Student Research at USC

Whether an upperclassmen or a wide-eyed first-year new to the university, every USC undergraduate student has many opportunities to involve themselves in scholarly research.

Often, research is built into a student’s curriculum – for example, as part of a course I completed during my undergraduate education at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, I researched how social issues of different time periods can impact popular cinematic themes. Going beyond their in-class research, though, many students choose to engage in formal research organizations, institutes, or laboratories.

Becky Yim, a junior studying Philosophy at USC, is currently doing research at the Norris Cancer Center at the USC Keck School of Medicine. Her team’s clinical research aims to improve the quality of life for cancer patients. “I have really enjoyed researching in this particular lab because it has allowed me to gain a greater understanding of the technical aspects regarding the physical lab work, as well as the clinical aspect of working with patients,” she said.

Senior Grayson Abele, a Biophysics major on a Pre-health track, was a part of microbiology research at USC. “When I was involved, the project was in its early stages, so I worked with hundreds of types of bacteria to see which ones would even work with our study,” he continued, “I liked it because microbiology is the bread and butter of Biophysics and it was fascinating to have a chance to actually apply what I was learning in the classroom!”

The following are a few more examples of undergraduate research programs and resources across different academic departments at USC!

The Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences

  • Student Opportunities for Academic Research (SOAR): SOAR supports undergraduate students who wish to work as research assistants on faculty projects or to pursue their own original research during the academic year.
  • Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF): These undergraduate fellowships support full-time research in any area of study, on campus, across the country, or around the world, under the direction of USC faculty.
  • Problems without Passports: Students have the opportunity to participate in a number of Problems without Passports courses that combine problem-based or inquiry learning research exercises with study in a foreign country.

The Viterbi School of Engineering

  • Rocket Propulsion Lab (RPL): Student research organization focused on pushing the state-of-the-art in rocket propulsion technology. The students associated with this group spend their free time designing, building, and testing experimental rocketry and propulsion hardware both in the lab and at their Mojave test and launch site.
  • Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE): If awarded, the student commits to participating in WiSE programming efforts throughout the academic year and receives a substantial grant to conduct research based on the submitted project proposal.

The USC School of Cinematic Arts

  • Game Innovation Lab: The premier center for experimental game design research at USC. The mission of the lab is to pursue experimental design of games in cultural realms including art, science, politics and learning.
  • Media Institute for Social Change: This SCA research initiative centers on Entertainment-Education, a social change strategy incorporating educational messages into popular entertainment content to raise awareness, increase knowledge, and motivate people to take responsible action.

The Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

  • Annenberg Inclusion Initiative: A leading think tank dedicated to addressing issues of inequality in entertainment in order to define areas within the industry where diversity is needed.
  • Center for the Digital Future: A research and policy institute committed to doing work that has a real and beneficial effect on people’s lives, while seeking to maximize the positive potential of the mass media and our rapidly evolving communication technologies.

If you’re interested in pursuing hands-on research during college, visit the following links for even more information!

Research & Discovery

School Research Websites

USC Research Centers


Admission counselor Jennifer Cox contributed to this story.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *