Date Posted: 5/07/2019

Many undergraduate Computer Science majors can have an understandably hard time finding research opportunities in their field. It’s not because such opportunities don’t exist, but because the lines of communication between student and professor or student and lab aren’t always easy to navigate. Enter Research Connect, an innovative website, app—and approach—to making the connection. Like for the CS set, Research Connect helps students and professors find one another. Designed from the ground up by the Cornell Engineering Project Team called Design & Tech Initiative (DTI), the website (begun in 2017) and app (launched in 2018) are already achieving great results for their users.

DTI Product Manager, Aram Baghdassarian shared the following early analytics:

  • 164 students created accounts and uploaded their resumes.
  • Based on our follow-up survey, about 60% of users reached out to professors after visiting the site and 25% of students from that 60% (so 15% of the total sample) ended up finding research positions!

Even in its nascent state, Research Connect is doing just that—connecting undergraduates to communities of PhDs, post-docs, and faculty, and in turn, securing new research opportunities. This dynamic, student-designed, student-run, and student-focused platform is changing the way undergraduates feel about the sometimes fraught experience of “reaching out” to professors, or taking up the daunting project of cold-applying for positions that may or may not exist.

In conversation with CS undergraduate advisor, Ryan Marchenese, we learned that Research Connect is proving to be “a great new resource to offer our students.” Marchenese explains why: “Thanks to Kavita Bala, Professor and Chair of Computer Science, working with CS major Aram Baghdassarian and the DTI project team, we can refer students to a single resource to explore existing opportunities, view their pre-requisites, and even apply to participate in specific research projects. In the past, each student has generally had to start from scratch and seek out research opportunities on their own.” Marchenese adds: “Now students also have a comprehensive list of known research opportunities to pursue, and we’re already receiving positive feedback regarding this new tool.”

For additional information, including an in-depth analysis of how the website and app function, read this article featured at Medium. The article, which DTI wrote, provides a wonderful resource for learning what Research Connect can do. The article begins with a veritable decision map and continues with the following sections:

  • Should I Do Research?
  • When to Start Looking
  • Four Methods to Find Research
  • What to do When Meeting with the Professor
  • Top 3 Reasons People Leave Their Labs & How to Avoid Them
  • Summer Research FAQ: How Things Change with Summer CS Research
  • FAQs About Cornell CS Research in General