Summer Research Opportunities with Columbia Faculty

Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (URF) offers various funding awards to support Columbia students interested in engaging in full-time research over the summer. While students may develop their own independent research projects, URF welcomes the opportunity to connect students with faculty members who are interested in having an undergraduate researcher contribute to a specific research project of their own.

Through this collaboration, undergraduate researchers have the opportunity to engage in research activities in a specific academic discipline allowing them to learn firsthand about what academic research entails. They will also have the opportunity to develop relationships with experts in their field, enriching their undergraduate experience while allowing them to consider academic goals and postgraduate careers.


Review the list of opportunities below, taking note of any requirements, and then apply for one of the following summer funding awards through URF. Don't see something of interest to you? Check back! URF adds to this list as new opportunities are made available. (Please note the instructions below before starting your application!)

*Please note that these opportunities are only available to students who are currently enrolled undergraduates in good standing at Columbia.


  • All research opportunities are full-time, in person, on campus, and are six weeks in duration, coinciding with Summer Session A (unless otherwise indicated). Participation in a faculty research project is not compatible with taking courses, working at another job, or volunteering;
  • In your application, please list the title of the project you are seeking to contribute to; explain why you are interested in this project, and describe any past experience you believe relevant to your candidacy. In an effort save faculty inboxes, please do not reach out to faculty directly. We will share your applications with the faculty member connected to the project of interest, and we will be in touch with you regarding the status of your application;
  • Students may only apply to ONE faculty project, and students must apply through URF. Please do not attempt to contact the faculty member directly; if you have questions, e-mail


Environmental Studies in the Pacific Islands

  • Department: Physics
  • Status: Accepting Applications
  • Description: Nuclear weapons testing and climate change have created existential threats to indigenous communities living in the Pacific. Our group has been invited by the governments of several Pacific Island nations to perform measurements and assessments of environmental damage from these two sources. We have been working on this research for nearly a decade now, primarily with undergraduates through the K=1 Project, a center in Arts and Science at Columbia. Over the summers 2024 and 2025, we aim to recommission detectors to measure radiation in food and on land and to develop drone technology to measure land elevation for low-lying islands, threatened by rising sea levels. By at latest summer 2025, we hope to make in situ measurements on these islands. For summer 2024 the group will be based at Columbia, and for summer 2025 the group will possibly relocate to Santa Barbara with travel to the Pacific. It is possible that our group will travel to attend the 80th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings in Japan on August 6 and 9, 2025.
  • Primary Duties: Students will help with technology development and planning for trips to the Pacific Islands. Skills in computing, mapping, surveying, engineering and technology, GPS, photography and meticulous logbook and record keeping are desirable. Sensitivity to community needs is critical. For one of the island projects, fluency in French would be a major asset.
  • Requirements: Fearlessness for working in a remote environment. Mental as well as physical toughness and health. Flexibility. Scuba dive training or snorkeling may be necessary for potential coral studies; if true, learning these skills should not be a showstopper. This project is only available to first year CC students applying to the Laidlaw Scholars program, who are prepared to commit to the project for Summer 2024 (in the lab) and Summer 2025 (in situ).
  • Time commitment: 35 hours minimum / week, 6 weeks

Visual Problem Solving in Chemistry Learning

  • Department: Chemistry
  • Status: Accepting Applications
  • Description: Chemistry learning materials are filled with a variety of visual information (chemical symbols, mathematical representations, graphical information and text) that students must understand and process in order to solve problems. Knowing where and how to look at this visual information is critical to forming new ideas, recalling required knowledge, and performing the steps necessary for problem solving. A key problem-solving step is effectively identifying the chemically relevant information from the material presented. This project will use investigate chemistry problem solving a problem by tracking viewing with an eye-tracking system.
  • Primary Duties: Research in our lab begins with human subject training, an orientation to eye-tracking research, and the mixed methods analysis techniques used to investigate visual problem solving in chemistry. Depending on your interests you may also work with volunteers to collect data.
  • Requirements: The ideal candidate will have taken general chemistry.
  • Time commitment: 35 hours minimum / week, 6 weeks

In Search of the Political: How Movements Enter Liberal Social Change Projects

  • Department: Human Rights
  • Status: Accepting Applications
  • Description: This project investigates a search for a more ambitious and political kind of liberal social change by US-based progressive civil society professionals in the first two decades of the 21st century. How and why, in other words, did key major US philanthropic foundations start talking about funding Black Lives Matter instead of Amnesty International, or “the women’s movement” instead of women’s rights NGOs? By examining the discourses, tools, and practices these professionals construct in their attempts to support social movements without coopting them, it considers the epistemological assumptions, elite self-fashioning, and metaphorical structures that underwrite the entrance of movements into liberal social change projects. At this stage, the project involves both mapping and tracing the history of concepts central to this shift towards supporting movements across philanthropic, human rights, and development organizations, including but not limited to: movement philanthropy, participatory philanthropy, trust-based philanthropy, decolonizing philanthropy, the civil society ecosystem, aid localization, regenerative economics and movement economies, the #ShiftThePower campaign, and systems change.
  • Primary Duties: Depending on the student’s previous research experience and interests, tasks will include: 1) managing, organizing, and contributing to an existing database tracking reports, webinars, conferences, news articles, social media content, and popular books related to the concepts listed above; 2) identifying and suggesting new entries for a glossary of social movement philanthropy keywords; and 3) drafting a research memo tracing a tentative genealogy of one or two of these concepts, using primary and secondary sources. If time permits, the student will also be asked to review existing data on grantmaking to assess the extent to which all this rhetoric changes (or not) where the money flows.
  • Requirements: There are no required qualifications, but interest in any of the following are a plus: social movements, human rights, development, philanthropy, political theory, discourse analysis, intellectual history, and knowledge management and visualization.
  • Time commitment: 35 hours minimum / week, 6 weeks

Urban Segregation in Rio de Janeiro

  • Department: LAIC
  • Status: Accepting Applications
  • Description: This project explores the history of urbanization in Rio de Janeiro, which includes work mapping the city. We will do layering work where we map the addresses onto different time periods to see how the city has changed over time.
  • Primary Duties: The student researcher will help organize data, street addresses, names, neighborhoods, and visualize them in different ways so we can see the relationship between socioeconomic class, race, and the changing urban landscape.
  • Requirements: Student should have digital mapping skills, know how to work with excel, and be able to read Portuguese (Spanish or other Romance language is also ok).
  • Time commitment: 35 hours minimum / week, 6 weeks

Interactions between Attention, Perception, and Imagination

  • Department: Psychology
  • Status: Accepting Applications
  • Description: The Living Lab is looking for a Research Assistant who will work on a project investigating the interaction between Attention, Perception, and Imagination. The project encompasses three tasks, and the RA will mainly be assisting with conducting the studies and helping coordinate the work of other lab members. Current Research Assistants will be providing training for the tasks.
  • Primary Duties: Attend weekly lab meetings; Maintain the lab IRBs up to date; help coordinate lab activities and scheduling of participants; maintain the Sona system page; run experimental sessions; miscellaneous tasks upon request. Researcher is also welcome to develop their own study (to be decided with the PI).
  • Requirements: Background in Psychology, Neuroscience, or computer science / coding; One year or more experience in a research lab; Interest in committing to longer-term work in the lab; Previous knowledge of neuroscience is highly preferred; Excellent attention to detail, high level of self-motivation, and strong interpersonal and organizational skills.
  • Time commitment: 35 hours minimum / week, 6 weeks

Global Health History focused on South Asia: The politics of immunity, chronicity and risk in post colonial India

  • Department: Sociomedical Sciences and History
  • Status: Accepting Applications
  • Description: Focus is on a modern history of how public health, social science, demographic and psych disciplines in post colonial India have evolved and defined and understood immune and compromised bodies and chronic disease outside of the laboratory, and debates around health and citizenship (1940-90's).
  • Primary Duties: Searches in online archives, ordering and working with secondary and primary sources, identifying key parts of these texts, and helping to synthesize and frame these different strands of ideas in debates in global agencies (UN/WHO/Rockefeller) and in India. Conducting a oral history interviews is a possibility; in addition, the student researcher will work with collected archival documents, classifying them and making annotated bibliographies.
  • Requirements: Training in history and/or anthropology in course work, and exposure to biological sciences/psychology is welcome; interest in archives and primary sources analysis is also a plus. Skills in organizing references and readings to be able to access quotes, citations and sources (Zotero or other) is also welcome.
  • Time commitment: 35 hours minimum / week, 6 weeks

Novel Si Detectors for Dark Matter research

  • Department: Physics
  • Status: Accepting Applications
  • Description: The GAPS (General Antiparticle Spectrometer) experiment is an Antarctic balloon mission designed to search for cosmic antinuclei as signatures of dark matter interactions. The instrument consists of a tracker of >1000 custom semiconducting silicon detectors. This project involves developing the fabrication processes necessary to make the next generation of these novel silicon detectors.
  • Primary Duties: Working with staff at the Columbia Nano Initiative cleanroom to develop metrology and chemical assessment techniques for silicon substrates, working with graduate students to commission equipment for detector segmentation and fabrication.
  • Requirements: Interest in the field.
  • Time commitment: 35 hours minimum / week, 6 weeks

Fracture Mapping in Granitic Outcrops above an Earthquake-Prone Blind Fault, Southern California

  • Department: Earth and Environmental Sciences
  • Status: Accepting Applications
  • Description: The project is related to an ongoing study of the complexity of brittle deformation patterns above 'blind' actively slipping faults in southern California. Although these faults represent secondary splays of the San Andreas Fault - the main plate boundary fault, they are known to have hosted damaging earthquakes in the past. Thus, a better understanding of the large-scale brittle deformation field above such faults may help to identify areas with previously unmapped active blind faults in California and other parts of the world with similar earthquake hazards. An aspect of the project involves the detailed mapping of fracture lineaments in rock exposures around the projected trace of a known active, but blind fault zone in southern California. This mapping will be done by the digitization of the fracture lineaments using high resolution topographic maps (LiDAR) and satellite photographs as guide. The goal of the exercise is to generate a digital fracture database that can be quantitatively analyzed. The project will teach students visualization, GIS, mapping, and structural geology skills.
  • Primary Duties: Digitization of the fracture lineaments using high resolution topographic maps (LiDAR) and satellite photographs as guide; Weekly report on progress in the form of a 30 - 45 mins check-in meeting; Participation in the weekly lab group meetings
  • Requirements: Student should be familiar with ArcMap or Arcpro GIS mapping software. By Summer 2024, Student should be enrolled in or have already taken a class in the Department of Earth and Environmental sciences.
  • Time commitment: 35 hours minimum / week, 6 weeks

Phytoplankton in future oceans

  • Department: Biology and Paleo Environment
  • Status: Accepting Applications
  • Description: Photosynthetic marine microorganisms, or phytoplankton, use carbon dioxide to build their biomass. When phytoplankton die and sink, they transfer this carbon to the deep ocean, sequestering it away from the atmosphere. This process, known as the biological pump, has tempered the effect of climate change through the absorption of anthropogenic carbon dioxide. The efficiency of the biological pump – and the ocean’s continued ability to absorb carbon dioxide in the future – will depend on the ability of different phytoplankton groups to adapt to effects of climate change in marine environments, such as warming and acidification. In order to quantify how the cumulative effects of subcellular processes will determine the amount of carbon dioxide phytoplankton use in future oceans, this research tests the adaptability of different phytoplankton groups to the expected conditions in year 2100 and year 2500 oceans.
  • Primary Duties: Students will work with the PI and lab manager to grow cultures of marine phytoplankton in incubators in the lab. Students will learn all aspect of culturing microorganisms including making media, starting new cultures, and monitoring culture growth. Laboratory tasks will include techniques in chemistry and biology including following a chemical recipe to make media, transferring culture biomass using pipetting techniques, taking growth measurements using an fluorometer, and counting cells under a microscope.
  • Requirements: one semester of biology preferred
  • Time commitment: 35 hours minimum / week, 6 weeks

Lovebirds: Avian Erotic Entanglements in Medieval French Literature

  • Department: French
  • Status: Accepting Applications
  • Description: This project is about the way in which birds, rather than being mere “symbols” of love, actually contributed to the human experience of eroticism in medieval French literature. For instance, human love songs were modeled formally on bird songs. Birds also provided the model for erotic desire and pleasure, according to the medieval composers who write about them. My main research question, at the moment, is the following: were the writers in my corpus actually attentive to the bird species around them (and to their songs and behaviors) or did they rely primarily on longstanding associations (such as the nightingale with love)?
  • Primary Duties: Depending on area of expertise/interest, the student could work in one or more of three areas: 1) Researching the formal structure of birdsong—especially the songs of the species actually present in medieval France—and trying to find similarities in the melodic structure of human love songs from that region; 2) Researching the actual bird species present in medieval France (this could, for instance, involve reading work by archeologists, paleobotanists, etc.); 3) Making a catalogue of the birds mentioned in medieval love poetry including place of composition and date. The student will then analyze statistical patterns. This will involve reading modern translations. Primary Duties depend on which of the three threads outlined above the student chooses to pursue but the first two tracks would involve reading research by ornithologists, archeologists, paleobotanists, etc.
  • Requirements: reading knowledge of modern French highly desirable. Reading knowledge of German and/or Italian also desirable but less critical. Some background in music, if option 1 is requested, will be necessary.
  • Time commitment: 35 hours minimum / week, 6 weeks

The Justice Lab Internship Program​

  • Department: The Justice Lab: The Columbia Justice Lab seeks to foundationally reconceive justice policy through actionable research, community-centered policy development, and the sustained engagement of diverse constituencies. We envision a community-centered future of justice in which healing and resiliency, rather than surveillance and punishment, are used to address social problems rooted in racial and economic inequity. The Lab conducts path breaking research on incarceration, prisoner reentry, youth development, community safety, and racial justice.
  • Status: Accepting Applications
  • Description: The Columbia Justice Lab seeks to foundationally reconceive justice policy through actionable research, community-centered policy development, and the sustained engagement of diverse constituencies. We envision a community-centered future of justice in which healing and resiliency, rather than surveillance and punishment, are used to address social problems rooted in racial and economic inequity. The Lab conducts path breaking research on incarceration, prisoner reentry, community supervision, youth development, community safety, and racial justice. Interested students should apply through the URF website. Undergraduate summer researchers will work on one of the Justice Lab’s four projects, and participate in additional professional development and learning activities created specifically for the fellow cohort. The fellows will also have opportunities to learn from various members of the Lab, both individually and as a cohort. Interested students should apply through the URF website. Please do not reach out to the Justice Lab directly. Those selected will be assigned to projects during the interview and selection process based on alignment of skills and interests. Projects seeking summer interns are: the Square One Project, Probation and Parole Reform, Emerging Adult Justice, and the Lab’s research-specific work.
  • Primary Duties: Students will work on initiatives within the project to which they’re assigned. The Lab aims to provide students with substantive experience in the justice space by asking students to contribute to the research, drafting, editing, event planning, and outreach of our projects. Examples of initiatives that students will be assigned to include: Less is More townhall planning and paper drafting; Development of the Square One Project’s Reimagining Justice Locally; Contributing to newly developed research initiatives within the Square One Project; Supporting with outreach, material development, and event planning for Square One’s National Collaborative on Reckoning and Justice initiative; Research, literature reviews, and editing for the Emerging Adult Justice project; Supporting the Lab's research team on new and ongoing projects.
  • Requirements: Knowledge of, or interest in, criminal justice and social justice reform; Excellent organizational skills with particular ability to prioritize work in an environment with multiple interests and activities; Excellent interpersonal and communication skills; Excellent written communication skills - Candidates are expected to work well in a team and effectively communicate the results of their research/work orally and in writing; Competency using a variety of computer software programs including word processing, spreadsheets, and/or databases; Some knowledge of criminal justice laws and policies desirable; Working knowledge of quantitative and qualitative research methods and experience writing research reports desirable; Candidates with prior experience with criminal justice histories or lived experience relating to criminal justice are encouraged to apply.

Time commitment: 35 hours minimum / week, 10 weeks

Climate Change & Environmental Law Project

  • Department: Columbia Law School, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law
  • Status: Accepting Applications
  • Description: The Sabin Center for Climate Change Law develops legal techniques to fight climate change, trains students and lawyers in their use, and provides the public with up-to-date resources on key topics in climate law and regulation.
  • Primary Duties: This project will connect students to Columbia Law School's Sabin Center for Climate Change Law,. 1-2 undergraduate researchers will work on issues concerning the implementation of climate change-related laws and regulations. Among other things, the student(s) will help to build-out several Sabin Center databases, including our New York State and New City Climate Law Trackers, which track implementation of climate law at the state and city levels, respectively. The student(s) will conduct research into, and prepare summaries of, relevant actions at the state and local levels. The student(s) may also assist with the development of databases tracking federal action on climate change, including a new database focused on implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act.
  • Requirements: Ability to research on-line databases.
  • Time commitment: 35 hours minimum / week, 6 weeks

Dark Prelude: Black Life Before Mourning

  • Department: English and Comparative Literature, Center for the Study of Ethnicity & Race
  • Status: Accepting Applications
  • Description: This project is an experimental recovery of Black life in the wake of spectacular state and vigilante violence. Traffic stops and other chance encounters are prefaced by the music that the subjects (such as Sandra Bland and Daunte Wright) enjoyed before their fateful ends. As creative nonfiction, the book will attend to the musical choices made and joys experienced by Black women and men on the brink in order to reveal conditions of power and their refusal.
  • Primary Duties: Internet searches (newspapers, social media, blogs, protest organizations) for obituaries, commentary, opinion pieces, family announcements, hashtags, dirges; listening to/for music referencing the deceased; preliminary archival searches and requests for car and stereo manuals, police reports, trial transcripts; collecting and organizing music industry information from music charts, radio play, etc; secondary source curation and annotated bibliographies.
  • Requirements: Interest in Black/Ethnic Studies and music; previous research experience; knowledge of contemporary social movements and the ability to read music a plus.
  • Time commitment: 35 hours minimum / week, 6 weeks

Searching for Counterparts of Gravitational Wave Sources

  • Department: Astronomy
  • Status: Accepting Applications
  • Description: We will be looking for a characteristic X-ray "echo" produced by X-rays emitted at the time of the merger of two black holes (giving rise to a burst of gravitational waves) scattering off the dust in our own Galactic interstellar medium. Such an echo will pinpoint the precise position of the source, an issue of fundamental importance in astrophysics and cosmology; the gravitational wave data alone cannot tell us. There are now over fifty black hole-black hole gravitational wave events to examine.
  • Primary Duties: All X-ray and gravitational wave data we require are in the public domain, easily accessible to anyone with a laptop. We will identify and assemble the data to be searcged, Simple software to visualize and manipulate data is available for download. We may need some simple customized calculations on the images we inspect, so a bit of (very) basic programming experience is necessary (having written simple code in, for instance, Python or something similar). We will publish the results of the search collectively, with the group of undergrads who have worked and are working on this problem.
  • Requirements: Simple programming skills in Python or comparable language
  • Time commitment: 35 hours minimum / week, 6 weeks

Partisan Polarization and "Culture War" Issues

  • Department: Political Science
  • Status: Accepting Applications
  • Description: Over the last generation partisan polarization on “culture war” issues has become a defining feature of American politics, with the Democratic Party embracing social liberalism and the Republican Party embracing social conservatism. This was not always the case; for much of the 20th century, social issues such as abortion rights and LGBT rights played virtually no role in politics. Today, of course, they are central to partisan conflict. This transformation, despite its importance, is not well understood. In fact, there is little consensus among political scientists as to its timing, sequence, or causes. Using a variety of data sources, particularly a newly compiled set of historic state-party platforms, we aim to answer a number of crucial questions: Where and when did the partisan divide begin on abortion and gay and lesbian rights? Which party ``moved first"? Was there a critical moment, or was position change incremental? Do abortion and gay rights follow the same pattern? While it is possible that the rise of social issues took place entirely on the national stage, then later spread to state and local politics, we set out to explore the possibility that these debates took place first at the state level.
  • Primary Duties: A student researcher would assist with data collection and analysis. The data we will be collecting this summer include state legislative roll call votes on relevant bills, local media cover of abortion and LGBT rights, and debates within the political parties about position taking on these issues. We will focus on four case study states---California, Texas, Minnesota, and Massachusetts---during the 1970s and late 1960s.
  • Requirements: No specialized skills are necessary.
  • Time commitment: 35 hours minimum / week, 6 weeks.

Ambedkar Initiative

  • Department: History, Human Rights
  • Status: Accepting Applications
  • Description: B. R. Ambedkar is arguably one of Columbia University’s most illustrious alumni, and a democratic thinker and constitutional lawyer who had enormous impact in shaping India, the world’s largest democracy. As is well known, Ambedkar came to Columbia University in July 1913 to start a doctoral program in Political Science. He graduated in 1915 with a Masters degree, and got his doctorate from Columbia in 1927 after having studied with some of the great figures of interwar American thought including John Dewey. Columbia University awarded Ambedkar with an honorary LL.D. in 1952. This project links Columbia with the anti-caste legacy of Ambedkar, and seeks to explore genealogies of radical democracy outside the North Atlantic. Learn more about the Ambedkar Initiative.
  • Primary Duties: Research will focus on collections in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library and Burke Library that contain uncatalogued correspondence relating to B.R. Ambedkar's time as a student at Columbia.
  • Requirements: The project is ideal for anyone with an interest in digital humanities, archival practice, American intellectual history, South Asian culture/history/politics. Student will be expected to engage with texts, join weekly or bi-weekly meetings, and take on other responsibilities as requested.
  • Time commitment: 35 hours minimum / week, 6 weeks.

Anti-mafia investigative journalists in Sicily

  • Department: Anthropology
  • Status: Accepting Applications
  • Description: This project involves indexing and digitalizing the entire legal case from a murder of an investigative journalist in 1988. The trial took place in 2011-2014. The entire case and relevant others have been scanned.
  • Primary Duties: The student researcher will collect jpeg images in pdf files and index them in Zotero, connecting them to other multimedia files collected over the years. In addition to examining and indexing files, the undergraduate researcher will conduct research into online newspapers and media sites that have discussed the life, and death, of this investigative journalist, and the questions that were raised at the trial.
  • Requirements: Intermediate Italian reading and writing skills; some familiarity with spreadsheets, image-pdf conversion, and the online bibliographic platform Zotero
  • Time commitment: 30 hours minimum / week, 6 weeks.