Belive it or not, opportunities are more readily available than you think. Most research opportunities in labs at UCLA are only a question away. All you have to do is ask a professor to research in their lab and they'll tell you whether they can take you or not. Your first choice isn't always for sure so don't be let down if you get turned down, just try try again.
HINT: Professors like volunteers. If you're more in the market for experience than money, you're more likely to get research opportunities. Also, sometimes, labs just fill up.
Research Opportunities at UCLA
SPUR (Summer Programs for Undergraduate Research)
UCLA has set up a lovely website for finding Summer research whether you're interested in the brain, humanities stuff, science or engineering. As a general place to look, this website is not bad. In order to get in on this SPUR action, you'll need the following ingredients:
1 Online application (found here)
1 Letter of Rec from a faculty
1 Financial statement
1 Personal statement
1 Financial aid verification
*phew* easy right?
DEADLINE: Feb. 4, 2011
NanoCER (Nanosystems Chemistry and Engineering Reserach)
Many of you have probably walked by the bomb shelter, glanced to your side and seen a big brick building with a big glass door. All you can see at the other end of the room is a table where a security officer sits all day. Well, that's the CNSI (California Nano-Systems Institute) building. CNSI along with NSF (read on for more info on NSF) put on a summer research program where you can learn about nanomaterials and their processing. It sounds like it's heavy on the chem side from what I gather from the website but several of our own MSE professors particiapte in the program. Sorry young'ns, you have to have completed your junior year (yes, ok, i'm a young'n too.) and have to have a 3.0+, also something that disqualifies me. (curses.) If you're interested, jump to the link below.
APPLICATION DEADLINE: Feb. 12, 2010
Research Outside of UCLA
Yes, even though we're all undies, there are many more research opportunities outside of UCLA. In fact, between 1st, 4th, and 6th floor of Boelter, I'm sure you've seen fliers covering boards with opportunities. In my eyes, those are still one of the best ways to find opportunities you're looking for.
NSF (National Science Foundation)
Of these opportunities, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has a big hand in many of them. Founded by Congress to promote the progression of science, the NSF primarily achieves promoting progress by funding other research. As such, many programs have sprung up to use NSF money in the best way possible: to give it to undergrads to do research. That's right, you'll find quite a few research opportunities in which you can be paid.
A website listing summer research opportunities can be found at this link: Pathways to Science.
REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates)
NSF also funds programs called REUs (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) where you can travel to universities and do research in some of their departments. One of them is even held at my lovely hometown of Davis. Ok ok, I know what you're saying Davis isn't your top choice but they have such a sweet deal, even I'm thinking of going back. So that you don't think I'm ad'ing for my hometown, I should mention that they've also got programs at CalTech, Carnegie Mellon, and Cornell and, ours being the best major there is, many of their Research interests are in materials! They've got several REUs for several areas of study but among them, sandwiched between "International Science and Engineering" and "Mathematical Sciences" is listed "Materials Research." The site has an organized list giving the university it would be at, the contact information, and the area of materials research that that REU deals with so check out the link!
DOE SULI (Department of Energy: Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships)
To show I'm not biased toward NSF, even though they provide a bunch of funding to programs that undergrads can take advantage of, I'd like to drop another cool link I reached somehow (I think when I was looking for scholarships...anyway, not important). The Department of Energy has an amazing program called SULI (Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships) where you can choose to do research at one of 16 sites including Lawrence Livermore National Labs, Ames Lab, Fermilab, and several others.
To apply, you need information about a faculty advisor and some letters of recommendation so start getting to know your professors.
Oh and for those of you interested in some monetary compensation, they pay $400/week + travel. Not a bad deal if you ask me.
DEADLINE: April 1, 2011 (officially. You'll want to get it in as close to Feb. 1st though because that's when they start selecting people for labs.)