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Office of Undergraduate Research

Summer Undergraduate Research Grants (Summer URG)

Video of URG winners talking about their projects and what the grant helped them to do.

Summer Undergraduate Research Grants (Summer URGs) provide a $3,000 stipend to cover living and research expenses for full-time eight week independent academic and creative work in all fields of study. Supplemental funds are available for projects requiring international travel.

Under faculty supervision, URG winners immerse themselves in projects in the laboratory, the library, or the studio, on campus and around the world. Check out the 2014 winners.

All Northwestern undergraduates are eligible for these grants.

The next Proposal Submission Deadline is March 13, 2015 for Summer 2015 projects.

Need some help?

  • Grant Man to the rescue! This video series is like an info session at home.

Getting Started

Basic Info:

  • The Undergraduate Research Grants program is open to all undergraduates at Northwestern.  Students cannot receive URG funds to participate in projects following graduation from Northwestern. 
  • All applications must be submitted to our on-line submission system and are due by 11:59 pm on the due date. Applicants typically receive notification of whether they have won the award approximately four weeks after the deadline.
  • The project must be independent. While the standards for independence vary by field, the student's project must constitute an original contribution to research in the field for which the student takes ownership.  The project may relate to a faculty member’s research, or develop from work within a faculty lab, but in no case may URG funds be used for support of faculty research.
  • The project must be supervised by a faculty advisor.  The faculty advisor must submit an online endorsement within 72 hours after the Summer URG application deadline. (Details about faculty endorsements can be found in the Faculty Guidelines button.) Unendorsed projects will not be considered.  If a project is awarded funding, the advisor is also required to approve a final project report that the student will submit at the end of the grant period.
  • Summer projects must be for a minimum of eight weeks of full time (40 hours/week) research.  Students are expected not to seek any summer employment or enroll in summer classes during the grant period.
  • All Summer Grants are for $3,000, which is intended to cover both living and research expenses. The student need not submit an itemized budget with the application unless s/he is requesting additional funds for international travel (see below). You will not need to turn in receipts at the end of the project.
  • Funding may not be used to support enrollment in language study, established institutional research programs, or study-abroad programs. Also, grants cannot be used to fund internships or participation in volunteer activities. URGs will only fund research that has not yet been undertaken; grants cannot be applied retroactively to cover expenses for research already completed.
  • Group projects are allowed.  Group members must collaborate to create a single grant proposal that clearly articulates the different roles, responsibilities, and qualifications of each member while also indicating why this project needs to be done with multiple people.  Each member of the group must apply separately, but each will submit the same proposal document.  The proposal can be one page longer than the number of people in the group, i.e. a 2 person group would have a 3 page proposal and a 3 person group would have a 4 page proposal.  Group members can either use the same faculty sponsor or have individual ones, whichever is most appropriate for the project.  If separate advisors are used, group members must assure that all sponsors are in communication with each other about the project.  Contact the URG Coordinator if you are considering a group project.

  • Proposals dealing with issues of sustainability and energy may be eligible for funding through a joint URG-ISEN (Initative for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern) partnership.  If you are interested in applying for this funding, please use “ISEN” in your proposal’s short title.

Research with People or Animals:

  • Research that involves human subjects, including interviews, must receive certification from the University's Institutional Review Board (IRB) that no human subject will be put "at risk." It is the student’s responsibility to obtain this approval. Research cannot commence, nor will URG funds be released, until IRB approval is obtained.  
  • If your project requires IRB approval, you must complete the IRB-designated CITI training modules before you apply for a Summer URG. The CITI training modules can be found here: http://www.research.northwestern.edu/oprs/irb/education/ .  You should attach the proof of training (e.g., pdf of training completed page from CITI) as part of your proposal document.  Students who do not complete the appropriate training may not be considered for URG funding.
  • If you are awarded a Summer URG, you will be required to attend an workshop that will assist you with the next steps of obtaining IRB approval.  The workshop is sponsored by the IRB Office and will be held on the Evanston campus within two weeks of the URG decision date. The IRB Office will provide a checklist of things to do in advance of the workshop (e.g., identify your PI, etc.). Because the process of receiving approval can be lengthy, you should plan to submit your application to IRB shortly after the workshop.
  • Questions about IRB should be directed to Kathleen Murphy, IRB Manager, at kemurphy@northwestern.edu or Deborah Coleman, IRB Coordinator at d-coleman2@northwestern.edu.You will find answers to many of your questions on the Institutional Review Board website. The IRB staff is happy to advise before you submit your application, and we highly recommend taking advantage of their help as you prepare your IRB application.  
  • Anyone wishing to conduct research involving live vertebrate animals must have an animal use protocol approved by NU's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC).  All IACUC protocols must be submitted by a faculty PI (primary investigator), who takes primary responsibility for the research.  All persons working with animals must be trained, and enrolled in the occupational health program, before being allowed access to the animal facility.  Please see the IACUC website for more information, including instructions on how to enroll in both training and occupational health, the protocol review process and how to submit a protocol, and contacts for further questions.

Research with International Travel

  • Projects requiring international travel are eligible for additional travel support. To request travel funds, include a budget listing the cost of your roundtrip international airfare as an appendix to your proposal, and you will be eligible to receive up to 50% of the costs in addition to your grant funds.
  • You cannot travel to a location that has been rated as high (H) or extreme (E) risk by International SOS. This policy is university-wide and is non-negotiable. To check the rating of a country and areas within a country, go to the International SOS member website using NU's group account number: 11BCAS000003.
  • In general, undergraduates are not permitted to travel to a country subject to a U.S. Department of State Travel Warning. However, if the ISOS security rating of the location is Insignificant, Low or Moderate, exceptions may be made in certain circumstances when the student’s experience is facilitated, sponsored, monitored or controlled by Northwestern faculty or staff. The supervising faculty or staff (not the individual student) must apply to the Study Abroad Risk Assessment Committee (SARAC) on the student's behalf for permission to travel at least eight weeks prior to the student’s planned travel. For details please see the University Undergraduate International Travel Policy and Procedures. Requests for travel permission should follow the guidelines provided in Appendix B of the Travel Permission Application Process.
  • If safety issues exist in a research locale to which travel is permissible, the applicant should address in the application steps that will be taken to ensure personal safety.   

Grant Winners Info:

  • All grant monies are distributed through the Northwestern Payroll system.  Grant recipients must complete the forms and follow the instructions on the Payroll Forms page in order to receive the grant money.
  • Grants are paid out once a month at the end of the month with a mid-month deadline for the submission of completed paperwork, including all payroll forms and I9 verification, proof of IRB approval (if required), proof of registration with ISOS and purchase of HTH (required for students travelling internationally). There are no exceptions.
  • Grants are awarded to specific project proposals.  If you need to significantly change your research objectives, you must seek prior approval from the URG Coordinator.
  • With our own blogging platform, we are pleased to offer any grant recipient her/his own blog to use during the grant period.  For examples of previous blogs, go to http://blog.undergradresearch.northwestern.edu/.  If you are interested in becoming a part of our blogging world, contact the URG Coordinator at undergradresearch@northwestern.edu
  • Summer URG recipients will automatically be registered in a zero credit GEN-LA class during the fall quarter.  At the end of the summer, you will need to submit a two-page final report.  This report should simply summarize your experience over the summer, and it should be uploaded through the same submission site used for your initial application.  Once uploaded, your faculty advisor will be notified to endorse this final report.  When your advisor endorses it, you will receive an “S” for the GEN-LA course.  Your grant will be considered closed at that time.  If you fail to submit the final report or your faculty member refuses to endorse it, you will receive a "U" and may be required to return the grant funds.
  • Students may only receive one Summer URG while enrolled at Northwestern. 
  • If you are an international student from a country with which the US does not have a tax treaty, then taxes will be taken from your grant.  If not, tax liability on the money received is for each student to determine and handle.  URG cannot offer tax advice; please consult a professional with your questions.


Faculty Guidelines

Faculty Role:

  • Faculty play a crucial role in the undergraduate research experience. Students are able to make practical their classroom education, but they need a structured and supported environment. Having never constructed a research project on their own before, they need the supervision of faculty members to help discern an acheiveable scope for a project within the time they have. Talk through their ideas with them, and help them to craft a project that is both exciting and feasible. Point them towards the relevant literature connected to this study, and assist them in fashioning a successful methodology to learn what they seek. If you are familiar with grant proposal writing, work through drafts with them. In any event, make sure they contact the URG Coordinator at undergradresearch@northwestern.edu to set up a meeting to review their proposal, so we can offer guidance from the grant's perspective.. During the research period, make sure that you stay connected with the student to offer assistance if/when things go awry. The experiences students have doing undergraduate research can transform their lives, but it is not possible without the incredible work of dedicated faculty members.
  • The Undergraduate Research Grants program is open to all undergraduates at Northwestern.  Students cannot receive URG funds to participate in projects following graduation from Northwestern.

  • The student's project must be autonomous. While the project may relate to your research, or develop from work within a lab, the student must design and execute the project independently, with only advisory assistance from you. In no cases may the funds cover faculty research expenses.
  • Group projects are allowed, but each student seeking funding must submit a separate and distinct proposal that explains his/her individual contribution in relation to the larger group project. Each student must also have a separate faculty endorsement.

Student Responsibilities:

  • If the student’s research involves human subjects (including interviews), s/he must contact the IRB office.  Only members of the IRB staff can make determinations on the need of students to receive IRB authorization.  Students cannot, however, directly submit proposals to IRB.  You will serve as the Principal Investigator (PI) for all IRB aspects of the project.  Contact Kathleen Murphy, IRB Manager, (c-barnwell@northwestern.edu) for additional help with the IRB process.
  • The student’s first step should be to discuss the research idea with a faculty member available to supervise the project. The faculty advisor can help the student assess and refine the proposal and give advice on methodology and approach.  As an additional resource, the student is encouraged to seek feedback from the URG staff (undergradresearch@northwestern.edu).

Guidelines for Writing Endorsements:

  • All applications require an endorsement submitted online by the faculty advisor. You should base your endorsement on a draft of the proposal provided by the student. When the student completes her/his portion of the online application, the system will generate an email to you containing instructions for online submission of the endorsement. 
  • The committee asks that your endorsement address the following questions:
  1. What is your opinion on the quality and significance of the proposed project?
  2. What is the independent contribution of the student to the project?
  3. What are your opinions on the student?  How long have you worked with the student, and in what capacity?  How confident are you that the student will successfully complete the proposed project?
  4. Do you know of other funding sources for this project? Do you believe that the budget is appropriate (Academic Year Grants only)?
  • The email you receive will provide a link to the endorsement submission page, where you will find each of these questions followed by separate text fields in which to write your response. Each field has a limit of 4,000 characters, which is equivalent to 11/2 pages single spaced. 
  • Summer URG endorsements must be submitted within 72 hours following the student deadline.  The Grant Committee must read and review well over two hundred grant proposals in only a couple of weeks, and proposals cannot be evaluated until the faculty endorsement is received.  If you feel that you will need more time to complete your assessment, you should make arrangements with the student to receive a copy of the application materials well in advance of the deadline.  Un-endorsed proposals will not be considered by the Grant Committee.
  • If you would like to see changes to a proposal that the student has already submitted, you may request those changes within the submission system, generating an email to the student and placing the proposal back into draft status.  Only the faculty advisor has the capacity to change a proposal's status. 
  • After the completion of the project, the student will submit a detailed two-page summary describing the results/outcome of the project, which will also require approval/endorsement by the faculty advisor via our online system.  Advisors will be contacted by email when the student has submitted her/his final report.
  • Any questions or problems should be directed to undergradresearch@northwestern.edu

How to Apply

Basic Info:

All students must apply through the online application system. Applications are due by 11:59pm on the due date.


A complete application consists of:

  •  a two-page, single-spaced research proposal
  • bibliography and other appendices, if applicable (See the document “Developing a URG Package.”) 
  • endorsement from the faculty sponsor

When you submit your portion of the application, your  faculty advisor will receive an email containing instructions for online submission of the endorsement.

Preparing an Application:

Your first step should be to discuss the research idea with a faculty member available to supervise the project. Regular meetings with your faculty advisor will help you assess and refine the proposal. 

All proposals must be two pages, single spaced with 1" margins all around.  Use Times New Roman 12 point font or Ariel 11 point font.  You may have additional appendixes with figures, pictures, surveys, interview questions, information from contacts, works cited, etc.  All proposal documents should be converted to a PDF before uploading into the application system.  Failure to follow these guidelines will result in negative assessments from the review committee. 

Human Subject Research:

Research that involves human subjects, including interviews, must receive certification from the University's Institutional Review Board (IRB) that no human subject will be put "at risk." It is your responsibility to obtain this approval.  Before you apply for a Summer URG, you must complete the IRB-designated CITI training modules.  You should attach the proof of training (e.g., pdf of training completed page from CITI) as part of your proposal document.  The CITI training modules can be found here: http://www.research.northwestern.edu/oprs/irb/education/ .  Students who do not complete the appropriate training may not be considered for URG funding.  You do not need to complete your full IRB application until after you received the grant. 

Faculty Endorsement of Project:

 All applications require an endorsement by your faculty advisor. The advisor should base her/his endorsement on a draft of the proposal that you have provided. When you complete your portion of the online application, the system will generate an email to your advisor containing instructions for online submission of the endorsement.  It is highly recommended that you ask your advisor to review the “Faculty Guidelines” button on this page well in advance of the deadline, so s/he is aware of timing and expectations.


The following resources will assist in the preparation of the application:

As an additional resource, students are strongly encouraged to seek feedback from the URG Advisors. While the faculty supervisor can best apply his or her expertise to the intellectual and methodological foundations of the project, the URG Advisors offer useful writing assistance in shaping the proposal for readers from diverse academic fields.

Peter Civetta - URG Coordinator/ Advisor

     847-467-0499     undergradresearch@northwestern.edu

Jana Measells - URG Advisor

     847-467-0501     uradvisor@northwestern.edu

Gretchen Oehlschlager, Administration

     847-491-6720     adminur@northwestern.edu

Research Proposal Info:

The proposal should describe the project in two single-spaced pages.  It should be addressed to an educated audience, but not one who specializes in the topic. 

Students are strongly advised to consult the Proposal Writing page for detailed guides on preparing the URG proposal and application package, and to consult with a URG advisor before submitting an application.

In brief, it should accomplish the following main functions:

  • Succinctly indicate 1) what your project is about, 2) how you plan to undertake it, and 3) why it is important to do.
  • Articulate the context of your research explaining the scope and parameters of your subject matter.
  • Demonstrate how your research fits within the larger academic discourse of your subject, hopefully indicating a hole that your work will fill.
  • Highlight the knowledge that you want to gain through this research.
  • Outline specifically what you will do to obtain that knowledge, including practices or techniques used, size and length of the study, and analytical tools used to assess the data.
  • Explain why you are the person capable of conducting this research, explaining the training/teaching that you have received that leaves you ready to successfully complete the project.
  • Look forward towards what you hope to do with this project and the experience of research in the future.

The text of your research proposal should be no more than two singled-spaced pages.  Longer proposals may not be considered.  You may include supporting documentation, such as budgets and research contacts information, as appendices.


How do I choose an advisor?

Begin by indentifying your research interests and consulting with various faculty members. Then, your choice of an advisor may be obvious—you simply need to ask whether s/he would be willing to supervise your project. Often, however, students find that a number of faculty members might be appropriate advisors for a project. In this case, it is important to carefully consider the specific contours and timeline of your project. Will the advisor be available to assist you throughout the duration of the project? Can s/he help you with the aspects of the research that you might find especially difficult or problematic? Sometimes the choice of an advisor is limited by faculty availability or the ability of a particular lab to take on a new researcher. In such cases, it is especially important to know your options. Investigate research opportunities on and off campus. Talk to faculty in other departments or interdisciplinary programs; many faculty have wide-ranging interests and skills, and you may find the ‘perfect’ advisor in an unexpected place. Of course, you may also find that you need to revise or refine your proposed project a bit in order to find a professor who will work with you, but with a bit of legwork and creative thinking, most students are able to find a good fit between their interests and those of faculty.

Can my faculty advisor/sponsor be faculty at another university? Can a post-doc or graduate student at NU serve as my advisor?

For the purposes of applying for an Undergraduate Research Grant, your faculty sponsor can be a faculty member either at Northwestern or another university. Post-docs and graduate students may not serve as your primary advisor. While you may find it useful to seek advice and assistance from post-docs or graduate students, you will still need a sponsor who is a faculty member. If your faculty advisor is NOT affiliated with Northwestern, you must contact undergradresearch@northwestern.edu as soon as possible in order to arrange for outside access to the online application system.

I'm a senior, graduating in June. Am I eligible for a Summer URG ?

No.  URGs  cannot be used to fund projects undertaken after graduation. To learn about post-graduation opportunities, contact the Office of Fellowships

How can I get help with my proposal and application package?

Your faculty advisor is your key resource for developing your research proposal and application package. You may wish to give him/her a copy of our handouts “Developing an Undergraduate Research Grants Package” and “Crafting a Research Proposal.” In addition, the Office of Undergraduate Research offers individual advising appointments (send requests to undergradresearch@northwestern.edu) as well as information sessions throughout the year and workshops for Summer URG applicants during Winter Quarter. (The schedule can be found on the Calendar).

What percentage of proposals are funded?

The URG committee aims to fund as many quality projects as possible. Approximately 40-50% of applicants have been awarded Summer URGs.

Can I change my project once I've started?

Change is a naturally occuring part of the research process; objectinves and the means of obtaining them often shift.  However, if you need to significantly change your project, you must seek prior approval from the URG Coordinator and your faculty advisor.

I'm confused by the final report. What do I need to do?

In terms of the final report, your primary audience is your faculty advisor, as it is this person who offers the final endorsement necessary to complete the grant.  The idea is to paint a clear picture of your grant findings and your experience doing the research.  As it is only two pages, there is obviously only so much detail you can offer; you don't need to get into too much citation/referencing in a report this short- just use your discretion.  It may help to think of the report in terms of answering the following questions:

  • What did you do?
  • What did you discover/learn in that process?
  • What happens next?

What is that GEN-LA class on my fall transcript?

All Summer URG recipients will automatically registered in GEN-LA 290 for the fall quarter. It is a zero credit course, with the URG Coordinator listed as the instructor. As long as your advisor endorses your final summary report, you will receive an “S” for the course.

I’ve finished my research project. What are my options for publishing, presenting, or building on my findings?

You have lots of options for disseminating your findings or final product once you’ve finished your project. Check out our webpage “What to do with your research?” Definitely consider presenting your research or creative project at the Undergraduate Research and Arts Exposition. This yearly spring event celebrates all kinds of research across the University and is well attended by faculty and prominent administrators. There will be opportunities to submit for an oral presentation, a poster presentation, or participate in our Creative Arts Festival. Academic conferences are great opportunities for others to learn about your work, but travel can be expensive. If your work is accepted for presentation at a conference, we encourage you to apply for a Conference Travel Grant to help cover the costs. Northwestern also offers forums for undergraduate research, including opportunities to publish in the Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal. Finally, undergraduate research projects are often a terrific basis for applying for external grants and fellowships that allow you to continue your research and/or explore other opportunities after graduation. Contact Northwestern’s Office of Fellowships to find out more about these opportunities.