Even at the earliest stages of exposure and experience, Harvard undergraduates and graduate students are expected to become familiar with their discipline’s ethical standards and to conduct their research activities with the highest level of integrity and commitment to excellence. You are encouraged to ask questions about proper practices and procedures, and expected to have organized all of your research activities, to get safety and ethics training early on, and to follow the directions of your faculty mentor and other research staff closely. If you have questions or concerns, you should contact your Director of Graduate or Undergraduate Studies.
Depending on your research interests, there are a variety of ways to initiate a project. To work with Harvard faculty directly, you should begin by learning about the faculty’s research specializations and current projects, which can be found on departmental websites. If you contact a faculty member about the possibility of working on a project related to his/her research, be sure to include information about courses you have taken that could support your contribution to the research and any other relevant experience. Be patient in expecting a response—faculty have many responsibilities and may not be able to respond immediately.
Research conducted by students in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, HSPH, HMS, and other professional schools likely will be connected to their degree program. You should consult with your advisors about how research experience will be integrated with other elements of your graduate program.
Harvard has a variety of programs, offices, and fellowships that support research. Undergraduates and graduate students in FAS may seek funding for independent research from the Fellowships Office, which provides a wide array of research-specific awards to support projects.
Students in the professional schools in Cambridge and Longwood should consult with their Dean’s offices about what funding is available in their schools to support research outside student financial aid awards.
External funding to conduct independent research is available from a wide range of non-profit organizations, foundations, and federal agencies. Harvard subscribes to the Community of Science funding database, which hosts a robust, comprehensive database of research funding external to the university. In order to access COS, your computer must be connected from a Harvard IP address.
You should think about strategy before deciding to pursue a research interest: which opportunities are best suited for you, how conducting research will affect your other obligations -- especially academic coursework -- and the appropriate timing of research activities as they relate to your pursuit of a degree.
You should keep in mind how your research integrates with academic courses, especially if you are being compensated. For instance, it may be possible for undergraduates to get course credit for a research endeavor through an academic department. However, if you are getting paid for the research with a stipend or wage offered by the principal investigator, academic credit may not be possible. Please check with your academic advisor about whether or not you can receive academic credit or be paid for your participation in a research project.
There are a wide variety of administration- and student-run organizations that support research interests across the Harvard community. Some of these organizations are discipline specific, but others are broader in scope. The Office of Career Services, the Office of Undergraduate Research Initiatives, the Harvard College Research Program (Student Employment Office), the Harvard College Program for Research in Science and Engineering (PRISE), and the Office of Life Sciences Education are great places to get information about organizations.