Research at Rochester
Research is the systematic pursuit of knowledge and an exciting process of discovery. Every field of study has its own research problems and methods. As a Rochester student, you’ll engage in real research, seeking answers to questions of great interest to you. Your research could be aesthetic, socio-political, scientific, or technical. You choose the tools, gather the data, and delve deeper to find answers.
If you have a strong interest in doing research, it’s likely that you will at Rochester. Not only is the University a major research institution with world-class scholars, scientists, libraries, and laboratories, it also has a long-standing commitment to making these resources fully available to undergraduates.
Research exemplifies the kind of learning that the Rochester Curriculum is all about: interest-driven, disciplined, “real,” making you the author of your education. With a high ratio of faculty to students, it’s possible for almost any student to do research, if they want to. The key is finding a professor to advise you and guide you in the process. What makes research an educational experience is that in doing it, many students find they really learn how to learn. It makes their academic courses more meaningful and opens up new worlds of knowledge. One way to make all of this possible is to be awarded a Research and Innovation Grant.
The goal of the Research and Innovation Grant is to get you involved in experiential activities that stimulate your mind, broaden your perspectives, expand your intellectual and social networking, and strengthen your connections to the University community, as well as the research and creative communities throughout the world.
RIGs provide research expenses of up to $3,000 for undergraduate students working with a faculty sponsor. Only students applying to the College are eligible to apply for these grants. Eligible sponsors are faculty members holding any type of appointment (including clinical, emeritus, adjunct, research associate, instructor, etc.) in any part of the University.
How a RIG Can Be Used
Compensation for research: Students awarded a Research and Innovation Grant who are appointed as Undergraduate Research Assistants are compensated at a maximum pay rate of $10.00 per hour.
Internships/service learning: Students awarded a RIG who are hired for an unpaid and non-credit bearing internship or service learning position are compensated at a maximum pay rate of $10.00 per hour. All service learning positions must be certified by the Rochester Center for Community Leadership. Find out about the certification process here.
Academic credit: RIGs will not pay stipends for work that is simultaneously awarded academic credit during the academic calendar year (September – May). RIGs can be used for work that either precedes or follows work that is awarded academic credit.
Equipment and materials associated with research: Students may use their grant to purchase equipment and materials related to the research topic they are pursuing. Any equipment or materials purchased that have a value greater than $500 remain the property of the University of Rochester. This may include books, manuscripts, subscriptions to journals/periodicals, scientific equipment, audio and video equipment, and other materials approved by the RIG Panel.
Conference travel: Students who attend professional conferences and presentations related to their proposed topic of study can use their grant for associated domestic travel and lodging costs.
Travel in pursuit of fellowships: Students competing for fellowships and internships relating to their research can use their grant for domestic travel and lodging associated with the interview and hiring process for the position.
Research experience abroad: Grants may be used for costs associated with research and experiential learning experiences outside the United States. Students participating in programs of study and research occurring during the academic year may use their grant for travel costs associated with their research. Students participating in programs of study and research occurring during the summer may use their grant for costs associated with travel and the pursuit of academic credit.
University of Rochester students planning to study or do research abroad are advised to consult the University’s policies on travel to areas on the U.S. State Department’s Travel Warning list. More information about these policies and the countries involved is available here.
Human subjects: All research and creative activities at the University of Rochester are subject to federal and state laws and regulations. All research involving human subjects requires Institutional Review Board approval. Information is available here.
Finding a Faculty Sponsor
All students begin the Research and Innovation Grant process with their own research idea. In order to disburse the funding and begin their research, students work with a faculty sponsor. Many students will change or modify their original research proposal after close consultation with their sponsor.
You should not contact faculty directly until you are on campus and ready to begin your application for grant disbursement.
Step 1: Explore the college website
Before submitting your preliminary application, you should look for faculty members you might like to collaborate with when you get to Rochester. You should not contact them directly in the preliminary phase. A wealth of information on the research our faculty members currently work on is available here.
On your preliminary application, list names and current research projects of faculty you may like to work with to support your proposed work.
Step 2: Make a list of possible faculty sponsors
If your preliminary application is accepted and you receive a grant, you should begin to narrow and refine your search for a faculty sponsor. A good starting place is faculty members whom you may know, for example, instructors that you have had for a class. You could also ask Teaching Assistants (TAs) that you have had for a class to recommend possible sponsors. If your academic advisor is a faculty member, you could put her or him on your list, or just ask your academic advisor for suggestions.
Finally, ask your friends for professors that they may know, either from a class or from some out-of-class experience, such as undergraduate research. Online, you can begin by searching the ILLIAD faculty interests database, the professors’ personal web pages (usually linked from the departmental web pages), and library online catalogs and databases. Your goal is to identify commonalities in your intellectual interests and to identify topics to discuss during your initial meeting.
Make sure you know something about the research interests of each possible sponsor on your list. You can use departmental web pages to discover details about a sponsor’s research.
Your email should:
- indicate that you were awarded a Research and Innovation Grant, with a brief description of the grant requirements
- describe your interest in the faculty member’s research
- provide a brief description of who you are; for example, your major, your year in college and your strong points for doing research
- ask for a specific time and place to meet to discuss research possibilities
Step 4: Meeting your potential sponsor(s)
- Begin by introducing yourself and your desire to work with them as a sponsor.
- Make sure you know as much as you can about their work when you start the conversation.
- Plan an agenda of questions you would like answered before you leave the meeting.
It is possible that the professor will be unable at the time to take on another student. Or you may decide that the professor is not the right intellectual fit for you. You should then ask for a reference to another faculty member with similar areas of interest whom you might approach. Be sure to send a thank-you note.
Step 5: Get help
The RIG Coordinator is available to help connect you with a faculty sponsor. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (585) 275-3221 or (888) 822-2256 (toll free).
Step 6: Begin working with your faculty sponsor
Your relationship with your faculty sponsor may vary depending on how you will use your grant. Once the grant disbursement begins, you should meet regularly with your sponsor to discuss the progress of your work. Your sponsor will need to sign off on the successful completion of your research experience.
FAQ – Research and Innovation Grants
What is a grant?
A grant is a sum of money awarded to finance a particular activity or project. To receive a grant, an application or proposal is usually required. Generally, grant funds do not need to be paid back.
What is a Research and Innovation Grant?
A Research and Innovation Grant (RIG) is a grant that is funded by the University of Rochester and awarded to a select group of prospective students after they enroll. RIGs allow students to pursue their own academic interests beyond the classroom—learning they design on their own. Unlike traditional grants, RIG only requires applications from students who want to compete for a larger RIG award (up to $4,500).
Is RIG a form of financial aid?
A Research and Innovation Grant (RIG) should not be confused with traditional financial aid. A RIG cannot be used to pay tuition, fees, or room and board expenses during the academic year (September – May). Also, RIG cannot be used for textbooks.
I’m not a “science person.” Why did you choose me for a RIG?
Research takes many forms that have nothing to do with lab coats, test tubes, and microscopes. Refer to the UR website for examples of research and innovation across the curriculum. Scour faculty pages. Check out back issues of the Journal of Undergraduate Research. Or, start with Research: Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.
I’m confused. You already told me I’m receiving a RIG; do I have to complete a RIG application?
You only need to apply if you want to be considered for the enhanced grant of $4,500. If you are content with your $3,000 grant, you don’t need to submit a RIG application.
When is the RIG application due?
The due date for your RIG application is noted in your RIG notification letter.
Can I wait until I get to Rochester to apply?
If I apply for the $4,500 grant, am I required to attend Rochester if I get it?
No, there is no obligation to attend Rochester (although we hope you do). Of course, the RIG is only available to you if you enroll at the University of Rochester.
What if I’m unsure what kind of research I want to do?
Although a research proposal is part of the RIG application, your proposal isn’t binding. Think about your interests. What subjects excite you? Talk with your teachers who know you best and see if they have any suggestions. As we review RIG applications, we look for ideas that reflect a level of thought and genuine interest. If you change your mind later (and many students do), that’s fine.
If I get the $4,500 RIG, does that mean my research proposal is approved as is?
Not necessarily. Generally, our committee looks for ideas that represent interest in the topic, but some proposals may be too large in scope or, for other reasons, need to be modified.
Can I work on a project outside of my expected major?
Will grant proposals be considered for work or research outside the United States?
Yes. However, such proposals must be for research or experiential learning activities. Your RIG can be used for travel to and from a study abroad program but, not for academic credits, unless it’s a summer program. Use of your grant outside the United States may require consultation with the Study Abroad Office.
Does my grant cover travel expenses?
Yes, as long as your trip is for research or experiential learning and the location of your travel is essential to your project. The grant will not cover vacation travel during a study abroad program.
Can I begin using my grant as a freshman or first-year transfer student?
Disbursement of your grant can begin as early as the second semester of your first year. All unused funds are forfeited on December 1 of your final year of undergraduate study at Rochester. Your grant can be used in a Take 5 or KEY year.
Who can be my faculty sponsor?
You can be sponsored by any UR tenure-track faculty as well as lecturers and instructors.
Can I get academic credit for my research?
If your research is associated with a course or independent study, you can receive credit for the research, but you can only receive funding for expenses. In other words, if you’re receiving course or independent credit for the research, you cannot use RIG funds to pay yourself a stipend or to pay tuition, room, or board expenses. However, you may purchase equipment or materials for the work.
What happens to the RIG funds that don’t get used?
The people who work in our Office of Undergraduate Research have a big party. Okay, that’s not true, but the funds are returned to the RIG account for future RIG recipients to use.