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Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate students are encouraged to seek out research opportunitites within the Department through coursework, as well as on campus through the Academic Enrichment Programs, and Research Experience and Applied Learning (REAL) Portal.

These opportunities supplement and enhance coursework, provide a chance to participate in ongoing research in the Department, and foster collaboration with faculty (helpful for obtaining letters of recommendation).

Departmental coursework related to research include ECON 191A-B: Senior Essay Seminar and ECON 199: Special Studies.

ECON 191A-B: Senior Essay Seminar

The Senior Essay Seminar (Econ 191A-191B) is two quarters long with students taking 191A in the Spring then 191B in the Fall. The Seminar is for those of you with superior records who would like to learn how to do research and then write an original research paper. If you would like to build on your training through the pursuit of a research topic in an economics subfield of your choice, you should consider this Seminar. Completion of the two courses is part of the requirement for majors wishing to graduate with the phrase “with highest distinction” on their diplomas.

The typical completed paper runs 5,000-7,500 words and can serve as a writing sample for graduate school and job applications and may even be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Completing a research project and interacting closely with faculty and motivated peers is likely to be the most engaging, stimulating, and memorable part of your undergraduate training.

Class meetings focus on research methods, introduction to library resources, and student presentations of work in progress. Attendance is required. The meetings help to provide structure and feedback, but the bulk of the research process will be carried out independently. The research process includes a sequence of steps including:

  • Topic selection
  • Consultation with specialist librarians to identify data and literature
  • Literature review and data acquisition
  • Devising specific analysis plan in consultation with expert faculty
  • Managing data and conducting analyses
  • Building from a detailed proposal and rough draft to a polished paper

For reference, you can review some of the most successful papers written by students in recent cohorts and an example of a successful application at

Application Qualifications for Spring and Fall 2024

Enrollment is limited to majors within the Department of Economics who have completed the first two courses of the microeconomics and econometrics core course sequences (100AB and 120AB), have typically earned a 3.5 or above GPA in their upper-division economics courses, and show promise for conducting original research. 

Enrollment is restricted to assure participants close contact with the faculty supervisor. Professor Julie Cullen will be teaching for 2024. Students are further selected based on demonstrated potential for research through submission of an application and proposal.

ECON 191A-B Application Directions & Information Session 

Qualified students interested in taking the Senior Essay Seminar with Professor Julie Cullen in Spring and Fall 2024 must fill out the Google Application for Econ 191A-B (must be signed in with your UCSD Google account). Students must include the following as part of their Application:
  1. A copy of your degree audit in PDF format.
  2. Your proposal. 
Your proposal must be 1,000-1,500 words (2-3 single-spaced pages), be written concisely, and include the following:
1. What is your research question and why is it interesting/important?
2. What do key papers from the related existing literature have to say about your question?
3. How will you tackle your question? What data and empirical strategies will you use?
4. Finally, explain briefly why you are motivated to conduct independent research. Do you have any preparation beyond what is evident from your transcript?

The 2024 virtual information session, which provided more info about 191AB, took place at 2PM, Thursday, January 11, 2024. 

You can view the slides of the 2024 virtual information session at the following link:

The 2024 virtual information session can be viewed here:

The Google Application is now closed. All applications and materials had to be submitted no later than 4:30PM, Monday February 5, 2024. Applications after this date were not accepted.

Decisions on applications were released on Wednesday, February 14, 2024.

ECON 199: Special Studies

Special Studies courses provide the opportunity to explore a particular topic in greater depth. The course may be used for upper-division Economics elective credit (Pass/No Pass) if taken for four units, but not if taken for two units. The topic, frequency and nature of meetings with the faculty member, and method of assessment are all determined in advance with the faculty member.


  • Completion of at least 90 units of undergraduate study.
  • Cumulative GPA of 2.5 or better.

Helpful Hints to Obtaining Faculty Support

  • The topic is not one already covered in a course.
  • You have taken the classes that are related to your topic.
  • You ask faculty who might have an interest (see faculty profiles) and know something about your topic (typically the faculty who teach the classes related to your topic).
  • You have done a brief search of the economics literature on your topic (look for articles written on your topic on EconLit or JStor for example).

How to Apply

  1. Discuss with a faculty member the possibility of a Special Studies project in the faculty's field of interest.
  2. Submit a request to enroll in Special Studies 197, 198 or 199 through the Enrollment Authorization System (EASy)
  3. Meet with your instructor first and then fill out the appropriate sections of the application.
  4. Include your project plan and prerequisite knowledge.
  5. Check with the sponsoring department for applicable application deadlines. 

Confirm that you have been enrolled in the class. 

  1. You will receive notification through EASy when you have been enrolled. 
  2. Check your schedule on WebReg to confirm your enrollment. 

Research Assistants

Research Assistants

Due to funding issues, not all positions can be paid. While some faculty have research​ grants and may be able to offer compensation for RA positions, it is likely that most positions will be for volunteers or for ECON199 credit. 

If you are interested, please complete the information below. Be sure to press submit, after entering all of the requested information.

If a faculty member, or graduate student, is interested in working with you, they will contact you directly. 

Contact Information

First Name *
Last Name *
UCSD email address *
Phone number
Year of graduation *
Major *
Are you proficient in any language other than English? If so, please list the language(s) and indicate whether you are proficient in speaking, writing and/or reading the language.

Microeconomics courses taken

Econometrics courses taken

Other relevant courses taken, including economics electives (if any)

Faculty previously worked with (if any)


Are you interested in doing research as:



Software familiarity *


Programming and web development familiarity*


Research areas of special interest (if any)

Preferred types of work (if any)

Faculty you are particularly interested in working with (if any)

Desired hours / week*

Available to work starting on...*

Available to work until...*


UC San Diego's McNair Program

Are you interested in pursuing a Ph.D? Are you considering a career in research or university teaching? If you answered yes to either of these questions, you should think about applying for admission to the UC San Diego McNair Program. 

Learn about UC San Diego's McNair Program, which helps low-income, first-generation college students prepare for doctoral study.

If you are interested in the McNair Program, please first see our Vice Chair of Undergraduate Education, Dr. Melissa Famulari, for details. Vice Chair's Office Hours and contact information is available here.