Undergraduate Research Assistant Program

The Undergraduate Research Assistant Program provides grants to Faculty Mentors who do not otherwise have the resources to pay undergraduate RAs. It is designed specifically for students who lack research experience and are not yet ready to carry out their own independent research projects. URAP aims to foster long-term mentoring relationships between faculty and students that, ideally, continue after the RA position has ended.

URAP applications are written and submitted by Faculty Mentors, not by students. Faculty specify in their application which student(s) they intend to hire as their RA. If the faculty wants to participate in URAP but has not yet identified a particular student, the Office of Undergraduate Research will assist in finding a student by running a search. Student RAs are paid an hourly wage of $15/hour, or can receive course credit.

 

Students: Students looking for a Research Assistant position should reach out to faculty they’d like to work with well ahead of the deadline. If you would like help figuring out how to find and contact faculty, you are encouraged to come talk with an advisor.

If the deadline for faculty applications has passed, you can apply for the open RA-positions listed by Faculty Mentors who have been awarded a URAP grant but haven’t yet selected a student. Be aware that there may not be an open position in your major or research area, and that competition for the positions is very high.

When referring to or communicating with academics, ensure you are using their correct title: Prof. or Dr., not Mr., Mrs., or Ms. Further guidelines for writing your application are available on the application page.

Deadline: 

Next proposal submission deadlines (for faculty only):

The 2017 Summer URAP deadline is Sunday, April 23, 2017.

Student applications for RA-ships with URAP faculty who have not yet selected students will be accepted in May 2017.

Eligibility: 

URAP applications are written and submitted by Faculty Mentors, not by students.

  • Applications are accepted from all full-time Northwestern University teaching faculty.
  • Non-tenure track faculty and post-docs who are teaching are eligible and are strongly encouraged to apply for URAP grants.
  • Please note that if you are a post-doc or other temporary employee of the university, you may encounter some difficulty logging into our application website because your LDAP university ID lists you as ‘staff’ rather than ‘faculty.’ If you are considering applying, please attempt to log into the site well before the deadline and contact Mary Leighton immediately if you have any difficulty, so that we can help you work around this problem.

 

  • URAP fosters long-term mentoring relationships between faculty and students, therefore faculty are only eligible to apply if they will still be on their campus the academic year after they hold a URAP.
  • Faculty who will be retiring or leaving Northwestern the following academic year are not eligible for URAP grants.
  • Single-year VAP and other teaching faculty who will not be at Northwestern the next academic year are not eligible.
  • Post-docs on two year fellowships can only apply for a Summer or AY URAP in their first year.
  • Graduate students and post-docs who do not teach undergraduates are not eligible to apply

 

  • Faculty in any school and at any stage of their career are eligible to apply. However, the program gives preference to faculty who would not otherwise have any ability to hire undergraduate RAs.
  • Senior faculty and faculty in disciplines where RAs can conceivable be funded in other ways (e.g. through REUs or lab accounts) are therefore expected to discuss in detail in their application why they can only fund an RA through URAP. See below for more details.

 

Undergraduate students may hold up to two URAP positions at any point in their Northwestern career. The two positions do not have to be with the same faculty member and do not have to be held consecutively. Seniors graduating in the Spring cannot hold Summer URAP positions.

 

If you have any questions about your eligibility for a URAP grant, please contact Mary Leighton before you apply.

 

Talking to Faculty - Grant Man, Episode 3

Undergraduate Research Assistant Program

How to Get Started?

Guidelines

What It Is: 

URAP provides $2000 (Academic Year) and $3750 (Summer) grants to Faculty Mentors, so they can hire undergraduate RA to work with them during the Summer or the Academic Year. The mentor-mentee relationships should be beneficial to both the faculty and the student. The program focuses on faculty who would not otherwise have the resources to hire assistants, and students who do not yet have the skills and experience to conduct research on their own or be hired elsewhere. After their RA experience the student should be ready to apply for a Summer or Academic Year URG to work on their own independent project.

 

Priority Areas

This program has a limited budget, so we focus on funding in three priority areas. In order of importance, these are:

 

  1. Opportunities for students with no prior research experience at all, or no prior research experience in this field.
  2. Opportunities in a field where it is traditionally difficult for undergraduates to get RA-ships and where faculty traditionally receive less or no funding for RAs (e.g. the humanities, arts, and non-lab/field-based social sciences).
  3. Opportunities pairing students and faculty from residential colleges.

 

We do fund faculty from the natural sciences, engineering, the medical school, and lab/field-based social sciences (psychology, cognitive science, archaeology, etc.). However, the Faculty Mentor must clearly and explicitly demonstrate in their application that there is a specific reason why they cannot use other resources that are commonly available to hire RAs such as REUs, discretionary accounts, lab accounts, and so on.

For example, URAP has funded new junior faculty who have not yet applied for major grants and who need RA help while they are setting up their first lab, and faculty who are initiating small, unfunded pilot projects that will later form the basis of a new NSF/NIH application.

Students who have existing research experience can be hired through this program, but the application must clearly explain what additional research skills or new research experiences the student will gain. For example, if the student is changing major and does not have experience in their new field they would be a good URAP candidate.

 

Award Amounts

Funds go towards RA’s hourly wages ($15/hour) and are paid directly to the student RA(s) through Northwestern’s payroll and time-keeping system. The maximum award is now $3,750 (250 hours of work) for Summer projects.

Faculty may also apply for supplemental research funding of up to $250 for each project. This discretionary money is paid in a lump sum.

There is an option for students to receive course credit instead of a wage.

 

Group Projects

Faculty can hire more than one student, splitting the award between the RAs.

We encourage applications from faculty who have already chosen the student(s) they want to work with. However, if you do not have a particular student identified yet, we will help you find a suitable student by running a search after the grant has been awarded.

Two faculty working together on a joint project can apply to receive two grants. The two faculty members each put in their own separate application, but make it clear they will be mentoring the RAs together. If you are interested in doing this please contact the URAP Coordinator Mary Leighton ahead of time for more information.

 

Faculty who would like more information about the program or assistance with their application are strongly encouraged to contact the URAP Coordinator Mary Leighton. We also offer advising to students who are seeking guidance on how to find/contact faculty who might be willing to apply for a URAP on the student's behalf. Students can request an advising appointment here.

What It Isn't: 

The Undergraduate Research Assistant Program is intended to be more than a normal RA-ship. The student is typically younger and has less (or no) experience, because we aim to fund students who haven’t yet had the opportunity to get involved in research. Likewise the faculty is expected to be an active mentor to the RA, working to actively teach them about research in their field along the lines of an apprenticeship. The RA’s work should involve active participation in the research process, rather than tasks like data-entry, transcribing, or photocopying. In return, the RA is expected to act responsibly and to treat their position as a job.

When: 

Assistantships can take place during the academic year or over the summer, but there are separate deadlines for each. Projects can carry over from one period to the next, but an additional application is required. I.e., a student can be employed over the summer and then into the fall, but the faculty must submit a new AY URAP application in the fall. This second application must make clear what new research skills or experiences the RA will gain in the fall.

Faculty who have been awarded URAP funds but are still looking for a student RA will list advertisements on this webpage in October/November (for academic year projects) and mid-May (for summer projects.) To receive notification of when adverts have been placed, sign up for the Undergraduate Research Weekly Blast.

Where: 

Most URAP work occurs on a Northwestern campus, although this is not a requirement if both the Faculty Mentor and the Student RA will be located in the same place during the quarter they are working together. URAP pays only for hours worked so funds cannot be used for travel or other research-related expenses. However, faculty can request a $250 supplement to assist with these expenses.

URAP funds cannot be used to support research in a country subject to a U.S. Department of State travel warning. If safety issues exist in a research locale not on the Travel Warning List, the proposal must address the steps the Faculty Mentor will take to ensure safety.

Faculty Role: 

Strong Mentor-Mentee relationships are the core of the Undergraduate Research Assistant Program. Faculty train and guide their student RAs, actively helping them develop research skills that will enable them to undertake their own independent research projects (and apply for URG grants) in the future. The application is therefore written and submitted by the Faculty Mentor, not by the student RA.  

When the grant has been awarded, Faculty Mentors are responsible for ensuring that all award and payroll paperwork is completed accurately and on time, and for approving the RA’s hours in the university’s timecard system, Kronos. Full details and instructions on post-award paperwork and the payroll/Kronos system are available here.

Help: 

Applicants

For information on using the application website, see How to Apply. We also strongly encourage faculty to contact the URAP Coordinator Mary Leighton if they have questions or would like advice on their application.

The URAP application includes a question on the Faculty’s mentorship plan for their student RA(s). We strongly recommend all URAP applicants make use of the resource guides on the Graduate School's "Excellence in Mentoring" websites. The workshops on Mentorship are also excellent, and are open to faculty and post-docs.

 

Current URAP Participants

Full details on your award paperwork, payroll paperwork, and using Kronos to log/approve hours are available here.

 

Students Seeking URAP Positions

Students looking for a Research Assistant position should reach out to faculty they’d like to work with well ahead of the deadline. If you would like help figuring out how to find and contact faculty, you are encouraged to come talk with an advisor.

If the deadline for faculty applications has passed, you can apply for the open RA-positions listed by Faculty who have been awarded a URAP grant but haven’t yet selected a student. Be aware that there may not be an open position in your major or research area, and that competition for the positions is very high. As always, when referring to or communicating with academics, ensure you are using their correct title: Prof. or Dr., not Mr., Mrs, or Ms. Further guidelines for writing your application are available on the application page.

Selection Process: 

Applications are reviewed and ranked by a committee of faculty from across the university. Applications should therefore be written with a minimum of jargon and be accessible to readers outside your discipline. The committee rates applications according to the following criteria:

 

  1. There is a clear benefit to both the faculty and the student. The student is actively engaged in the research rather than doing mundane tasks like data entry or transcribing.
  2. The student does not have prior research experience, or will be learning new skills/gaining new experience.
  3. The faculty mentor would not otherwise be able to hire an RA because the field is traditionally underfunded and/or undergraduates are not normally included in the research process: ie., the application is based in the arts, humanities, or non-lab/field-based social sciences.
  4. For faculty in the natural sciences, engineering, medical school, or lab/field-based social sciences, the application makes a detailed and compelling case for why no other funding is available to support RAs. If the faculty has hired undergraduate RAs before, the application explains why this particular student cannot be hired from the same funding source.
  5. The application outlines a clear and detailed mentoring plan, discussing how the faculty mentor will help the student develop their research skills.
  6. The experience for the student goes beyond the regular curriculum in the discipline.

 

The final decision on which applications to fund rests with the faculty committee, not staff at the Office of Undergraduate Research. Approximately 70% of faculty URAP applications are successfully funded. If you would like additional guidelines on how to apply or the level of detail needed in the application, please contact URAP Coordinator Mary Leighton. Faculty who discuss their application with staff at the Office of Undergrad Research ahead of time have a higher success rate! 

Group Projects: 

Two faculty working together on a joint project can apply to receive two grants. The two faculty members each put in their own separate application, but make it clear they will be mentoring the RAs together. If you are interested in doing this please contact the URAP Coordinator Mary Leighton ahead of time for more information.

Faculty can hire more than one student. In this case the $2000 (AY)/$3750 (Summer) award is split between the students.

FAQs: