Research at CU


Research at CU Boulder encompasses thousands of scholarly, scientific and creative endeavors at any given time, resulting in new knowledge, technologies and creative work that advance the economy, culture and health of Colorado, the nation and the world.

75+ Research Centers$8 billion economic impact
12 Research Institutes#1 recipient of NASA Research Funding
650 faculty and students involved in Interdisciplinary Bioscience Research
18 CU Boulder-affiliated ASTRONAUTS
Only university to have designed, BUILT AND SENT INSTRUMENTS to EVERY PLANET in the solar system, and Pluto
Aerospace Program Event

Research highlights

Leading the race in space

The Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) has been part of CU Boulder since its inception in 1948. Thanks to LASP, CU Boulder is the only university in the world to design, build and launch instruments to all eight planets and Pluto. LASP educates the next generation of space scientists—including by providing opportunities for undergraduates to work as operators for NASA missions—and actively influences the future of space exploration.

CU and Boulder, a billion-dollar biotech destination

The contributions of National Medal of Science awardee Marvin Caruthers and Nobel laureate Tom Cech provide a powerful catalyst for science, engineering and medical disciplines to create high-tech solutions to biomedical problems. Their pioneering work has helped turn the Front Range—anchored by the BioFrontiers Institute and CU Boulder—into a destination for DNA and RNA research, and a hotbed for biotech innovation and startups.

Clobal leadership in environmental research and solutions

With a legacy of academic leadership in environmental disciplines and world-class interdisciplinary hubs on and off campus, Boulder has long been at the forefront of climate and environmental science. The Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES)—a joint institute of CU Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—and the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) are just two of the many entities that provide research, training and hands-on opportunities for students, faculty, industry and anyone who is passionate about environmental science.

Secret Sauce: CU Boulder, national labs and a thriving entrepreneurial community

The unique combination of a world-class research university, 33 federal labs in Colorado, and a thriving ecosystem of industry-leading companies and startups provides a wealth of research and innovation opportunities for students, faculty and the community.
One example: JILA, a joint research institute of CU Boulder and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST); the No. 2 graduate program in atomic, molecular and optical physics; established global leaders like Lockheed Martin and Boeing; and CU Boulder startups like ColdQuanta. These elements combine to offer a wide variety of opportunities in research, education and training for the next-generation workforce.

Research institutes and centers

CU Boulder’s 12 research institutes and 75+ research centers serve as interdisciplinary focal points for research, education and collaboration. From renowned hubs like the Renée Crown Wellness Institute and the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI) to centers like the Center for African and African American Studies and the Center for National Security Initiatives, institutes and centers bring together students, faculty, and industry and government partners to discover, innovate and develop world-changing solutions.

Undergraduate research

Our undergraduate students work with faculty members to participate in ground-breaking research.

Undergraduate Research Opportunities (UROP):

UROP supports research partnerships between faculty and undergraduate students from numerous academic areas.

Biological Sciences Initiative (BSI) Scholars in STEM Undergraduate Research:

This program provides an hourly wage to undergraduate students who want to gain research experience.

Discovery Learning Apprenticeship Program:

Our undergraduate engineering students can earn hourly wages while engaging in research with faculty and grad students.


Graduate research

Graduate students are integral to our research endeavors. Each of our nine colleges and schools provides an array of research opportunities for graduate students.

Student researchers & entrepreneurs

Steven Dourmashkin
Steven Dourmashkin

Turning color into music

Steven Dourmashkin (far left), an aerospace engineering graduate student, launched Specdrums, app-connected rings people wear on their fingers that turn color into sound. With the app, users assign musical notes and sounds to specific colors. Tapping the ring on a color plays the designated sound. People can use Specdrums’ database of sounds or record their own sounds to create a short musical piece.

Camila Uzcategui and Johnny Hergert
Camila Uzcategui and Johnny Hergert

Novel 3D printing for life sciences

Camila Uzcategui (MMatSci’18; PhD’21) and Johnny Hergert (MMatSci’18; PhD’21) began collaborating on volumetric 3D printing technology in the Materials Science & Engineering Program. After years of research and experimentation, they co-founded Vitro3D to speed the technical advancement of their innovations. Their growing startup company is accelerating toward their goal of using the technology in dental applications, 3D cell culture for drug development, and scaffolds for human organ and tissue regeneration.