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Public Health Undergraduate Guide to Independent Academic Work

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Independent Academic work is a hallmark of Johns Hopkins University education. Most students engage in some kind of research, independent study, or internship work during their undergraduate careers at Hopkins. Faculty members at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, the Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine regularly have openings for qualified undergraduates to participate in these endeavors.

Points to keep in mind:

  1. Credits for research and independent study may vary from 1-3 credits and may be graded with either letters grades (A, B, etc.) or Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory. Credit for an internship is limited to 1 credit, and the grading method is Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory only.
  2. On average it requires 9 hours per week of independent work to earn 3 credits per semester. We recommend that this time be available in a small number of large blocks, such as three afternoons per week.
  3. You should be able to commit to working for more than one semester on a research project. It usually takes several months of training before students are able to work on their own project, so plan to work for at least a year on a specific project.
  4. You must have disciplined study habits. Keeping up with your class work will always be your first priority.
  5. If you pursue independent academic work for credit you cannot be paid at the same time. If you do have work study try to utilize it in a lab or other research setting.


When attempting to identify potential Independent work supervisors, students should consult departmental websites and other online information for research being conducted at Johns Hopkins. In addition, the Undergraduate Public Health Studies Program sends out a weekly email announcement to PHS majors with some leads on independent academic work opportunities they are aware of at the School of Public Health and other venues.

You may also learn about possible openings through your own contacts with faculty; the Career Center is another source of available opportunities. Also, don’t forget to talk with friends, RAs, teammates, etc. word of mouth is especially effective.
Once you have identified faculty members with whom you would like to work:

  1. Narrow your preferences by looking at faculty publications (listed on faculty websites and available in the library) to gain insights into the types of research they conduct.
  2. Prepare your résumé, listing academic qualifications and previous experience.
  3. Contact the faculty member(s) to inquire about a position. Be brief, send your résumé, and ask for an interview. Remember, most faculty are working with grant money, so available openings can be unpredictable.  Be polite and be prepared to be flexible – they may know of a colleague who could use help even if they don’t.
  4. Wait at least a week before re-contacting faculty if you have not received a reply.
  5. Be prepared to provide your schedule of availability at the interview.

If you are interested in course work that includes an applied internship style experience the following may interest you. Internship credit limitations do not apply.  

  1. Practicum in Community Health – AS.280.399 Fall Semester
  2. Medical Tutorial – Information located at


The number of credits earned for supervised independent academic work ranges from 1 to 3 credits. The School of Arts and Sciences stipulates that students may earn no more than 3 credits of research, independent study, or internship per semester, and no more than 6 credits per academic year (Summer/Fall/Intersession/Spring), with a maximum of 24 credits, which count toward the 120 credits needed for graduation. Please refer to the Undergraduate Student Handbook PDF for official language on these three variations on independent work.

When registering for independent study or research, students must submit an Undergraduate Research/Independent Study/Internship Supplemental Registration form signed by the Homewood faculty sponsor. These forms can be obtained from the Registrar’s front desk or the PHS office.  Please contact your PHS advisor or Ms. Beckemeyer for more information on how to register for these opportunities.

Students who want to register for PHS research credit will do so under Dr. Gebo or Dr. Goodyear's course numbers. Please be sure to review the requirements below before requesting approval.

Dr. Gebo Research Requirements
Dr. Goodyear Research Requirements

If the research supervisor is not a full-time faculty member on the Homewood campus, students can register with either Dr. Goodyear or Dr. Gebo as their Homewood faculty sponsor.

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