Undergrad research scholarship helps secure academic future

Submissions for the Spring 2015 Provost’s Undergraduate Research Scholarship program, a scholarship offered each semester, are 5 p.m. on Friday.

PURS is a $1,000 scholarship available to junior and senior applicants from every college of the University. Students who are awarded the scholarship must conduct 100 hours of research with a full-time faculty member for the semester that they are awarded it.

“We’re asking for six to seven hours of research each week,” said Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research Karen Weber. “That (time) may cut into work or some of the other income you may have, so the idea is to supplement that and give an incentive.”

While the Provost’s office finances most of the scholarships, it is only able to provide for 20 scholarships per semester. The 10 to 15 additional scholarships on average that are awarded each semester are funded through other colleges’ donations, and the Honors College in particular, Weber said.

“We always have a lot of great proposals and a lot of students we would like to support, so we try to find money for them,” said Undergraduate Research Associate Dean Stuart Long.

Long and Weber estimate between 50 and 80 applicants for PURS each semester. Larger colleges like CLASS and Engineering generate the most applicants.

“Most people think of undergraduate research as being in the sciences or engineering,” Long said. “This really covers the whole spectrum of the University. There hasn’t been an area that we haven’t funded in the past.”

Research materials and equipment are the responsibility of the mentoring professor, Long said.

Associate professor of political science Ryan Kennedy has been a mentor for PURS several times already and has an applicant in Friday’s deadline.

“Undergraduate research was a major part of my undergraduate experience,” Kennedy said. “It was what got me into graduate school and brought me to where I am today. I feel like this is an intrinsic part of being an undergraduate, especially for those people who are really interested in doing research as their future career or are interested in going to graduate school.”

Ninety-two percent of PURS participants graduate,  like Kennedy whose undergraduate research led him to graduate school,

Long said that the same is true for many students who go on to use their research as the basis for their thesis or independent study classes in the future.

“(The research) really helps the student understand the courses they are taking and why it’s in their major,” Long said. “After they go through this research project they are more engaged in their classes and are more likely to graduate on time.”

Though applications are due this Friday at 5 p.m., Weber said she wants students to remember that the scholarship is available every semester, including in the summer, and encourages those interested to apply.

“We love offering this scholarship,” Weber said. “And it’s rewarding to students — (they) are really working one-to-one (with professors) exploring a topic under the umbrella of their field. It’s such a good way of developing a relationship and really understanding an aspect of their field in a sophisticated way. It’s not the kind of detail they can get in a class.”

More information on applying can be found at the PURS website.

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