Let's Learn about URSA!

     URSA is more than an acronym for Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Activity. Those words represent opportunity and discovery, open to every undergraduate student. As their slogan says, “don’t just gain knowledge—create it.”

     I spoke with URSA Coordinator, Kate Pendleton, and URSA Co-Director, Dr. Trent Sutton, to learn more. The information provided beneath each topic is paraphrased from each of their interviews.

What is URSA?

Sutton: At least 41 percent of undergraduates are already involved in research at UAF.

Pendleton: Each semester, more students apply for URSA grants. URSA is open to every undergraduate.

Who is eligible?

Sutton: URSA promotes research and scholarly activity.

Pendleton: “You don’t have to be at the top of your class or the most motivated student.” Any undergraduate can apply and reapply for URSA grants each semester. Students at all UA campuses, including rural sites, can apply too. “URSA is trying very hard to make sure anyone in any discipline has access to research.”

What can my project be?

Sutton: Anything a student wants to do, not just hard science, is eligible. Directing a play or creating a sculpture are examples of quality scholarly activities we encourage as well.

Pendleton: Students pick a project based off what they are interested in, or dig deeper into research they do as a student employee. Projects have included creating bowls, researching the effects of the drug spice, studying lampreys, and displaying art and writing. “Whatever it is that a student is interested in, they get funding to do that.”

What does it take to apply?

Once a student has an idea, they need to find a mentor. The mentor will help with the application and guide the student through their project.

Pendleton: Finding a graduate student or faculty member with similar interests is the easiest way to get a mentor.

Then, the student will apply for an URSA grant by way of an online application.

Sutton: There were thirty-eight submissions for the spring 2016 grant.

After, the applications are reviewed and grant recipients are contacted.

What is the application review process like?

Sutton: The URSA Co-directors, Dr. Trent Sutton and Dr. Barbara Taylor, review each proposal. Faculty representing the sciences and arts also review applications. Each proposal is reviewed by 3-4 faculty members. Then, the proposals are ranked by score on a spreadsheet and the prize money cut-off is determined.

What can I use the money for?

Pendleton: There are five awards each year, including two for projects, two for travel, and one $5000 summer research award. Faculty can also get mentoring funds. The awards are a stipend so that students can do research instead of having to get a job.  

Travel grants can pay for travel to the research site or help people attend a conference they couldn’t otherwise afford, either to present a paper or just attend and learn more.

Sutton: We gave out over $3000 in 2015.

What if I get the award?
Pendleton: If students receive a grant, they present at Research Day at the end of April. Students from each college compete and present their research.

What if I don’t get the award?

Even if a person doesn’t get a grant, URSA is helpful.

Pendleton: Students may do a masters project based on their URSA project. URSA is a learning process that people can use as a model when applying for larger grants.

Sutton: URSA work can help students build a resume and is a good primer for what grad school will be like. Hands-on learning is where students can reinforce what they learn in class. The book part comes to action. Furthermore, students learn to communicate their data to give it meaning, even for people who don’t have background with their project.

If you are interested in research, scholarly activity, or attending a conference, contact URSA!

Sutton: They can place you with a faculty member, find funding for you, and help you gain new experience

Pendleton: “There is something to be learned by all of it.”

Visit URSA in room 301 of the Bunnell Building
Call URSA at 907-450-8772
Visit their website at https://www.uaf.edu/ursa/

No comments

Powered by Blogger.