Undergraduate Research Assistantships

Undergraduate Research Assistantships (URA)

URA ScholarSMU faculty pursue a wide array of research interests at the frontier of knowledge. Engaging in this research is one way that undergraduates may enrich their experience and extend their knowledge.

The Undergraduate Research Assistantship (URA) program at SMU provides an opportunity to students to pursue research across all disciplines. By providing matching funds to another source of research funding, such as a department's, school's or individual faculty member's existing research funding, this program facilitates undergraduate involvement in the university's leading edge research.

Please note SMU will host the 3rd Annual full-time Summer Research Assistantship (SRA) this summer.  This experience can provide students a unique opportunity, especially if they have done some research previously.  Applications should be submitted by March 31, 2014 to be guaranteed full consideration.

URAs have grown rapidly, supporting over 170 students in over twenty departments and programs across all undergraduate Schools at SMU the last year alone. These students tend to be juniors and seniors, but the number of first year students and sophomores is rising rapidly.  Interdisciplinary projects are easily accommodated as URAs.  Students have achieved many successes ranging from anthropology to engineering to physics. Their efforts have been published in refereed journals and presented at professional meetings in respective fields.

How do Assistantships Work?

Each assistantship involves a student working closely with a faculty member. As an undergraduate, you may want to participate in existing research at many different levels, or you may want to explore new avenues of study. Any level is supported. During the Academic Year, support for up to 10 hours of research each week is provided. In general, the research should be designed to fit comfortably into a normal schedule for a full-time student, approximately 5-10 hours per week.  It is possible to extend your part-time research into Winter or Summer breaks.  For Summer research, the student and faculty must submit updated forms. Full-time SRAs are awarded via a competitive process and can support students ready to focus more deeply on a research project.  Assistantships should not be merely labor intensive and repetitive, but real research positions.  They are meant to accomplish research while also providing mentoring for students.  Faculty mentors and students are encouraged to read some tips from Engaged Learning on how to foster a good student-mentor relationship.

The best way to acquire an assistantship is by first contacting the faculty member you want to work with. Sometimes you may know they have an interesting project and you want to get involved. In other cases, you may already know a new trajectory you want to pursue. Discuss with your faculty mentor what level and topic of research you will pursue. Once a project is defined, the faculty mentor obtains funds from the University to match their research funding.  Faculty mentors should read URA Program Guidelines for more information.  For questions about the URA program and how it works, please contact the Director of Undergraduate Research (urdir@smu.edu)