Undergraduate Research Assistant Program

Students applications

Once 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.

To receive a notification when applications for open Academic Year URAP positions open in November 2017, sign up for our email newsletter

 

Program Description

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.

 

help for URAP grant recipients

Full details and instructions on post-award paperwork and the payroll/Kronos system are available here.

Deadline: 

Student applications for RA-ships with URAP faculty who have not yet selected students will be accepted in May 2018. To receive a notification when applications for open Academic Year URAP positions open in November 2017 or Summer URAP positions in May 2018, sign up for our email newsletter

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 $3500 (Summer) grants to Faculty Mentors, so they can hire undergraduate RAs. 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 social sciences. 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.

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.

If you do not have a student to hire we will help you run 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.

What It Isn't: 

The Undergraduate Research Assistant Program funds mentoring relationships similar to a research apprenticeship. Students usually have no experience, because we aim to fund novice researchers.

The faculty is expected to mentor the RA, actively teaching how research works in their field. The RA’s work must involve active participation in the research process, rather than clerical tasks like data-entry, transcribing, or photocopying.

The RA is expected to act professionally and to treat their position as a job.

When: 

Assistantships can take place during the academic year or over the summer; there are separate deadlines for each.

Projects can carry over from one period to the next with an additional application. E.g., a student can be employed over the summer and then into the fall, but the faculty must submit a new AY URAP application for the fall. This second application must make clear what new research skills or experiences the RA will gain in the fall.

 

Where: 

URAP work occurs on an NU campus; this is not a requirement if both the Faculty Mentor and the RA are located in the same non-campus location. URAP pays only for hours worked; 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 student RAs, actively developing research skills so they can undertake independent research (and apply for URG grants) in the future.

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. 

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.

Faculty should make use of the resources on the Graduate School's "Excellence in Mentoring" websites, when writing their application. The workshops on Mentorship (open to faculty and post-docs) are highly recommended.


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 seeking Research Assistantships 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.

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.

Ensure you use 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 avoid 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.

Funding decisions rest 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: