I presently work in a facilities-type role at a small Liberal Arts college.

One of the benefits of working at the college is the ability to take two classes per academic-year (not including summer or winter terms).

I have a BS in Economics from a larger university as well as a pretty broad quantitative background and I'm interested in taking classes in mathematics, statistics, and computer science (they have an MSCS program here).

What I'm wondering is this:

How likely would it be for me to become involved in research projects?

Would it be odd for a staff member taking a few classes to ask about doing research with a faculty member?

I'm hoping to pad my resume a bit for acceptance into a PhD or MS in Applied Math program down the line; but, I'm wondering if it's worth getting my hopes up about doing research even though I'm just a staff member taking classes.

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    This is happening currently in my university. It is a small tech school in midwest united states. We have a staff member in the mechanical engineering department who is pursuing a PhD in humanities with "advisers" in both humanities and mechanical engineering since she is working on an area of "technical communications". I have spoken with her and she does say that getting a PhD would definitely do more than just "pad" her resume/profile! I think in your case, given a similar situation, it would be a good idea to get some research/collaboration to boost your profile!
    – dearN
    Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 17:38
  • Well, after I the PhD hopefully a resume wouldn't matter so much (I'd much rather have a stellar CV with loads of research projects/papers); however, getting into a funded program is going to mean having something a little unique given that I'm a pretty unconventional student (I'm 30 y/o with a background in Army Human Intelligence--so, even though I'm older, I don't really have "work experience" in a quantitative setting, so to speak (though I did do data munging at a large market research firm post-undergrad, it was only for a year). Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 22:39

1 Answer 1


Well, your request would certainly be unusual for most faculty members, but that also doesn't mean it wouldn't be accepted!

The main challenge would be if you were looking to be paid for the work. Under such circumstances, it might be much more challenging to get involved with projects, because the funding mechanisms (such as NSF REU grants, which fund many undergraduate research projects) would not be available to fund you (since you're not an undergraduate student!).

However, if you're just looking to do it for the research experience, I think the biggest obstacle would be convincing a potential advisor that you're serious. I would recommend then that you make an in-person appointment, rather than trying to set something like this up via email.

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    Good answer. It will probably be easier to convince them you are serious once you have taken a couple of classes and done well. The fact that you have a degree in a somewhat related field should help too. Best of luck! Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 17:00
  • Great answer! Exactly what I was looking for. And, yes, I am just looking for the research experience and not any financial compensation. I'm looking to take a class in the fall; so, I will make sure that I research the class/professor to make sure it fits my background and research goals. Thanks for the answer! Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 22:36

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