Research Experiences for DKH Majors

Engaging actively in independent research serves an advantage in developing research skills and preparing students for the rigors of graduate school. It is a great opportunity to develop competencies as a scientist and benefit from the strong mentorship of a department faculty member. Students may conduct research for credit under two formal course mechanisms: Independent Study and the Department Honors Research Program.


Sleep Lab ActivityStudents interested in conducting research with a faculty member — and who would like to obtain course credit for doing so — should consider registering for a research-oriented Independent Study. This is a great way to experience first-hand what it is like to be part of a research team.

We encourage students to seek out research opportunities during their second year so that they can be a part of a lab for 2-3 years. It is critical for students to establish relationships with faculty and gain research experience in their second and third years to optimize their letters of recommendation and graduate school applications.

Receiving Course Credit  

The Independent Study course is worth 1-3 credits. Three hours of research per week are required per credit (i.e., 1 credit = 3h/week, 2 credits = 6h/week and 3 credits = 9h/week). Enrolled students are under the supervision of the research mentor and the number of credits that the student enrolls in should be mutually agreed upon by the student and research mentor. Students must apply and register for Independent Study for each Semester they participate.

Students are allowed to conduct research in labs outside of the Department of Kinesiology and Health. However, if students conduct research in a lab outside of the Department of Kinesiology and Health, they must also obtain a mentor within the Department to co-supervise their independent study.

How to Enroll in an Independent Study

Students must identify a faculty mentor they are interested in working with and work with that professor to develop a directed plan of study for each term. Students can review research labs in the Department of Kinesiology and Health here. Once the faculty mentor and student establish a plan of study, the student will need to complete the form (select the appropriate form for your major below)  and obtain all relevant signatures.

Exercise Science Independent Study Form        Sport Management Independent Study Form

Once the form is completed, it must be submitted via email to the DKH Undergraduate Director, Andrea Spaeth (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). If approved, Andrea Spaeth will then respond to the student and provide a special permission number which enables them to register for the course.

Students must email the completed form at least 1 business day prior to the end of the add/drop period.  Paperwork is processed during business hours 8:30am-4:30pm. Given that multiple signatures of approval are needed to complete the Independent Study form, we encourage students to begin the process at least 1 month before the beginning of each semester.


Sleep Lab Research SignEligible students will receive an invitation to apply to the Department Honors Research Program in September of their third year.

The Department Honors Research Program sequence is a mechanism for conducting senior thesis research in collaboration with a faculty mentor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health. Students selected to work with a faculty mentor take a traditional in-classroom course during their third year and then register for two semesters of Honors Research during their senior year where they work directly with a faculty mentor to carry out an independent research project.

The expectation of the entire three-semester program is that students will work with their research mentor and develop an independent project (a senior thesis), as well as contribute to the work of their mentor’s research team. Students’ work should include at least 9 hours per week conducting research. The type of work conducted and the manner in which time is allocated (independent project vs. lab work) is negotiated between the student and their research mentor. All students in the Department Honors Research Program are required to present their independent thesis at the end of their senior year.

Suggested Projects

Some suggested examples for the independent project include completing an extensive literature review on a topic of interest, performing a novel analysis of archival data, conducting an original study, or adding a new measure to ongoing research. The final grade is determined by the quality and degree of the student’s work with their faculty mentor. 

Please Note: Mentorships with faculty are extremely competitive. Students interested in applying for the Department Honors Research Program are highly encouraged to identify a faculty mentor as early in their undergraduate career as possible. It is recommended that students become a member of a research team as a volunteer or via the Independent Study course (see above) in order to develop a mentorship well before the student’s senior year.


In order to enroll in the Department Honors Research Program, a student must be considered a junior (i.e. have completed at least 60 credits) by the fall semester of the year they wish to enroll, have an overall GPA of 3.0 or higher and have a Major GPA of 3.4 or higher.

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Volunteer Research Assistantships

The ability to evaluate the reliability and validity of scientific information in places like journals, magazines and newspapers is critical to functioning in the medical community as physical or occupational therapists, physicians, nurses, etc.

While classroom instruction provides basic knowledge about research with human subjects, knowledge in action is equally important. To that end, we encourage students to volunteer to help on research projects in the labs of our faculty. Being part of a research team provides students with close-up, hands-on experience in how collaborative research is conducted and what goes into producing a finished, published document. Importantly, it also provides opportunities to sharpen students’ critical thinking and research skills, which are useful in all domains of life.

There are several ways for students to find available opportunities:

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