Undergraduate students can enrich their education with a sponsored research project – provided they know how to write a decent proposal.
The Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (URCA) Office is currently accepting proposals for undergraduate research grants through Oct. 28. URCA provides grants of up to $2,000 per project each Fall, Winter and Summer Quarter for students in the College of Letters and Science, URCA Coordinator Nan Anderson said.
Anderson said the goal of the program is to encourage students to gain practical experience in their field. Project subjects in the past have run the gamut from psychological experiments to studies of music ethnography.
“It takes their education one step further,” Anderson said. “For those going on to graduate school, it’s an invaluable tool because they will have to do research. The process they go through now makes them prepared.”
In order to receive a grant, students must submit a proposal detailing the project’s goal, design, methods and significance, Anderson said. A five-page plan, complete budget and letter from the faculty member overseeing the project are required. She said the proposal is then reviewed by a panel of faculty from the academic division the student wishes to research in, and if the panel approves the project, URCA decides whether to fund it.
Anderson said most grant proposals that URCA receives are funded. Last fall, 114 out of 120 proposals were accepted. Of the six applicants that were not granted funding, Anderson said five received funding the following winter after rewriting their proposals. She said proposals may be rejected if the project or budget is not well thought out.
“We try to fund every project that the faculty members feel merits funding,” Anderson said.
Anderson said URCA provides grants of up to $1,000 for individual projects and up to $2,000 for group projects in the fall. In the summer, individuals can receive up to $500 and groups can get up to $1,000. Grant money can be used for supplies – such as printer ink, paper or lab supplies – copying and binding, equipment rentals, domestic travel or payment for research subjects, she said.
Every year, Anderson said, URCA receives money for its grants from the Office of the President, the Office of Research, the executive vice chancellor, acting vice chancellor for research, deans from the College of Letters and Science and from private donors. Anderson said many such sources of money have recently become less generous because statewide funds provided to the University of California system budget have decreased. Since 2002, Anderson said, the URCA has been able to keep up with the increasing demand for funding with the help of campus agencies and private donors.
“The URCA Office has been fortunate in being able to fund all qualified projects in prior years,” Anderson said. “The office hopes not to have to have a shortfall this academic year and we are continuously searching for additional funding sources. We give out all we can – people are generous. We never turn someone away who needs funding.”
For students who have no prior experience with research techniques but would still like to contribute to a project, Anderson said the Faculty Research Assistance Program (FRAP), a division of URCA, has a directory listing of faculty members and their research projects. Students who wish to do research with a faculty member may receive academic credit for their work.
“It’s our way of getting students to reach out directly to faculty,” said Anderson.
Faculty whose projects are part of the FRAP directory can only get funding from URCA if the student participants are part of the College of Letters and Science, Anderson said. The faculty member may receive up to $300, which can be used for any project expense except for salary or travel costs for the student.
Although research is often associated with the sciences, URCA grants are open to any discipline in the College of Letters and Science, Anderson said. The Catalyst, a student-produced collection of poetry and short stories, asks for money for printing and binding so they can distribute the anthology free of charge each June, said Susan Gosling, staff undergraduate advisor for the English Dept.
Following the completion of the projects each year, a colloquium is held to display the projects, Anderson said. One project from each division is chosen for an oral presentation. This year’s colloquium is slated for May 18.