undergraduate research associates
University of Southern California
Undergraduate Research Associates Program
Request for Proposal
Click here for the cover page
Grant Periods: Summer 2013, Fall 2013 and Spring 2014
†I. Overview of the Program
USC is one of only eighty-eight Research I universities among the 3,500 institutions of higher education in the United States. Undergraduate education within a research university offers special opportunities to students that are not available in other academic institutions. The ability to integrate research activities with professional and liberal education provides USC with a distinctive model of undergraduate education that sets us apart from other institutions.
The basic idea of learning as inquiry is the same as the idea of research. Even though advanced research generally occurs at the graduate level, undergraduates can also learn by performing research. In the sciences and social sciences, undergraduates can become junior members of the research teams that now engage professors and graduate students. In the humanities, undergraduates should have the opportunity to work with primary materials, perhaps linked to their professorsí research projects. As undergraduates advance through a program, their learning experiences should become closer and closer to the activity of the graduate student. By the senior year, the able undergraduate should be ready for research of the same character and roughly the same complexity as the first-year graduate student. The research university needs to make that zone of transition from senior to graduate student easy to enter and easy to cross. For those students who do not continue on to graduate school, the ability to identify, analyze, and resolve problems will prove invaluable in professional life and in citizenship. (Boyer Commission Report, 1998)
Providing support for collaborative research between undergraduate students and faculty members is best accomplished through approaches that blur the distinction between research and teaching. Such approaches should maximize faculty participation and enhance the learning experience of students.
The Undergraduate Research Associates Program is administered by the USC Office of Undergraduate Programs. The goal of this program is to provide resources that enable faculty to integrate undergraduates into their scholarly and professional activities.
Proposals are solicited from USC faculty in all disciplines to support undergraduate students as members of faculty research teams. Proposals may be submitted by individual faculty members or by groups. Limited funding may also be available as matching funds for departmental undergraduate research initiatives. †
Projects may be proposed for individual students or for student teams. Within specific proposals, members of a faculty group may choose to work individually with students and share responsibility for the group components of the project (see below). Special consideration will be given to proposals that supplement existing external grants in order to support undergraduate researchers.
Funding is not provided for students registered in directed research courses, for graduate research assistants, or for projects in which undergraduate researchers will be supervised exclusively by graduate students.
A. Students will be paid in the form of research stipends, which are regarded as merit-based financial aid. The standard stipend for an academic semester is $1,500, assuming on average eight to ten hours of student research per week. The standard summer stipend is $3,000, assuming on average at least twenty hours of student research per week for at least eight weeks. Awards per proposal are limited to a maximum of $10,000 (limited to $3000 per student per academic year). Please note that students hired as undergraduate researchers in this program cannot simultaneously receive additional funding from the Rose Hills, USC Provostís Research Fellowship programs, Student Opportunities for Academic Research (SOAR) or Summer Undergraduate Research Fund (SURF).
B. The period covered by the current Call for Proposals is July 2013 through April 2014. Student stipends will be disbursed by the Office of Undergraduate Programs, and all stipends must be paid by the end of the Spring 2014 semester.
C. In addition to studentsí individual involvement in research activities, projects should generally include some regular integrative or group activity. Examples of such activities are research seminars, colloquia, and participation in regional or national conferences. As part of their research experience, students are expected to receive training in ethical issues (e.g., human subjects training where appropriate) and in relevant forms of information retrieval and scholarly communication.
D. Each undergraduate research project should culminate with an appropriate report of the completed work (for example, a formal research paper, poster presentation, or similar demonstration of scholarly/creative accomplishments). All examples of student work should be submitted to the Office of Undergraduate Programs before the end of the Spring 2014 semester. Failure to submit a research report will result in ineligibility for future funding.
A faculty panel will review proposals and funding decisions will be made on the basis of the following criteria:
1. The quality of the proposed research project.
2. The level of educational benefit to the undergraduate research assistants.
3. Proposing facultyís previous experience working with undergraduates, particularly in a research and/or collaborative environment.
4. The extent to which the project involves collaboration among faculty, particularly across academic units and/or disciplines.
Proposals that are project-based extensions of existing courses are not likely to be funded. At least 90% of the project budget must be devoted to student research stipends. At most 10% of the budget may be for materials and supplies.
Applications should not exceed five double-spaced pages in ten- or twelve-point type and should include the following:
1. Completed cover page.
2. Description of the research projects or collaborations in which the individual undergraduate students will participate.
3. Clear definition of the role of the undergraduate researcher(s), including the number of hours per week that students are expected to spend in the research. (For a semester stipend of $1,500, eight to ten hours per week is typical. For a summer stipend of $3,000, twenty hours or more per week for at least eight weeks is typical.)
4. The process and criteria for selecting student researchers, which will assure that students who participate in these projects have demonstrated academic excellence, are well suited to the project structure and content, and will benefit academically from the experience.
5. Details regarding oversight and supervision by the proposing faculty. †
6. Discussion of the integrative and/or group activities in which the undergraduate researchers will engage.
7. Nature of the final research report that will be submitted to the Office of Undergraduate Programs by each participating student.
8. Budget. (See the criteria noted above.)
Proposals should be submitted to the Office of Undergraduate Programs no later than Tuesday, February 19, 2013. The funding period covered by this Call for Proposals is July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014. Students applying for multiple sources of funding (URAP and SOAR/SURF) can only receive funding from one source in a given term.