Summer Research FAQs

Why should I do research in the summer?

Summer is a great time to gain practical experience in a mentored environment by defining problems and identifying solutions. You are able to work with a professor and work on complex problems.

This is a great opportunity to help you find if research is for you (or not for you!). Working with your professors and classmates in the summer is also a good way to network and make contacts. Summer research can also be used towards your Professional Experience Requirement for your degree.

How do I find research opportunities?

Look up professors and researchers and the projects they are working on. Review a department's website to learn about research they are conducting. You can search beyond U of T and look for research opportunities outside of Toronto or Canada.

Select ones that you are interested in and contact them. Various departments may post up summer research opportunities on their website, or through the Career Learning Network (log in and click on "Research Catalogue" in the menu on the left). Read up on the projects and the work done by the professor to see if you are interested in gaining experience in that field. Also consider if volunteering is an option.

How do I contact professors and researchers?

The best way to contact researchers/professors is by email in late December or early January. It is advised to include your CV or resume, unofficial transcripts, and especially any connections that you may have (professor of your class).

Write a professional email that introduces you, indicates your intentions and asks if you can meet to talk about working with them in the summer. Make it specific to the researcher. Contact multiple professors/researchers; you are not limited to emailing just one.

How do I improve my resume?

To get your resume ready, there are lots of resources available to help you. You’re Next Career Network (YNCN) holds a Resume Hackathon.

You can also sign up for a resume and cover letter workshop at the Career Centre. The Career Learning Network is also a great place to sign up for resume workshops and for resources.

How do I prepare for the interview or meeting?

YNCN and the Career Centre are great resources that can help you to learn how to do interviews. Remember this is not a typical job interview. It is primarily about being interested in a professor/researcher’s work and how you would like to have the chance to work with them. Before you go to talk with them, review projects that they have worked on in the past or are currently working on.

Are grades important?

Grades may have an impact. As such, professors may request a copy of your transcript. However, there are additional factors professors and researchers consider when hiring students for summer research opportunities.

What do I do if I do not get a summer research opportunity?

Do not worry if you do not secure a summer research position. Throughout  your time at U of T , there will be multiple opportunities for you to get hands-on experience.

Take advantage of the four-month summer to be productive and involved. Get a summer job, volunteer, participate in a design team, design your own project, and gain skills and knowledge.

Are there important deadlines I need to know?

There is no set deadline on when to contact professors, but the best time is in late December or early January. Other deadlines include applying for research scholarships (generally in January/February).

Are scholarships available?

Scholarships are a way of compensating you for the work and time you have spent in the summer research opportunity. The deadlines range from January- February.

How do I maximize the value of summer research?

  • Make learning objectives for yourself
  • Make a list each week of what you achieved and what you will achieve next week
  • Ask lots of questions
  • Ask for specific feedback
  • Look into the Undergraduate Engineering Research Day (UnERD). This event gives undergraduates the opportunity to share their achievements from their summer research in an academic showcase

What other research opportunities are there?

APS299Y - Summer Research Abroad: This is a unique for-credit research-based summer course. Depending on the nature of the research project, this course may count toward your engineering program or an engineering minor. Check with your department for details. This program is not open to EngSci students.

The Engineering Science Research Opportunities Program (ESROP): Through ESROP, EngSci students will join established research groups, gain a deeper understanding of the research process, and take part in intellectually vibrant research activities. EngSci Students will have the opportunity to work with faculty members on research-based collaborations over the summer.

Summer Research Abroad: This is an exciting opportunity for upper-year undergraduate students in science, engineering, and other fields to acquire hands-on lab and research experience. Summer research projects are available at partner institutions for about 12 weeks over the summer term.

Work-Study: The Work-Study program at U of T is an excellent way for students to develop knowledge, skills and experience that complement their academic studies through paid work on campus. The positions generally require about 12 hours of work per week.


Adapted from: McGuigan, A.P. (2014). Undergraduate Research [pdf presentation slides]. First Year Fridays.