MAE Research Experience for Undergraduates Program

Participating in undergraduate research exposes you to advanced engineering topics and provides the opportunity to gain experience working with faculty and graduate students. Undergraduate research allows you to be part of a team solving real engineering problems and to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the science describing how our world works.


Why is Undergraduate Research important?

Completing undergraduate research has many benefits. If you choose not to pursue an advanced degree, students with undergraduate research experience have knowledge of advanced engineering topics and experimental procedures that can lead to increased employment options. You will have practical experience to talk about on job interviews and you get a chance to build skills related to teamwork and verbal and written communication.For those interested in pursuing an advanced engineering degree (such as a Master of Science or PhD), completing undergraduate research gives you insight into the tasks and expectations associated with being a graduate student. The personal statement that you write on graduate school applications will be more direct, have a clear focus, and will allow a department to understand if your research interests align with those of their faculty. Further, many fellowships that provide support for graduate school require prior research experience. If you are considering a graduate research fellowship (such as those supported by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, etc.), undergraduate experience beyond a single semester will significantly strengthen your application packet.

All students completing undergraduate research also gain experience working with department faculty. You will establish a relationship with your advisor that may introduce you to pathways you didn’t know existed, to collaborators in government labs, industry, and other academic institutions, and can lead to a letter of recommendation where they have the ability to discuss your strengths as an employee.

How do I get started?

It is up to you to make contact with faculty members in MAE  and explore options. Talk to faculty members teaching your classes, explore faculty websites, walk around EBIII and read research posters outside all of our laboratories- these are all ways to learn what opportunities may exist.  To follow are various options for how undergraduate research is conducted within MAE.

Rashmi Vadlakonda

Options for Undergraduate Research within MAE:

1. Course Credit Research (MAE 496)

Students can receive course credit for conducting their research. First, you must find a research advisor that shares a common interest. We recommend browsing the individual pages of the department’s faculty so that you can understand the major focus of their work and the types of research conducted by that research group (experimental, computational/simulation-based, a mixture). Reach out to faculty with a personalized email that describes your academic background, why you find their research interesting, and what types of experiences you are interested in.Once a research relationship has been established, you and your faculty research advisor can develop a research project suitable for course credit. As part of the MAE 496 experience, you and your advisor will construct a research agreement that has mutually agreed upon requirements and expectations. It is important to remember that students who receive course credit for research may not receive pay for the same tasks/deliverables.

How to sign up:

MAE students who have identified a faculty advisor and want to pursue the for-credit route for undergraduate research can fill out the MAE 496 Sign-Up Request Form before the beginning of the upcoming semester. This form will be reviewed by the MAE UG Advising office. If all the requested information is properly submitted, and the professor confirms advisement, the office will enroll you in MAE496.

MAE 496 Guidelines:

Course Title: MAE 496 Undergraduate Project Work in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Units: 1-3 (students may apply up 6 credit hours of MAE 496 toward ME or AE degree requirements)
Offering: Fall, Spring and Summer
Requisites: Successful completion of at least some 300-level MAE lecture courses.
Course Description: Individual or group project in undergraduate-level design, analysis or research in mechanical and aerospace engineering. Work is performed under the direction of an MAE faculty advisor. The student provides a project proposal, interim report, and final report.

1. Project proposal
2. Midterm report
3. Final report and project summary PPT slide
* Students will receive more information about project guidelines as well as reminder emails from the MAE undergraduate office for each of the deadlines listed above.

Contact information for questions:

  • Enrollment, signup, credits, prerequisites and general questions: Cheryl Tran

2. MAE Undergraduate Research Scholars Program Process

3. Paid Opportunities and Sources of Funding

When you are conducting research that is not being counted toward class credit, it is possible to be paid for conducting research. While individual faculty may have funds that can be used for your research effort, there are additional programs that can provide funding for undergraduate research:

  • NCSU Office of Undergraduate Research Student Financial Support Grants

o Offers fall and spring grants in April/May prior to the next academic year
o Offers spring only grants in September/October prior to the next spring semester
o Offers summer grants in February/March

  • NC Space grant

o Research can be conducted during 10 weeks over the summer or during the academic year

      • NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates

o This program by the National Science Foundation allows students to work at various REU sites across the country conducting research on a specific project.
o These projects typically occur over the summer months
o Undergraduate students supported must be citizens or permanent residents of the Unites States or its possessions.

      • Department faculty

o Faculty may have projects where they have already specified funds for an undergraduate researcher or a temporary employee. Faculty with an active NSF award may request an undergraduate research supplement that can awarded to an eligible undergraduate student.

4. No Credit/No Pay (Informal)

It may be the case that an informal arrangement can be made with a faculty member whereby the student spends time in a lab without receiving course credit or pay. This may be a way for a student “to get their foot in the door” and may lead to a more formal follow-on arrangement.