STEP ONE: Identifying research groups and supervisors you'd like to work for:
STEP TWO: Making Contact.
Work in parallel, not in series. Approach everybody on your list at the same time.
STEP THREE: Talking.
Get a paper resume into their hands, and BE ENTHUSIASTIC, as enthusiasm is the one thing everyone says they're looking for in a UROP student.
Don't take no for an answer (without being arrogant or pushy). The answer to "May I UROP for you?" isn't "yes" or "no", it's "now" or "later"! Perhaps the supervisor has too many UROPers right now. In that case, ask when you should return. Perhaps you lack the background the research requires. Then ask what you should do or take to get it, and when you should come back. Self-confidence and persistence are impressive qualities. In the worst case, firmly request referrals to people in the same or other research groups at MIT who are doing similar work. Then, of course, tell the second supervisor that the first person suggested you contact him or her.
- Network: Talk to everybody you know at MIT, in your living group, including tutors and housemasters, any organizations you belong to, your TAs, recitation instructors, other faculty, your advisor, recent alums, etc. Find out what research they're doing, who they've worked for, and try to get introductions. A lot of UROPs get filled by word of mouth. Somebody you already know may have the perfect UROP for you and can help you join up. Course VI students UROP for supervisors all over MIT who need their skills. Did you know you can do your Advanced Project and MEng Thesis with professors all over MIT? The topic doesn't even have to be EECS-related, although it must be technical.
- Webwork: Use the web to identify MIT laboratories, centers, and research groups that interest you, and to look at researchers' individual websites. Scan their recent publications paying particular attention to the "What Needs to be Done" section toward the end of many papers. Here are some good sites to start with:
- Getting Paper: You can pick up paper versions of some of the research directories and thesis titles, etc. in the Course VI Undergraduate Office, 38-476.
Email Lists: We use the "jobslist" to send out every UROP or other job listing we receive (among other purposes). To get on the jobslist just email email@example.com. Most of these listings will be for UROPs in EECS-related topics offered by faculty and research groups "outside" EECS, like the Media Lab, Sloan, etc. Our own EECS professors don't generally advertise their UROP openings, prefering instead to pick somebody out of their classes (which means it's essential to talk to your Course VI instructors!). That doesn't mean Course VI faculty won't respond well to a good approach at the right time. The MIT UROP Office, in 7-103, also has listings, so check with them, too.
By all these means develop a list of people you'd like to approach and perhaps work for.
- Email is NOT the best way to try to make contact. It's too easy for the recipient to ignore it, and too easy to fire off a negative response summarily. On the other hand, it's easy and it might work.
- Legwork is better. Walk around the labs in the middle or late afternoon, midweek, and talk to everybody in the halls, lounges, etc. Ask assistants how you can get to talk to their bosses, just for a couple of minutes. Catch people coming out of meetings. Be persistent (but not too aggressive).