Is it possible to do research at the university without acceptance to the university? What I mean that if I have free time and desire to help with projects, can I join some reseach group.

The question is not a legal stuff (I suppose that's legal :) ), but what are the chances that some university lab accept me?

I do not want to search for work position as little afraid about strict timelines. At the end I hope to get few articles that will help me to get to grad school and nice spent time.

Desired field is robotics.

Thanks for ideas and opinions.

  • 3
    Also see: Nonpaid, volunteering position in a lab
    – ff524
    Jun 18 '14 at 17:09
  • Are you a student in another university? Or not enrolled as a student at all? This is much easier to arrange if you're a student.
    – ff524
    Jun 18 '14 at 17:25
  • No. I will be doing internship.
    – Tigran
    Jun 18 '14 at 17:36
  • 1
    At least in the US, unpaid internships are generally for students because it's illegal to let someone work for you for free unless it's part of their education.
    – ff524
    Jun 18 '14 at 17:37
  • 6
    @Nate IANAL but my university lawyers tell me I am not allowed to have research assistants work for me that are not (1) students of some kind or in a formal educational program and/or (2) paid
    – ff524
    Jun 18 '14 at 18:26

I believe that this is usually up to the faculty member that is running the research project. A couple of my friends in grad school contributed to our research group prior to their actual grad-school application, so that the faculty would know them better when the application came around.

(My area of research is compilers, different specialty, but still in the Computer Science/Computer Engineering department.)

When/if you do contact faculty members, try to have some concrete ideas and thoughts (and mention that you are looking for experience only for future grad-school applications, not a paid position.) Professors get bombarded with emails about grad students wanting TA/grader/RA positions every day, so you won't get a second thought if you send something generic. If you're very new to robotics, then instead of a concrete research topic, you could say something concrete about your experience and send your resume.

Contributing to a project, especially if it leads to a paper (but even if it doesn't) will definitely improve your grad-school application. It's a good strategy!

  • You're welcome! Most faculty have little projects sitting around that they could have you work on, so hopefully you'll get a bite from someone!
    – Kelly
    Jun 18 '14 at 17:37

It's not necessarily a problem that you're not enrolled in the university - it's possible for researchers to hire non-students in many cases.

However, it would be difficult to get someone to take you on when you don't want to make any commitment (e.g. get an official job). From their point of view: why should they invest time and effort training you and working with you, when you have no formal connection to them and can disappear at any time?

It may also be legally problematic (depending on the country) for them to allow you to work for free, when it's not part of an educational program for your benefit (like a formal internship program for students, or thesis research).

  • 2
    Additionally, without being affiliated with the university, you will not have many of the library or other computer privileges that are necessary for conducting research.
    – Brian P
    Jun 18 '14 at 17:12
  • 2
    @Brian library and computer privileges can often be extended temporarily to "guests" in many universities (I've been in that situation a few times), so I don't think that would be as much of an issue.
    – ff524
    Jun 18 '14 at 17:14

One way to effect this is to enroll as a "special student" taking one or two courses.

That way, you have not been "accepted" by the university for a degree. But it may allow you to "qualify" for an internship by being a student. Also, if you attend classes for even one or two courses, it makes it easier to make connections.

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