Colleges with the Best Undergraduate Research Programs

May 4, 2022

At many universities in the United States, the bulk of student research opportunities (and funding) go to graduate students. Yet, academic studies have repeatedly found that undergraduate research in college can be one of the most meaningful and informative experiences of one’s entire bachelor’s degree program.

The list below highlights 33 colleges that are among the very best at providing undergraduates with high-quality opportunities for mentored/supervised research with faculty. This can come in many forms: capstone experiences, class-based projects, summer research apprenticeships, or original research/scholarship as part of an independent study. No matter the form(s), all colleges and universities on this list excel at ensuring that students—even as early as freshman year—have a chance for hands-on academic/scientific exploration.

For a detailed assessment of undergraduate research opportunities at 200 of the nation’s top institutions, pick up the 2023 edition of our outcomes-oriented guidebook Colleges Worth Your Money.

American University

Undergraduate research opportunities are taken advantage of by 50% of first-year students and 40% of seniors. For the last thirteen years AU has hosted an Undergraduate Research Symposium at the end of each year where students can present their research.

Baylor University

This university encourages undergraduates to collaborate with professors on research “as early as the first semester of their freshman year.” The Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Achievement (URSA) office does a superb job connecting students with a research opportunity in their field of interest.

Binghamton University

Research opportunities are available with the Freshman Research Immersion program being one shining example. This program welcomes students to college with a year-long authentic research experience in the sciences and engineering. The Office of Undergraduate Research is adept at connecting students in all fields, not just STEM, to research opportunities alongside faculty members. The school’s own undergraduate research journal, Alpenglow, gives students the chance to publish scholarly, as well as original creative works.

Brown University

Undergraduate research is a big part of the Brown experience for many students; 50% conduct research alongside a faculty member and 43% completed an independent study.


Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) enjoy wide participation with 80% of undergraduates partaking, and 20% of that group going on to publish their results.

Carnegie Mellon University

In a given school year, 800+ undergraduates conduct research through the University Research Office, and many others participate through various outside arrangements

Case Western Reserve University

An exceptional 84% of students have the opportunity to participate in undergraduate research as the school places heavy emphasis on experiential learning.

Clark University

The average undergraduate class size is exactly 20 students. As a result, strong working relationships with faculty routinely develop. An impressive 67% of students participate in undergraduate research at some point in their four years of study.

The College of New Jersey

The Council on Undergraduate Research awarded TCNJ its signature honor, the Campus-Wide Award for Undergraduate Research Accomplishment. In addition to plenty of research opportunities in the hard sciences, this school has invested in specialized facilities that include twenty psychology research labs, a digital humanities lab, and a fully equipped quantitative studies lab for criminology and sociology students.

The College of William & Mary

Undergraduate research opportunities are widely available. In the Chemistry Department, for example, 80-90% of students complete independent/professor-assisted research with many becoming coauthors of studies alongside faculty. Across the college 80% of undergraduates participate in research each year.

The College of Wooster

A Wooster education is bookended by two highly-regarded rites of passage: a First-Year Seminar in Critical Inquiry and three Independent Study courses, one taken in junior year to learn research skills and two senior year to work one-on-one with a faculty mentor. Wooster is one of the few schools out there that can genuinely state that every graduate is afforded a supervised research experience

Dartmouth University

Undergraduate research opportunities abound with roughly three-fifths of students participating at some point. Further, close to 90% of those participants report having a satisfying experience working with a faculty member in that capacity

Duke University

The Undergraduate Research Support Office does great work connecting students with opportunities to conduct research, either over the summer or during the regular school year. All told, more than half of undergraduates conduct research.

Harvard University

Harvard offers a plethora of ways for undergrads to get involved in hands-on research. Summer research experiences facilitated by the Harvard College Research Program are taken advantage of by 37% of the student body. Also, the Faculty Aide Program helps pay undergrads to work alongside faculty as a research assistance and the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Programs offers stipends to 20 juniors each year for summer research.

Harvey Mudd University

Mudd prides itself on offering graduate-level research opportunities and experiential learning to all undergrads. The college backs up its philosophical stance with cold, hard cash, allocating three million dollars annually to facilitate student-faculty research. Students can participate during the school year or during the Summer Undergraduate Research Program that entails ten weeks of full-time laboratory work. The Clinic Program groups juniors and seniors and lets them work on a real-world problem for corporate or agency sponsors for 1,200 to 1,500 hours over the course of one year. It is not uncommon for participants to end up with their name on a patent.

Johns Hopkins University

Fittingly for America’s first research university, 70% of JHU undergraduates complete a research experience while working closely with a faculty member. Each year, hundreds of students receive significant funding for independent projects through the Hopkins Office for Undergraduate Research.

Lawrence University

Professors are expected to allow undergraduates access to their research studies; for example, every member of the Chemistry Department has to run an active research group. The Lawrence University Research Fellows (LURF) program offers a stipend during ten-week, research-focused terms. All told, close to two-thirds of LU students gain hands-on research experience at some point during their four years of study.


MIT is known for having one of the best formalized undergraduate research programs in the country. The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) operates year-round and helps connect 90%+ of undergrads to a research experience with an MIT faculty member.

Princeton University

Princeton is known for its commitment to undergraduate teaching, and students consistently rate professors as accessible and helpful. The Office of Undergraduate Research, formed in 2014, assists Tigers in locating faculty members with whom they can jointly conduct research which occurs in the summer or during a regular term.

Pomona College

Small class sizes lead to the forging of student-professor bonds that help 53% of the undergraduate population conduct research alongside a faculty member. Each summer, 200 students remain on campus for such an endeavor.

Rhodes College

Three-quarters of students at this institution engage in some form of undergraduate research. Opportunities are plentiful in every academic discipline to collaborate with faculty on research projects, and the annual Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium is a chance to show off student projects. An affiliation with St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital leads to intensive summer research opportunities for those in the hard sciences.

Rice University

Undergraduate research opportunities abound with approximately 70% of graduates participating in academic research during their four years. Those experiences are open to freshmen through the Century Scholars Program and to all underclassmen through the Rice Undergraduate Scholars Program.

St. Lawrence University

An exceptional 82% of the Class of 2020 participated in an undergraduate research experience. These opportunities are a true possibility at a school with a 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio and 67% of course sections enrolling fewer than 20 students. The average class size is just 16 students.

Stanford University

Unsurprisingly, given the size of its endowment, Stanford puts unmatched resources behind undergraduate research; more than $5.9 million in grant funding is allocated each year to support roughly 1,000 student research projects.

Swarthmore College

Thanks to a 7:1 student-to-faculty ratio and zero grad students, professors are extremely available in and outside the classroom. As a result, two-thirds of graduates complete at least one undergraduate research or independent creative project, and the college sets aside $800,000 in funding for that express purpose.

Trinity College

Working closely with faculty is a real possibility at this school where one hundred students conduct research each year alongside faculty through the Summer Research Program, and roughly two-thirds engage in some type of undergraduate research.

University of California – Berkeley

Undergraduate research opportunities do exist despite the school’s massive size; over 55% of students assist faculty with a research project or complete a research methods course in their time at Berkeley.

University of California – Irvine

More than three-fifths of students have conducted a research project, and 20% have assisted faculty in conducting research. The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program helps students with proposal writing, developing research plans, and presenting their results at the annual spring UCI Undergraduate Research Symposium and/or publishing their results in the UCI Undergraduate Research Journal.

University of Chicago

Undergraduate research opportunities are ubiquitous as 80% of students end up working in a research capacity alongside a faculty member. The College Center for Research and Fellowships organizes the Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium and the Annual College Summer Institute which is primarily intended for those studying the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

University of Rochester

An impressive 77% of students are involved in undergraduate research, a strong indicator that opportunities for intimate learning experiences are plentiful. Their Office of Undergraduate Research helps students “study architecture in Mount Hope Cemetery, cancerous tumors in Medical Center labs, details of neutrino beams near Tokyo, Dante’s haunts in Italy, and public health in Denmark, to name only a few examples.”

Vassar College

Opportunities to get involved in undergraduate research are taken advantage of by 300+ students each year who work side-by-side with professors on research in the sciences, social sciences, or arts and humanities. Additionally, roughly 500 students engage in credited community-based learning in local organizations or agencies. Vassar’s Undergraduate Research Summer Institute (URSI) has been operational since 1986 and offers a plethora of ten-week research experiences in everything from astronomy to computer science to psychology.

Villanova University

From the start of freshman year, opportunities for meaningful undergraduate research will be within your grasp. The Villanova Match Research Programs for First Year Students allows second-semester freshmen to work as research assistants alongside distinguished faculty. The Villanova Undergraduate Research Fellows Summer Program is taken advantage of by many upperclassmen; in total 93% of 2020 grads who sought out a research experience were able to find one.

Yale University

Undergraduate research is a staple of the Yale academic experience; 95% of science majors participate in research with faculty. University-wide, undergraduate research fellowships are available to 90% of first-years who apply. In short, you’d have to try very hard to avoid engaging in research while an undergraduate at Yale.

You may also be interested in which universities do the best job of helping students land meaningful internships and/or co-op experiences. This can be found in our blog entitled Best Colleges for Internships and Co-Ops