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Research Credit: Public Health Science

Earn academic credit for research independent study work

Scientific discovery and research are at the core of public health. Data analysis, analytical problem solving, and intellectual curiosity are skills that are highly valued in all career paths in public health and medicine. Therefore undergraduate research is valuable for all PHSC students, regardless of if you aim to be a researcher in the future. If you envision pursuing a graduate degree of any type, then having research experience will be to your benefit. As a UMD student at a  top-tier research institution, you have the advantage of being surrounded by leading researchers, granting you access to over 200 research centers on or near campus.

Dr. Pines in a lab setting with three other people.


SPH is home to multiple departments, housing many diverse and interdisciplinary research centers and laboratory programs, all committed to investigating, impacting, and advancing public health in our state, our country, and our global community. SPH faculty are regularly seeking undergraduate PHSC students to assist with their research projects.

Students researching ticks outdoors


The School of Public Health serves as our home base on campus, but the university has cutting edge research occuring in all departments across campus. You are not restricted to participate only on research projects housed in SPH. Students are encouraged to reflect on what most interests them and explore interdisciplinary studies and teams across all programs.

Student in Lab


The Washington DC metropolitan area is home to some of the top research both nationally and internationally. PHSC students have the chance to capitalize on this geographical advantage by joining research teams at federal and state agencies, scientific think tanks, and private research centers in the area.

Research Independent Study Approval Process    

If you are serious about gaining academic credit for research, get started by reviewing search strategies and the enrollment process.
  • Start at Step 1, if you need guidance on how to find a research opportunity. 
  • Skip to Step 2, if you already have a research opportunity secured. 

What types of research can be approved for academic credit?

There are lots of acceptable public health research experiences that may be eligible for academic credit (PHSC 389) towards your PHSC degree. Criteria that must be met for an experience to be approved is listed below. Before starting the request process to enroll in PHSC389, you must have a research opportunity and faculty mentor identified.

Where can I complete research independent study work?

The PHSC program awards academic credit for research conducted both on and off campus. Research is being conducted all around us. Consider opportunities near and far to find one that sparks your interest! Start here to explore some of the avenues to find a research study that interests you.

Explore Different Types of Research Opportunities

  • Research in SPH: There are research teams seeking undergraduate support in all interdisciplinary departments in the School. 
  • Research on Campus: Review research opportunities that are available across campus at the University. Students are not limited to joining the labs in SPH. 
  • Research in Washington D.C.: Take advantage of the federal government agencies and think-tanks conducting research nearby in the greater D.C. area. Organizations like the CDC and NIH have specialized research programs for undergrads. 
  • Research in the U.S.: Consider research happening in different cities as a way to spend a summer elsewhere. 
  • Research Opportunities Globally: Explore research assistant positions available outside of the U.S. as a creative way to travel internationally.

Once you have obtained a verbal confirmation from a faculty supervisor, the next step is to get it in writing. This allows you to have clear expectations of your lab duties. To initiate the approval process  and enroll in PHSC 389, submit the online Request Form to be reviewed by PHSC administrators. 

This online request form should be completed by you with input from the faculty supervisor.  It ensures that all parties have clear expectations and an understanding of the responsibilities, thus setting you up for a meaningful learning experience! When completing this form, please include as much information as possible. When reviewing your proposed independent student details, we will consider a variety of eligibility factors to ensure that the research lab and the nature of the work are directly related to the core competencies of your PHSC degree.

The Form requires information related to these 3 areas:

  • Part 1: Student Information 
  • Part 2: Research Lab & Supervisor Information
  • Part 3: Description & Learning Objectives
Get started today: Submit the PHSC389 Request Form!

Enrollment in PHSC389 is by permission only. After submitting the online Request Form, the PHSC administrators will review it and verify administrative details with your proposed faculty supervisor. Next, you will receive an email within a week of form submission informing you of next steps. If approved, you will be granted a registration stamp allowing you to register for the 389 course. There may be instances in which more details are required in order for an experience to be approved. 

Note: PHSC389 is offered at 1-6 credits per semester, and the course is repeatable for up to 6 credits. PHSC389 and other approved independent study courses at UMD may be used for PHSC options credit.


The PHSC 389 course is offered 3 times annually - fall, spring, and summer semesters. The application window opens the semester prior for the upcoming session.

Please submit the completed Request Form by the deadline: 

  • Deadline for Fall: August 15
  • Deadline for Spring: January 15
  • Deadline for Summer: May 15

Note: PHSC 389 is not offered during the winter term.

PHSC389 Course Expectations

To receive academic credit for a research experience at UMD, you must be simultaneously enrolled in an approved independent study course. PHSC389 internship credit cannot be granted on a retroactive basis for prior experiences.

The primary objective of PHSC389 is to successfully complete your agreed upon duties and the hours required of the research study. In addition to that, students enrolled in PHSC389 will be assessed through course assignments and engagement in the course throughout the semester. This course is conducted virtually and asynchronously. 

During the independent study, you will be expected to: 

  • Track your hours and research activities to meet or exceed the minimum requirements 
  • Submit a final reflection paper of your research findings and lessons learned
  • Receive feedback and evaluation from your faculty supervisor
  • Actively engage in the virtual classroom

Student Spotlight! 

Karishma Patel, PHSC Class of 2025
Research Assistant - Cardiac & Neurosurgical Research Laboratory, Children’s National Hospital
Skills Learned: Laboratory management and technical skills such as creating microscope slides, cell counting and tabulating, master specific lab techniques to preserve sliced cell tissue, such as snap freezing, use biomed eng. machinery to mix solutions. Advice: "Make the most out of your research experience! Ask your mentor or supervisor what else they need help with…Always leave a good impression and make connections. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. You’re there to learn and gain insights.”
Karishma Patel - Student Spotlight

Additional Information 

Credit Hour Requirement 

Undergraduate research assistants are expected to work in accordance with the number of credit hours they are enrolled. For research independent study, 45 hours = 1 credit. You are expected to work in accordance with the number of credit hours you enrolled in. This makes up a significant portion of the grade you earn so be thoughtful about how many hours you can take on. If minimum hours are not met, this will directly affect your final grade. 

  • 1 credit = 45 total work hours
  • 2 credits = 90 total work hours
  • 3 credits = 135 total work hours
  • 4 credits = 180 total work hours
  • 5 credits = 225 total work hours
  • 6 credits = 270 or more total work hours

Eligibility for PHSC Independent Study Research Credit

Getting research experience is always a good idea. Also earning academic credit towards your degree is an even better idea! In order to make that happen, you must be sure that the eligibility criteria are verified prior to your start on the research team. Your faculty supervisor will be contacted by the PHSC administration as a part of the verification and approval process.

Student eligibility requirements

  • Maintain a minimum cumulative UMD GPA of 2.0 
  • Have completed at least one semester of coursework at UMD
  • Complete the approval process prior to the start of the semester in which you wish to enroll by the posted deadline

Lab & Faculty supervisor eligibility requirements

  • Your lab work must be conducted under a UMD faculty member or research professional 
  • You must have consistent access to your supervisor through regularly scheduled check-in meetings, as a way to receive feedback and track progress
  • Your scope of work must be clearly related to the field of public health, science, and your career goals
  • Articulate the connection of the research study and your projects to one or more of the Public Health Science program competencies

Tuition and Fees

Standard tuition rates apply to this course. You will receive a letter grade and academic credit the same as any other UMD course. Information on tuition rates fall and spring semesters are found here

Summer tuition rates can vary; found here.

PHSC students may apply a maximum of 6 credits of experiential learning (internship or research independent study) towards the required 12 credits of PHSC options, regardless of course prefix. For research credit, most PHSC students choose to enroll in PHSC389. However, in some cases, research experiences being conducted under other course prefixes can fulfill the PHSC options requirement.

Policy considerations: 

  • PHSC Research Independent Study credit cannot be granted on a retroactive basis. 
  • PHSC Options credit will not be granted for enrollment in lower level research courses (100 or 200 level). 
  • A maximum of 6 credits of experiential learning can count towards the 12 credit PHSC Options degree requirement. Additional credits will apply towards your general electives.

To request an alternative course be used to satisfy your PHSC Options requirement, fill out the PHSC Options Request Form

Supervisor Information 

As part of the approval process, the PHSC Experiential Learning Manager will be in contact with all faculty supervisors of students enrolling in PHSC389.

Looking for Undergrad Researchers? 

Are you looking for undergrad research assistants and/or to engage with the PHSC program in creative ways? If so, contact Shannon Edward, PHSC Experiential Learning Manager.

For more detailed information, please take a look at our Supervisor Guide: Coming Soon!