schools, clinical immersion experiences or entrepreneurship. They may or may not continue on working in their UVA research lab.

Others will continue on in their UVA labs, gaining independence and mastery enough to propose a semester-long "for-credit" research project. About a third of BME students spend multiple, contiguous semesters and summers in their UVA labs, from first or second year until graduation.

For Good: Searching for a Cure for Melanoma

Katelyn Salotto, Fourth-Year Student, Engineering Science Nanomedicine Concentration

Undergraduate Research Advice for BMEs at UVA

Research is performed on a paid, for-credit or volunteer basis, both during the summer and academic year. Some students work in the same lab for several semesters or years.  Other students try research and move on.

At exit interview time at the end of fourth year, "not getting started early enough with research" is among the biggest regrets of graduating students - even for those students who moved on to internships, entrepreneurship, policy, public health, or premed.

Don't wait for labs or professors to contact you.

There do exist a few "ads" for undergraduate researchers, for example there is a Engineering-wide list HERE.  Also, labs (especially medical school labs) may send out "help wanted" ads through the bme-major@virginia.edu mailing list.  Those are great opportunities. Jump on them when you see them. 

But, really, these ads are few and far between. Yet a lot of undergrads are doing research--see below for some stats.* So how did those students get involved?  They did some leg work. The reality is that you'll have to, too.  You need to research labs (most have websites), email professors, reach out to grad students, talk to instructors and TAs, talk to other BME undergrads, attend seminars and networking events, take a student-taught BME 1501 class, ask your advisor how she can help you, and do some self-reflection.

You need a viable narrative.  

Why are you contacting THAT specific lab?  Just a sentence or two.  Don't spend hours on this.  But do some research.  Review the lab's website.  Do you have any mentored research or industry experience that is relevant? 

If not, reflect on what you like to do.  What do you get absorbed in?  What have you trained to do?  You can often parlay non-science skills and interests into a "viable narrative."  Come to BME Cookie Hour and chat with BME graduate students.  Ask them what they do, what they like to do, and how they got started with research.  BME Cookie Hour is 3:00p - 3:15p every Wednesday in the MR5 second floor atrium.  Be a bit early.  It's all over in about 15 minutes.

You also need resilience.  

The following scenario is not unusual:  You took the time to research a lab, you're really psyched about it, and the lab is not looking for students, or they just ignore your email.  The next step?  Follow up and simultaneously move on.

Don't limit yourself to BME labs. 

There are 350+ BME Majors and 26 BME Labs.  You get the picture.  Many BMEs work in labs outside the department.  It helps that we are a 30-second walk from all the research labs in the UVA School of Medicine. 

Just try! Try something!

Try talking to your instructors and TAs after class.  Try talking to your advisor about more than which class to take.  Try emailing a lab.  Try emailing a faculty member in the School of Medicine.  Come to Cookie Hour.  Take a BME 1501 to meet other like-minded undergrads and learn more about a focus area. 

Talking to people is something that you can do, even if you don't have time to volunteer in a lab this semester.  The more you talk to people, the more you'll see that there are opportunities out there.  The way you access these opportunities is by talking to people about their experiences and your interests.  You then use this conversation as a basis for asking how you might get involved.

Is it OK not to do research at all?

Yes!!  See below for some numbers. Many students never do research in a UVA Lab.  Others volunteer in a lab for one semester.  One-third of BME Majors spend multiple, contiguous semesters and summers in a lab.  Graduating students often reflect that they start to sync with their career goals in third year. In other words, you're not alone

We'd like to see all our students doing something that aligns with their after-graduation goals that summer after third year.  Research can help get you there.  It's a resume builder that leads to more research, industry internships, REUs, entrepreneurship, policy, public health, or premed. 

* How many BME majors do undergraduate research?

This is what was reported in the Class of 2021 Exit Interview. 119 students participated in the survey.  105 filled out the question about undergraduate research.  For these students, the pandemic started at the end of third year.

  • 35% (42 of 119) reported no undergraduate research at UVA after the first year
  • 53% (63 of 119) reported undergraduate research at UVA after the first year
  • 12% (14 of 119) unknown

Undergraduate Research Contacts in BME Labs

  • Barker Lab

    Lab Manager: Mary Harp (mgh3m@virginia.edu) (982-4269)

    Step One: Contact Grave Bingham gcb9tfx@virginia.edu to express interest in joining the lab and to assess if the lab would be a good fit.

    Matrix Biology Lab
  • Chen Lab

    Faculty Contact: David Chen (davidchen@virginia.edu)

    Step One: Email Mr. Chen expressing interest in the lab and to assess if the lab would be a good fit. Step Two: Stop by and see the lab in action.

    Chen lab website
  • Civelek Lab

    Contact: Dr. Civelek (mete@virginia.edu)

    Civelek Lab accepts undergraduate students from the USOAR or UNLEASH programs. You can ado research for credit if you have been working in the lab for a while or have substantial research experience. Contact Dr. Civelek if you would like to be involved in lab’s research activities.

    Civelek Lab
  • Dolatshahi Lab

    Contact: Dr. Dolatshahi (sdolatshahi@virginia.edu)

    Email Dr. Dolatshahi (sdolatshahi@virginia.edu) with a CV and a brief narrative why you think her Systems Immunology lab would be a good fit for you.

    Systems Immunology Lab
  • Epstein Lab

    Graduate Contact: Soham Shah <ss8ma@virginia.edu>

    If you take a class with a TA from Epstein Lab, introduce yourself. Or: Email graduate contact expressing interest. Step Two: Come to cookie hour (Wednesday's at 3pm in the BME Lobby). Step Three: Talk to the student contacts about coming to see the lab in action. Step Four: Attend a lab meeting.

    Faculty Profile
  • French Lab

    Graduate Contact: Chris Waters (cdw2be@virginia.edu)

    Step One: Email the graduate contact and Dr. French (bf4g@virginia.edu) expressing interest in joining the lab and to assess if the lab would be a good fit.

    Faculty Profile
  • Griffin Lab

    Contact: Dr. Griffin (drgriffin@virginia.edu)

    Note Griffin Lab requires significant hands-on experience to establish research independence. As a result, expect to volunteer a summer or semester before for-credit research is appropriate. Interested applicants should contact Dr. Griffin directly.

    Griffin Lab
  • Guilford Lab

    Faculty Contact: Dr. Guilford (whg2n@virginia.edu)

    Step One: Email Dr. Guilford expressing interest. Step Two: If you have not received a response within a week, resend the email. (This is good advice for any of the labs!)

    Faculty Profile
  • Hossack Lab

    Graduate Contact: Elizabeth Herbst ebh7em

    Step One: Contact the graduate contact person with what you’re interested in working on and they’ll see if it’s a good fit. Step Two: Keep in contact. Step Three: Come to a lab meeting or meet with someone from the lab.

    Hossack Lab Website
  • Janes Lab

    Graduate Contact: Najwa Labban (nl3du@virginia.edu)

    Our formalized UG research policies are here: https://virginia.box.com/s/0jme4gglkyfxqc6uvroxof012k2shtf3. If, after reading the above policies, you remain interested in the lab, please contact her to arrange a first shadowing visit.

    Janes Lab Website
  • Kelly Lab

    Faculty Contact: Dr. Kelly (kak3x@eservices.virginia.edu)

    Step One: Email Dr. Kelly expressing interest in lab. Step Two: Send CV/resume to Dr. Kelly and a paragraph of why you're interested in the lab. Step Three: Meet with Dr. Kelly to talk about next steps.

    Faculty Profile
  • Lazzara Lab

    Contact: Dr. Lazzara mlazzara@virginia.edu

    The best way to get involved in my lab is to write to me and express interest in a specific aspect of our work. Then, coming to a couple of group meetings is helpful to see if you think you would be interested in spending time in our lab, with our lab members, working on the kinds of projects we are doing

    Cell Signaling Engineering Lab
  • Meyer Lab

    Graduate Contact: Helen Sporkin (hls4zh@virginia.edu)

    Step One: Email professor and graduate contact. Step Two: Attend lab meetings. Step Three: Identify a project to work on in the lab.

    Faculty Profile
  • Naegle Lab

    Contact: Dr. Naegle (kmn4mj@virginia.edu)

    Read our website and a paper of interest and contact us to see if there is any availability and if so, make an appointment to talk. Know which area of the lab you are interested in working in (experimental or computational).

    Naegle Lab
  • Papin Lab

    Contact: Laura Dunphy (ljd6ab@virginia.edu)

    Step One: Email Dr. Papin (papin@virginia.edu) and graduate contact to get matched to graduate student in the lab. Step Two: Come to a lab meeting/read papers for a semester. Step Three: If the lab is a good fit, discuss joining.

    Computational Systems Biology Lab
  • Peirce-Cottler Lab

    Graduate Contact: Ramon Castellanos-Sanchez (rc7gn@virginia.edu)

    Step One: Contact graduate contact expressing interest in lab and to assess if the lab would be a good fit.

    Microvascular Engineering Lab
  • Price Lab

    Graduate Contact: Delaney Fisher (dgf6db@virginia.edu)

    Step One: Email Dr. Price (rprice@virginia.edu) and grad contact to figure out if there are available projects to work on. Step Two: Be in contact with graduate contact to attend a lab meeting and figure out how to get started; read papers. Step Three: Shadow a graduate student in the lab; learn how to work independently in the lab

    Price Lab Website
  • Rohde Lab

    Postdoc Contact: Liam Cattell (liam@virginia.edu)

    Step One: Email graduate contact to express interest in the lab. Step Two: Meet in the lab to discuss what they do and see if that is interesting to you. Step Three: Contact Dr. Rohde to discuss joining the lab.

    Rohde Lab Website
  • Saucerman Lab

    Graduate Contact:Laura Woo (lw4vd[@virginia.edu)

    Step One: Contact the graduate contact with your interests in the lab and he will help figure out a plan

    Cardiac Systems Pharmacology Group
  • Zunder Lab

    Graduate Contact: Kristen Fread (kristen@virginia.edu)

    Step One: Email graduate contact expressing interest in lab.

    Zunder Lab Website