FAQs about Undergraduate Research
According to the Council on Undergraduate Research, undergraduate research is “an inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline." There are many reasons to become involved in undergraduate research. Undergraduate researchers develop skills necessary to improve marketability in graduate school applications, support career decisions, and have meaningful experiences that lead to personal growth. Undergraduate researchers participate in experiential education that is translatable to real-world skills that are requisite for jobs. OUR participants gain opportunities to develop and hone networking and social skills. Undergraduate research at the University of Utah is a collaboration between faculty and students, who collectively contribute to cutting-edge research at the University of Utah. Students immerse themselves in a project led by top researchers and develop skills and personal attributes that will continue to benefit them throughout their lives.
Participating in undergraduate research will increase your research literacy, technical knowledge, laboratory skills, presentation skills, and/or writing skills. Undergraduate researchers gain opportunities to use sophisticated instrumentation, work independently, figure out if they want to pursue this discipline as a major and/or a career, and work toward a recommendation for graduate school, pre-professional study, or jobs. Undergraduate research fosters agency, visions for a future and quality life, supports participation in campus-life, classes, and creates person growth. Undergraduate researchers develop leadership, inspiration, creativity, and self-confidence. By participating in undergraduate research, students create a sense of academic citizenry and belonging. Some gain work experience and, in some cases, earn money as part of their opportunity or experience.
An R1 institution is a classification - in particular, a Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The institution, like the University of Utah, is deemed as a doctoral university with "very high research activity." To support the mission of an R1 institution, professors are engaged in research, teaching courses, and service. High research activity includes publication, research teams, funding opportunities, and research as public intellectuals. What does this mean for undergraduate students? There are multiple research opportunities available at the U across disciplines.
Yes! To participate in most of the OUR programs, students must be an enrolled, degree-seeking student and have a Faculty Mentor. There are many other programs and opportunities to do research as well. Additionally, students can always do research as a volunteer or in an informal arrangement with a Faculty Mentor.
To get started, visit: https://our.utah.edu/advising/getting-started/
To find a faculty mentor, check out: https://our.utah.edu/advising/how-to-find-a-mentor/
Right now! It is never too early or too late to start doing research. There are many opportunities on campus that are ongoing and/or need undergraduate students for various time commitments. Any way you do it, you will develop skills and learn about research! To get started, Make an appointment with a Peer Mentor or OUR staff member and see our Getting Started page for more details.
Yes. In fact, this may even be preferable. This is for two reasons: First, the U is a top research institution and it is to your overall benefit to leverage the expertise of the faculty that is available to you. Get to know what your professors know best! Second, it may help you to work on a faculty’s existing project to develop the research skills you need to move on to an independent project. Working on a Faculty Mentor’s project is a great learning experience, as it allows you to immerse yourself in research while developing skills and knowledge about that project. It’s a win-win situation for you.
Yes! As long as you have a faculty mentor who is willing to help guide you through your own independent project, do it!
FAQs about the OUR Funding
Each year, as more and more students get involved in research, admission to the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) gets more competitive.
As of 2021, the acceptance rate for
- UROP Scholars (University of Utah only): 83%
- SPUR Scholars (nationally competitive opportunity): 10%
OUR programs vary in competitiveness. Becoming engaged in the research project prior to application and being prepared to write a strong (4-6 page) proposal is important to the overall success of your application. We are here to help you prepare a strong application – make an advising appointment and attend our seminars and workshops!
Our programs are open to students in any subject or field of interest. For example, our students work in chemistry labs, conduct archaeological field work, create works of art, choreography, write novels, and any other kind of research and creative work you can imagine. Our programs are also open to multi-disciplinary projects. You just need a faculty mentor for whatever project you choose. Check out our Undergraduate Research Journal for examples of research by undergraduate students across disciplines.
Every faculty member is different and will have different preferences, so we suggest that you approach several faculty members in a variety of ways. Email faculty who work in your subject of interest, approach faculty with whom you are already acquainted, are taking a class from, and/or ask for introductions to faculty whose work interests you. Some faculty prefer to know a student before agreeing to work closely with them while others are willing to work together on a trial period following a brief email conversation. Utilizing several methods really is to your advantage. Utilize departmental faculty directories find relevant faculty, use the Office of Undergraduate Research faculty database to browse existing research opportunities, use the “Find a Researcher” tool on the U’s website, and approach department advisors about which faculty may be interested in mentoring you. (See below section on things to think about in regard to your potential mentor and questions to ask when speaking with a potential mentor.)
Students may receive only one Small Grant and one Travel Grant during their undergraduate career.
Participation in Research on Capitol Hill (ROCH), and especially the Undergraduate Research Symposium (URS) are strongly encouraged. What is required is that the student present his or her UROP work within three semesters following the initial semester of UROP funding. This presentation must be at the Undergraduate Research Symposium. Please see our UROP page for more details.
FAQs about the UROP Review Process
Proposal Reviews are solicited by a Dean/Associate Dean in the college of school of the faculty mentor. Each proposal receives 1-3 anonymous faculty reviews, which include scores and comments. Reviewers receive the UROP award criteria and a rubric for scoring.
Overall quality of the proposed research or creative work and effective written presentation of the project.
- Is the proposed research or creative work timely and well-developed?
- Does the student exhibit a strong understanding of the project?
- Is the proposal well-written? Has it been carefully edited? Is the presentation professional?
Plan and timeline
Specific activities to be undertaken and a concrete, realistic timeline for completion of the work.
- Does the student present a concrete timeline detailing specific activities to be undertaken?
- Is the timeline realistic for completion of the project?
Quality of the mentoring relationship
Relationship of the proposed work to the expertise of the faculty mentor, familiarity of the faculty mentor with the student and his/her/their skills and goals, and impact of the proposed mentoring activities. A UROP scholar’s success depends critically on high-quality mentoring. Please consider this aspect of the application very carefully.
- Does the student demonstrate familiarity with the faculty mentor’s scholarship? Is the proposed work sufficiently related to the expertise of the faculty mentor?
- Are the faculty mentor and the student well-acquainted? Do they already have an established collaborative/mentoring relationship?
- What is the impact of the mentor’s proposed mentoring activities?
- Is the mentor prepared to personally provide high-quality mentoring to this student?
Impact on the Student’s Education
Potential of the UROP experience to substantially enhance the student’s ability to meet educational and/or professional goals.
- Do the proposal and mentor reference make the case that the UROP experience will substantially enhance the student’s ability to meet educational and/or professional goals?
How does this study contribute to equity and diversity in research
Equity and diversity in research varies by field. This may mean diversity in methods, research team members' identities, subjects recruited, or how the project will contribute to diverse communities in the future. All studies contribute to creating diversity in knowledge, the bodies of that research, and the communities impacted by research. The mission of OUR is to further equity in research, and to do so we invite our mentors to be able to speak to this about their undergraduate researcher.
All proposals are considered separately by reviewers. Proposals are not grouped together during the review process and are not always reviewed by the same reviewer. Some colleges will rank an application lower if it appears to similar to another project - this is field defined and specific. Therefore, consult with your mentor about this if multiple researchers on the same team are submitting applications. Describe your specific role in the project.
As UROP is a competitive program, not all student applications can be funded. To receive feedback about an application, both the mentor and the mentee must schedule with the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Dr. Annie Isabel Fukushima at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other Helpful Information
- What research experience does your mentor have in your area(s) of interest?
- What is your mentor’s reputation at the university and in the greater academic community in scholarship, teaching, and mentoring?
- Has your mentor worked with undergraduate students in the past?
- What is your mentor’s preferred communication style? Are you comfortable with it?
- How often does your mentor expect you to communicate with them?
- Will your mentor be available on a regular basis to provide advice and assistance?
- Does this mentor seem genuinely interested in you as a student?
- What space, equipment, and instrumentation does your mentor have available for your projects?
- What is your mentor’s publication record with undergraduates?
- Does your mentor take undergraduates to conferences to present their work? Does your mentor’s department provide financial support for these experiences?
- How many hours each week will you expect me to work on the research?
- How many weeks or months will you expect me to work?
- What form of compensation are you able to offer me for my contributions to this research?
- What will my specific role be on the project?
- Who will be my immediate supervisor on the project?
- What training can I expect to receive?
- What skills can I expect to develop over the course of my participation in this project? With what instrumentation will I gain experience?
- How will you measure my progress on the project?
- Are there any regular group activities that you will expect me to attend?
- Will my research be likely to result in publication and/or presentation of this work? If so, what are your rules for authorship?
- How likely are you to be able to write me a letter of recommendation in 5 years?