The Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) offers funding and advising to student researchers in every major, at any point in their Northwestern career. We also provide funds to faculty to hire research assistants, with a focus on RA-ships in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. We are separate from, but work closely with, the Office of Fellowships, which provides similar advising to students applying to non-Northwestern grants or fellowships.
We offer two connected services for students. 1) Our one-on-one advising walks students through the process of designing and developing a research project in their chosen discipline; and 2) our generous grant programs fund those projects through research assistantships, independent research grants, intensive language study, and conference participation. For faculty, we offer several ways to reach undergraduates who are interested in volunteering or working as research assistants. We also have a grant specifically for faculty who are interested in being research mentors, but do not have other funding to hire RAs.
Northwestern offers significantly greater financial and advising support for undergraduate research than any peer institution—particularly for students in non-STEM majors. Our grants are awarded on the basis of individual merit only, on the recommendation of faculty review committees. However, as an opt-in office, we need faculty to help spread the word about the resources that are available. In our experience, undergrads are significantly more likely to consider pursuing research, or to apply for our grants, if a faculty member has recommended it to them as a possibility. Whatever your discipline, please help us spread the word about the exciting financial resources and advising support to your students! It is never too early for a student to contact us!
Contact us with any questions.
OUR ADVISING VERSUS YOUR ADVISING
OUR advising is not designed to supplant the crucial faculty-student relationship; rather, the advising offered is viewed as supplemental, helping students get started and relieving some demand on faculty time in the process. The OUR provides two distinct types of advising. First, OUR advisors meet with students at any time to talk about their interests and goals, seeking to help them develop their ideas and directing them to available resources. In helping them to connect with relevant faculty, OUR advisors teach them how to first discern who will be best able to assist them and then how to compose appropriate correspondence. Second, OUR advisors meet with students applying to any grant programs run by OUR, helping them first think through their projects and ultimately teaching students how to write research grant proposals.
Feel free to send any and all students our way, either for initial consultations or for help with grant applications. Our goal is to help students and you.
PROMOTE YOUR OPENINGS/PROGRAMS
The Global and Research Opportunities website is a robust searchable database of opportunities for faculty and students alike. It is an easy way for you to post your projects as a means of potentially recruiting graduate students or undergraduate assistants. To learn more about how to post to the site, please review our guide.
Our weekly e-newsletter is a great option if you have an immediate opening or program to promote. It goes out to over 2,000 students every week. It generally goes out on Mondays, so we appreciate new content by the previous Thursday. Send a short blurb with your contact information to our administrator.
UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH ASSISTANT PROGRAM (URAP)
URAP gives faculty mentors up to $3500 (summer) or $2000 hours (academic year) to hire undergraduate research assistants ($15/hour). The application is written and submitted by the faculty mentor, not the student. Please review the URAP page for specific information about this grant. Contact us at the Office of Undergraduate Research for questions about applying. Faculty applying for or holding NSF grants can also apply for a REU Supplement to their grant, to support undergraduate RAs.
BEING A URG SPONSOR
URGs provide funding for students to engage in independent research and creative projects. Adjudicated by faculty from across the University, the review committee can fund as many applications as they feel are worthy. Applications are currently funded at about a 60+% success rate. Academic Year URGs provide up to $1,000 in research-related expenses for students enrolled in independent studies and thesis seminars. There are five application deadlines each year, and students are invited to revise and resubmit if unsuccessful the first time. Summer URGs provide a $3,500 stipend intended to cover living expenses over an 8-week period (and do not cover research-related expenses). All URGs require students to have a faculty sponsor, which entails:
1. A URG Sponsor should meet with the student during the development of the project to help ensure the student is reading the relevant literature and potentially meeting with other faculty with connections to the idea. The Sponsor will also help the student develop a methodology that is both disciplinarily sound and feasible given the student’s skills and time frame.
2. A URG Sponsor will enter an endorsement for the application within our online submission system. The endorsement is not a formal letter of recommendation; instead, you will be asked to answer four questions related to your thoughts on 1) the project, 2) the student’s independent contribution and your mentoring plans, 3) the student her/himself, and 4) other potential funding sources.
3. A URG Sponsor should be available as a resource for the student during the grant period. As we know, research rarely works out according to plan, and we want students to have someplace to turn when grappling with the inevitable problems that will come up. Specific arrangements should be decided by the student and faculty.
UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH PROGRAM (URP) APPLICATION SYSTEM
Often times, faculty are asked to write endorsements for student applications. Please review our advice and requirements for endorsements of student applications, including our FAQ section that outlines the specific endorsement questions and requirements for each individual program.
PRESENTATION OPPORTUNITIES AND THE UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH AND ARTS EXPOSITION
The Undergraduate Research and Arts Expo is the largest student research conference on campus, held each year at the end of spring quarter. It showcases student work in three ways. We have two large poster sessions (adjudicated by faculty), eight oral presentation panels, and a Creative Arts Festival. Students can present any work, even work from a class or research assistantship; it does not have to be from a senior thesis or independent project. Applications do not require endorsements, but the oral panels are particularly competitive. We look to faculty recommendations to make our decisions, so please contact us with your strongest students. All students attend mandatory presentation workshops to help them learn to prepare how to give a talk and to gain performance skills to communicate effectively. Applications/recommendations are in mid-April, and the event is at the very end of spring quarter. If you would like to get involved, please let us know.
If students are selected to present at a conference (or similar event in your field, including competitive music competitions), the Conference Travel Grant program offers 50% of expenses up to $500. We encourage faculty to help students find appropriate events to present their work. Students may receive the grant multiple times, but it can only be used for presentations (not just attendance). Faculty need to offer a simple endorsement to the application within our online submission system.