Undergraduate Research Opportunities (UROPs)

You learn by doing, and Undergraduate Research Opportunities are how you do research at CMS/W as an undergrad.

MIT’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities (UROPs) are meant to connect students with faculty research. Arranging one for yourself with CMS/W can take a couple different paths. The most common is to have a great idea, related to CMS/W research or faculty interests, and approach a faculty member directly about his or her becoming your UROP sponsor. The other is to check out the list of available UROPs proposed by faculty—think of them as job openings—and apply.

A UROP can be for pay, for credit, or as a volunteer. Whichever it is, your work and CMS/W’s obligations to you use the same standard: the research done “must be worthy of academic credit”.

UROP proposals are welcome all year long, though there are deadlines.

Current UROP Openings

Project Title: Web/UI Designer

Project Description: Writing, Rhetoric, and Professional Communication (WRAP) recently received funding from the Davis Family Foundation to develop a series of “reasoning diagrams,” which reveal the underlying logical relationship between central concepts in a discipline. We have already created such a reasoning diagram for Materials Science and Engineering, are close to finishing one for Comparative Media Studies, and are currently working on ones for Computer Systems, for Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and for Chemical Engineering. These reasoning diagrams are used as a teaching tool to help students learn the patterns of thought and explanation in a field, and thus we are also developing instructional materials to accompany them, both in the classroom and online.

Responsibility: You will work with the directors of WRAP, as well as a graduate research assistant, to design elements of the online instructional materials, including some interactive tools for working with the reasoning diagrams. Different tools, for instance, might incorporate gaming elements, or might allow students to zoom in on particular reasoning patterns and see many examples or adapt the diagram to their own research project. While we are looking for someone with fundamental coding skills, we are also looking for strong graphic design, storyboarding, and/or animation experience.

Commitment: Between 20-35 hours per week. We are currently looking for someone for the summer, but interest in continuing with the project beyond this summer is desirable.


  • Experience with python, java, HTML, and CSS.
  • Ability to work in a multidisciplinary team
  • Ability to meet deadlines and work independently

Familiarity with key design concepts and processes:

  • Design Research
  • Branding and Graphic Development
  • User Guides/Storyline
  • UI Prototyping
  • Interactivity and Animation
  • Adaptation to All Device Screen Sizes

Contact: Becky Shepardson: bshep@mit.edu

Project Title: VR Games to teach Scale in Biology

Project Description: Virtual reality (VR) technologies offer a paradigm shift in the ways humans interact with each other and the world around them. With the advent of low-cost user-friendly tools, VR also has the potential to profoundly change not only how students learn but also the essence of “learning environments” themselves. The capability and feasibility of VR as an educational tool has grown yet there are few resources for information on we know very little about how to design, implement, and measure engaging and effective VR-enabled learning tools for K-12 settings.

To tackle this, the MIT Game Lab and MIT Education Arcade will develop and pilot test a proof-of-concept VR activity for a high school audience that leverages the affordances of VR (helmet and hand controllers) to enable meaningful immersion and presence within the VR world. The learning goals for this project are to help students understand concepts of scale, particularly as it applies to biology.

We will be creating a collaborative team-based game in which at least one student will be in VR manipulating 3D structures (molecules, proteins, DNA) while the ‘mission control’ students direct the student in VR space using other computing hardware or resources. We are looking for 4-5 UROPs to develop the prototypes and the in-game assets this summer, for testing in high school labs in the Fall. UROPs hired can continue to work on the project during the 2017-2018 school year as well (this is an 18-month project).

UROP Team Responsibilities:

  • Working alongside and reporting to Game Lab/Education Arcade staff developers
  • Development of both VR and mission control games, likely in Unity, for the Oculus Rift and Oculus Touch controllers
  • Designing and modeling 3D assets for use in-game, of molecules, proteins, DNA, and cells
  • Testing prototypes with students and teachers

Prerequisites: Experience we’re hoping for in our UROP team (you can learn this over the summer if you don’t have this already and no one is expected to have all of this):

  • Unity and/or C#
  • developing for VR headsets and/or Oculus Touch
  • 3D modeling and animation

Relevant URLs: http://education.mit.eduhttp://gamelab.mit.edu

Contact: Philip Tan: philip@mit.edu

What Do Past UROPs Have to Say About Their Experience with CMS/W?

Christine Yu: past UROP, major in Writing - Digital Media Studies, minor in Biology, and MIT class of 2012

Christine Yu: past UROP, major in Writing – Digital Media Studies, minor in Biology, and MIT class of 2012

My work with the Imagination, Computation, and Expression Lab on Project Mimesis and AIR (Advanced Identity Representation) enhanced my experience as an undergraduate at MIT by allowing me to work directly with graduate students in the CMS department. I had previously UROP’ed for the Biology department, and so transferring over to CMS was quite the change; I found the CMS UROP experience to be more teamwork-based. I also enjoyed the change in scenery of the labs, and it has fostered my interest in the human experience in avatar generation and gaming.I would highly recommend UROP’ing for any undergraduate in fields of interest because it helps an individual to think about post-graduate plans, and it allows them to meet the future professionals of that field. While my post-graduate plans are currently medical school-based, I’ve been asked during interviews about my experience in the ICE Lab, and it’s always very fun to be able to talk about a broad range of my interests. I feel like my experience in the ICE Lab enhances my applications because it allows me to present myself as very personable, instead of just sitting behind a lab bench pipetting all day.