Experiential Learning


Today’s top employers are looking for ambitious graduates who have professional work experience in addition to a quality academic background. At the College of Science, you have access to both. Cooperative education has been an essential part of RIT for more than 100 years and is the centerpiece of RIT’s commitment to experiential learning.

Cooperative Education and Internships

person in a lab holding a bottle of biofuel

Cooperative education (co-op) provides an opportunity to put classroom lectures, textbook theories, laboratory research, and your personal initiative to the ultimate test—performance in the workplace. RIT’s cooperative education program provides students with a competitive advantage over science graduates from other colleges and universities. In some programs, co-op can begin as early as the summer after freshman year, but it typically takes place during third and fourth years. Students can alternate semesters of academic study with co-op work periods—full-time, paid work experiences in positions related to their major.

Faculty-Led Research

faculty member watching a student work on their project

Students engage in research with faculty in many areas of science including life sciences, chemistry, physics, math and statistics, and imaging and color science or in a teaching/learning assistantship with faculty supervisors for credit or compensation. Examples of active research areas in the College of Science include microbiology, virology, aquatic ecology, genomics, bioinformatics, plant biology, nutritional physiology, organic chemistry, biochemistry, inorganic chemistry, material science, photonics, astronomy, remote sensing, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), color perception, and cognition.

Emerson Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF)

student working with a professor in a lab

The Emerson Endowed Fellowship Program for Undergraduate Research in the College of Science allowed RIT to double the number of undergraduate students conducting full-time scientific research during the summer. These Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) award selected students a stipend to work on a targeted research project during the summer at RIT. These students present their research and innovative ideas at the annual Undergraduate Research Symposium, a free, public event showcasing the research undertaken by undergraduate students across the RIT campus every August. All RIT undergraduate students are eligible and encouraged to participate.

Research Experience for Undergraduates (REUs)

student presenting their research results at a symposium

The National Science Foundation funds a large number of summer research opportunities for undergraduate students through its REU Sites program. Undergraduates apply to universities around the country to work in the research programs of the host institution. Students are associated with a specific research project, where they work closely with the host institution’s faculty and other researchers. REUs give students an opportunity to participate in research at other institutions on exciting projects that may differ from RIT’s research initiatives. 

The College of Science offers the following National Science Foundation Experiences for Undergraduates:

Black Awareness Coordinating Committee (BACC) Summer Research Fund (SURF)

female chemistry student holding a beaker

Fostering participation in undergraduate research and experiential learning is a priority of the RIT College of Science (COS). The Black Awareness Coordinating Committee (BACC) COS Summer Research Fund is designed to increase the number of students with a preference toward African-Americans in research who are in their sophomore, junior, senior or graduate year at RIT to work with a COS faculty member.

Senior Capstone Projects

student going over capstone work with a professor

The Senior Capstone Project pairs each student with a faculty member toward the end of their junior year to develop an individualized research project to be completed during their senior year. The project can be experimental, computational, and/or theoretical. Students present their progress via publication-formatted written reports and conference-style talks presented to faculty and fellow students. Every year, select capstone and other student research projects are presented at professional meetings or lead to publications in refereed physics journals. The capstone component of the physics program gives our students a competitive edge when seeking admission into preferred graduate programs or entry into the job market.

Study Abroad Programs

multiple students and their professor with fishing nets in a body of water

There’s no better way to gain knowledge of another culture than to experience it firsthand. The College of Science offers programs in urban ecology, aquatic ecology, and evolution and ecology. Our faculty-led study abroad programs provide our students with an opportunity to conduct research and encounter different cultures in Sweden, Russia, and the Galápagos Islands.

Fast Forward Summer Research Program

student and professor wearing safety goggles while working in a lab

The Fast Forward program provides a small group of incoming freshman students with exposure to scientific theory, application skills, and a jump start on their College of Science experience. Student's work will contribute to a faculty mentors research program through a 4-week laboratory experience and the presentation of their work in the Undergraduate Research Symposium.