Undergraduate Research

The advantages of participating in research as an undergraduate are numerous and there are many different ways you can participate. You can work with faculty on already established projects or create your own. Research allows you to delve more deeply into a specific area of interest, and you can receive hands on experience to determine if you would like to pursue advanced study in a certain subject area.

Research experience is also highly valuable for students who are interested in attending a graduate or professional school and allows you to obtain more meaningful letters of recommendation from faculty. Research also allows you to develop tools of inquiry and other skills that will help you in whatever you choose to accomplish post-graduation.

Research in the Department of Statistics

Faculty Research Interests

The faculty in the Department of Statistics have diverse research interests. They range from methodological research and applications of statistics in the biological sciences, neuroimaging, and public health to applications in econometrics, physics, astronomy, and more!  It is very important to be proactive and discuss your interest in research with our faculty.  They regularly need enthusiastic undergraduates to help them with their projects. You can view their research topics on the faculty webpage.  Click their website links for a list of their published works and for more information about their projects.

Research Training Group

The Research Training Group is a program funded by the National Science Foundation that works to train and prepare undergraduate students, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers at UC Davis to conduct research in the mathematical sciences, in particular in areas of Statistics involving objects, geometry and shape. You can find out more about this program on their website

Statistics Seminar Series

Every week the Department of Statistics holds open to the public seminars on a special topic related to statistics.  We invite faculty and researchers from various universities and departments to discuss their research interests.  Attending these seminars is a great way to learn more about the broad range of research topics related to statistics, as well as network with faculty. View upcoming and past seminar information on the Seminar Series webpage.

Online Databases and Journals

The Department of Statistics Faculty have put together a list of helpful resources for research in Statistics.  View the list of online Databases and Journals here.  There are also numerous sites where you can download free datasets.  Data.gov is one of many.  

Units for Research

You can receive upper division units for participating in research.  You can receive units for STA 199, 198, and more.  The number of units you receive varies based on the project and your time commitment.  To receive units you and the faculty with whom you are working must complete a Variable Unit Course Contract and submit it the Undergraduate Program Coordinator.

Student Spotlight

Cathy Wang

Cathy Wang '16

B.S. Statistics (General Option)
What project are you working on?

Currently, I am working on a project that focuses on identifying the early signs of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients. I am using the Mallows’ model to characterize the distribution of sequences in which cognitive and functional items first appear over time. The model identifies modal sequences for different domains of cognitive function (memory, language, etc.) and estimates weighting schemes using the Kendall’s distance metric. I have extended my work to longitudinal data to determine whether participants and informants agree upon the incidence as well as the sequence of decline in everyday cognition.

How did you get involved with undergraduate research?

At the end of my freshman year, I browsed through faculty profiles and looked for professors with similar research interests. After narrowing down my list, I contacted each professor with an email that consists of a brief introduction about myself and my goals, detailed paragraph about my own research interests and how that ties in with those of the faculty member, and copies of my resume and transcript. The professor and I then scheduled a time to meet, and after a brief interview, I began working on my first research project.

How has your experience with research helped you?

Doing research has helped me become a much better problem solver. I learned to think analytically and apply concepts from lecture to solve real world problems. Not only have I improved my computational skills, I have also become more effective at both verbal and written communication. Presenting at conferences and writing my own research paper have given me the opportunity to work collaboratively with experts in the field. 

What advice would you give other students who would like to participate in undergraduate research?

Start early! Use your resources - Research Training Group, Undergraduate Research Center, faculty members, and peers - and don't be afraid of exploring research opportunities on and off campus. If you hope to publish as an undergraduate, the commitment requires a lot of time and effort, so it's never too early to look into research opportunities. When you begin a research project, prepare to do a lot of self-learning, but don't be afraid of asking questions and coming up with new ways of solving the problem. Balance your schedule, as it is easy to get overwhelmed, and most importantly, enjoy the research experience!

Undergraduate Research Center

The Undergraduate Research Center (URC) is a great place to start if you are considering participating in research as an undergraduate. They provide resources for not only finding research opportunities, but developing skills that are vital for being a successful researcher. See below for more information about them, but be sure to also explore their website. You can also subscribe to their monthly newsletter URConnection.

Workshops/Events

Throughout the quarter the URC holds various workshops to help you find opportunities, get your work published, get funding for your work, and much more!  They also have several opportunities throughout the year where you can present your work.  You can view upcoming events and workshops on their events page.

Advising

The URC offers advising by appointment.  The URC is located in 2300 Student Community Center.  You can schedule and appointment with them by calling (530)752-3390 or e-mailing urc@ucdavis.edu.  You can find out more about their fantastic staff and advisers here.

Sponsored Research Programs at UC Davis

  • UC LEADS
    • UC LEADS is a program for students who are enrolled in a University of California undergraduate degree program in the physical, life, or computer sciences; engineering; or mathematics will engage in 8 weeks of research during the summer for two summers, one summer on campus and one summer at a participating UC.
  • UC MURPPS
    • MURPPS is a program that pairs participants with faculty members to perform research. Participants also engage in academic seminars, preparatory courses, tutoring, special advising and local and national conferences.
  • MURALS
    • MURALS aims to encourage students to further their education beyond the baccalaureate by conducting research with faculty mentors and participating in program activities.
  • More!