Finding Faculty That Interest You!

Now that you have some ideas, it’s time to find people studying what you want to explore. Build your academic network – whether you end up working with them or not, the more people you talk to, the stronger your research project will be.

Effectively Using Resources to Identify Faculty
Start With Who You Know
A great way to continue to develop your research interests and find research opportunities can be to start with people you already know! Consider the following:

  • Professors you have taken classes with/ are currently enrolled in their class (stop by their office hours!);
  • Faculty Fellows of Residential College;
  • Peers and Classmates;
  • Friends already involved in research;
  • Teaching assistants;
  • Events/Calendar page for your department (look for seminars and events where people share scholarly work).

Talk to these people and pick their brains! Share your interests and your story about why you’re interested in those things. Ask them who you should be talking to and what you should be reading given your interests– chances are, if they’re in a similar field they’ll be able to refer you to applicable readings and people. These conversations can be helpful because they can give you meaningful recommendations based on the things that you discussed instead of having to blindly search through Google Scholar or another database. Even if they aren’t an exact match to what you’re interested in, they still might be able to give you direction!

Wheel Metaphor.jpgPay attention to how you’re telling your story too– notice how it changes depending on who you’re telling, what you add or redact, etc. This introspection can also help you develop your interests and give you a clearer picture of what you’re curious about.

Think about this process like building a wheel where you are at the center and faculty members/other people are the spokes. The more people you start to interact with and talk to, the more stable you and your research will be! The goal of meeting with and finding faculty is to build an “academic network.” Even if you don’t end up directly working with a faculty member, you never know how they can be helpful in the future! Whether it be changing labs or getting expert advice on an area of your project that needs developing (or even if you want to take a class they’re offering the next quarter!), it can be easier to reach out to someone if you’ve already started developing a relationship with them!

Searching Departmental Websites
Department websites can be a really good resource for finding people that do work you’re interested in.

  • To get there, you can either google “Northwestern” and the department name or click here to explore different areas and the research involved in each. 
  • Focus on the “People” or “Faculty” section to identify individuals whose research seems exciting to you.

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  • If you need help narrowing down faculty, check and see if you can sort by subfield. For example, in Biology you can sort faculty by “Molecular Sciences” and “Plant Biology and Conservation,” and in Anthropology you can sort by “Archaeology,” “Biological Anthropology,” “Cultural Anthropology,” and “Linguistics”.

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  • To look for people, open different tabs for faculty members you find interesting and take a look at their research interests, biography, and selected publications. If you’re not interested, don’t worry and focus on the ones that you do like!

In your search for interesting people, you’ll come across a variety of different academic rankings. Here’s a quick guide to what they are and what they do!

  • Graduate Student: masters or doctoral student
  • Postdoctoral Scholar: has PhD, usually research is their main focus
  • Research Professor: beyond postdoc, usually research is primary job
  • Adjunct Professor: Short-term contract primarily for teaching
  • Instructor: hired to teach, may or may not conduct research
  • Assistant Professor: tenure track, research AND teaching
  • Associate Professor: received tenure, research AND teaching
  • Professor: tenured, progressed through all faculty ranks
  • Professor Emeritus: retired with distinction, involvement varies

Once you have a list of faculty you’re interested in, keep digging to learn more about them! 

  • Google their names to see if they have a personal page or lab website.
  • Learn about their role at the institution!
    • How long have they been there? What is their job title? 
    • What department(s) are they affiliated with? Do they hold any additional jobs that might impact their ability to serve as a research mentor?  
    • What courses (if any) do they teach? Is there a class you can take?
  • Learn more about their research and ongoing projects:
    • What topics do they work on? What publications or creative work were recently completed relating to the topic that interests you most?
    • What methodologies did they use to complete this work? Do you know what this methodology is? Can you take a course on it?

In your search, dig deeper than the information on their faculty profile on the department page! You’re gearing up to make a first impression, and knowing a lot about them and their interests can show your motivation!

If you’re interested in working with Feinberg faculty, sometimes it can be difficult to discern which faculty members have active research (often, in addition to their other roles, such as clinicians). One strategy is to pretend you are a prospective graduate student, since PhD programs are functionally research degrees.

Similarly, you can work with faculty in other Northwestern schools such as Kellogg.

This approach also doesn’t have to be limited to Northwestern! If you’re interested in doing work at another institution, perhaps near your home, just substitute “Northwestern” with the other institution’s name AND “department name.”

Northwestern Scholars Database

Northwestern Scholars is a faculty research database that can be found here. When you’ve found people you’re interested in, this tool can be a great resource to check them out even further. Note: this database will not be as helpful for faculty pursuing creative endeavors, such as artists or journalists as it pulls mainly from scientific databases.

  • Northwestern Scholars can be a great resource when you have faculty in mind and you’re interested in learning more about them!
  • When you get to the database, you can plug their names into the search bar shown here!

  • Once you hit enter, you’ll be taken to a screen where their profile will live– click on the person you’re interested in to be sent to their page.

  • Once you’re at their page, there’s a few things that you should check out to learn more about their work– “Network,” “Research Output,” and “Similar Profiles.”

  • “Network” can show you who a person is collaborating with, regardless of whether they’re at NU or not. This can potentially be helpful if you’re interested in doing research at a location outside Evanston/Chicago.

  • “Similar Profiles” can help broaden your list of people by providing you with faculty that are doing similar work to the person you’ve already found.

  • “Research Output” can be used to give you a hyperlinked list of all their publications. This can be helpful for the next step, reading their work. Note: You’ll have to be connected to the Northwestern VPN in order to access these materials.
Global Research and Opportunities Database
The Global and Research Opportunities (GRO) database is a collection of different opportunities like being a research assistant, lab experiences, volunteering, internships, study abroad, and more!

There are three primary ways to search through the site: the directed search, search bar, and the opportunities index.


No matter which way you choose to conduct your search, you’ll be able to go through the different opportunities using the following filters:

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These filters can help you find the experiences that are most suited to your interests and timelines. Each opportunity has it’s own listing, so all you have to do is sort through the listings that you’re interested in. Keep in mind that postings here are not all current, however, since it’s an opt-in platform, they’re all faculty members that are open to working with undergraduates. GRO can be a great place to start, but it’s not a comprehensive list!

I Have a List of People...Now What?
Once you’ve identified people that you’re interested in learning more about, you might be wondering “…so what next?”

It’s important that you have a moment of self-reflection before moving forward and figure out what it is that you want! What is your goal of going through this process? Is it to join a lab or a research group? Is it to consult experts and you develop your own project idea? Keep your goals in mind as you proceed through the research journey.