Undergraduate Researchers

Interested in getting involved?

I truly enjoy and learn a lot from working with undergraduates on my research team.  Undergraduate research at RPI can be done for experience, funding, or credit.  Because both funding and credits require us to have a pretty concrete plan of what the student will accomplish, I typically start undergraduate research off for experience.  This allows us to find a problem both of us are interested in working on together, and allows us time to create a plan (e.g., define tasks, deliverables, timelines) if the student moved to either a funded or credit option for research.  If you are interested in getting involved, send Dr. Pazour an email pazouj@rpi.edu with your broad interests, your resume, and your availability to meet.

Undergraduate Research Program

Information about the URP program at RPI:

Typical First Undergraduate Research Meeting and Recommended Next Steps

Thank you for your interest in undergraduate research and meeting with me.  During that meeting, I likely discussed a couple of research projects I am working on.  I also likely sent you some reading materials (grant proposals, journal articles, etc.).  So what should you do next?

First, please read through the materials I sent you.  If there are lots of different projects, I would encourage you to skim through them, ignoring any math or overly technical parts, and focus on the big picture of the research.  See if you can (in your own words) answer why this research is important and what needs to be done to answer the research questions.

Second, spend some time brainstorming on your own.  Identify a couple of smaller projects or research questions you’d be excited to work on.  During this process, you should think about why you want to do research?  For example, is there a specific skill or software you’d like to get better at?  At this stage, you do not need to have a full plan in place, but it would be good to identify what your ideal end-state would be.  So for example, if you did all the things you said you’d do – what does that look like?  What new knowledge or new skill/model/system/algorithm would the world have?

Third, send me an email with a brief description of your research ideas and also your availability to meet to discuss them.  During this research meeting, we will work together to try and identify a worthwhile research plan.  This typically will be an iterative process.


How to do a Literature Review

For research to be published, it needs to be novel.  To document that what you plan to do is novel, and thus a valid research contribution, requires you to compare and contrast your proposed research with existing work.  

The goal of the literature review is to identify what has been done and how this is different than what you plan to do.  In my research, novelty is typically in the need for either new models or new solution approaches.  Thus, a useful way to organize your literature review is to answer these questions for all the papers you read:

  • What are the decisions?
  • What is the objective function?
  • What constraints are modeled?
  • What is the solution approach to solve the problem?
  • Identify other comments worth mentioning.

If you do this for a group of papers in a specific area, this helps identify “research gaps”.  To identify a research gap you should be able to answer this question: “Why can we not apply the methodology and/or model developed in X to your problem Y?

For a more general, and really great directions on how to do a literature review, see this resource:

How to do a literature review: citation tracing, concept saturation, and results’ mind-mapping by Raul Pacheco-Vega, Ph.D.

Inter Library Loan

If RPI Libary does not have the article, you can request it through ILL (Interlibrary Loan) https://illiad.lib.rpi.edu/illiad/YRM/logon.html

Google Scholar Citations Setup

  1. Go to https://scholar.google.com/
  2. In upper right hand corner, click “settings”
  3. Under Bibliography manager, select “show links to import citations into BibTex {or your preferred citation manager}”
  4. Now when you search for a citation, under it “import into BibTex” shows up. Click on the link.  Save the bibtex citation in a note pad document and use the phase on the first line as a reference in your document.

Citation Managers

Endnote Resources from RPI’s Library

Here is the link to getting started using Endnote: http://library.rpi.edu/update.do?artcenterkey=1757

Zotero is an open source free citation manager


Hooking Zotero to word;
  1. Close Word or LibreOffice.
  2. In Zotero, go to Tools → Add-ons → Extensions. …
  3. In the Cite pane of Zotero preferences, open the “Word Processors” tab.
  4. Click “Reinstall LibreOffice/Microsoft Word Add-in” and then restart your wordprocessor.