Why Student Research?

As a student researcher you will

  1. work side-by-side with Cal Poly faculty
  2. get hands-on experience
  3. create new knowledge to help us see the world in new ways
  4. answer real-world questions and contribute to solutions to problems that face the Central Coast, California, the U.S. and the world
  5. make a difference!

You have the opportunity to Learn by Doing Research at Cal Poly in each department and college. Learn more below.

The Value of Student Research & the Power of Learn by Doing

Dean Wendt, dean of Cal Poly College of Science & Mathematics, shares a few words about the value of student research and the power of Learn by Doing. 


College Summer Undergraduate Research Programs

To date, five colleges at Cal Poly have established college-funded and organized Summer Undergraduate Research Programs (SURPs). Students in every department in each of the colleges have participated in these programs. 

    • The College of Science & Mathematics (CSM) was the first college at Cal Poly to establish a college-funded and organized summer undergraduate research program. First created in 2002, this program was initially funded entirely through Cal Poly College-Based Fees. Today, in addition to ongoing support through College-Based Fees, the program is funded by the Bill & Linda Frost Fund, a college endowment created by $110 million gift from Bill and Linda Frost. The objective of this gift is to establish and maintain the College as “outstanding and nationally recognized in undergraduate academics and student research programs.” In 2019, 400 students participated in full-time summer research supported by the Frost Fund.
    • Learn more about undergraduate research in CSM
    • The College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences (CAFES) sponsors a 10-week Summer Undergraduate Research Program to provide students the opportunity to experience undergraduate research projects on topics related to their programs or in which they have interest. Students work closely with faculty research leads and receive a stipend. The program is open to all students in the college. Each student presents their project at the start of the program with an oral presentation and their research findings at the end of the session at a poster symposium.
    • Learn more about CAFES SURP Projects
    • The College of Engineering (CENG) initiated a Summer Undergraduate Research Program in 2017. The purpose of the program is to provide research experiences for our undergraduate students working alongside our faculty during the summer. This program also supports the scholarly efforts of our faculty through engagement with undergraduate students. Projects lead to student-faculty authored publications in venues appropriate to the area of research conducted during the summer. Further, the program invites industrial and other external sponsors to provide university-industry collaborative research and project activities.
    • Learn more about CENG SURP Projects
    • The College of Liberal Arts (CLA) initiated a Summer Undergraduate Research Program in 2021. The CLA SURP is designed to support faculty research and creative activities while engaging undergraduate students in faculty-led scholarship and has 4 primary goals
      • Promote diverse and equitable engagement for CLA students in faculty-led research and creative activities
      • Enhance faculty participation in scholarship
      • Build lasting student-faculty mentoring relationships
      • Enrich a culture of scholarship in the CLA
    • Learn more about CLA SURP Projects
Even more undergraduate research happens in all colleges and departments throughout the academic year and during the summer. You can earn research and internship credit that counts towards your major! Please contact your department and college. 

Cal Poly Senior Projects

All Cal Poly undergraduate students complete a senior project.


University Programs to Support Your Participation in Undergraduate Research

In addition to college and department support for your participation in undergraduate research, two university programs exist that are designed to increase access to research experiences for students from groups that are underrepresented in higher education.

BEACoN Mentors Program 

  • The BEACoN Mentors Program (Believe, Educate & Empower, Advocate, Collaborate, Nurture) is funded by the Office of University Diversity & Inclusivity to mentor diverse students across the Cal Poly Campus. BEACoN exists to educate and empower underrepresented students and advocate for them as they aspire to successfully complete their Cal Poly education.
  • Each year, BEACoN funds faculty and students to work together on research projects in Winter & Spring quarters. Learn more about this year's BEACoN research projects.

CSU-LSAMP Program at Cal Poly

  • The system-wide NSF-funded CSU-LSAMP Alliance (California State University Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation in STEM Program) is designed to support undergraduate students who face or have faced social, educational and/or economic barriers to careers in science, technology,engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. The goal of the LSAMP Program is to increase the persistence and graduation rates of students from underrepresented groups who major in STEM disciplines.
  • The CSU-LSAMP Program at Cal Poly provides advising, community-building activities, professional development opportunities, and financial assistance to support successful transitions to Cal Poly and to careers and graduate education in STEM fields.
  • Each year, the LSAMP Research Scholars Program funds LSAMP students to participate in summer undergraduate research with Cal Poly faculty. Cal Poly LSAMP students also have the opportunity to participate in CSU-LSAMP international research experiences like the annual Research Training  Expedition to Costa Rica, hosted by CSU Monterey Bay.


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