Undergraduate Research Assistantships (URA): Fall and Spring

What are Undergraduate Research Assistantships?

Engaging with faculty research is one way undergraduates may enrich their SMU experience and extend their knowledge beyond the classroom.

The Undergraduate Research Assistantship (URA) program under the Office of Engaged Learning provides an opportunity for students to pursue research across all disciplines. By providing matching funds to another source of research funding, such as a department, school, or research grant.
Applications for the URA program for the Fall and Spring semesters can be submitted at any time.

The URA program has supported over 1,000 students across the university, from first year to senior year. URA's have achieved numerous research milestones in their chosen field, been published in referred journals and represented at professional meetings.

Here's how it Works:

Each assistantship involves a student working closely with a faculty member. Students can participate in existing research, or explore new avenues of study. Either of these options is supported by the URA program. As a rule, the research should be designed to fit comfortably into a normal schedule for a full-time student at approximately 5-10 hours per week. It is possible to extend part-time research into breaks that occur during the Fall and Spring semester, as well as Winter break.

During the Academic Year, financial support for up to 10 hours of research each week is provided. The Office of Engaged Learning will cost share funding for up to $15.00 per hour, with payment beyond this point through the faculty's existing grant.   

Faculty mentors and students should read URA Program Guidelines for more information on URA's, as well as tips from Engaged Learning on how to foster a good student-mentor relationship. For questions about the URA program and how it functions, please contact us at engagedlearning@smu.edu.

Interested students should prepare a URA Proposal of 500 words minimumStudents are encouraged to seek editorial comment from their faculty mentors, but the proposal should be written by the student. The proposal should include:

URA Proposal

  • Clear title that describes the specific project
  • Overall motivation behind the research
  • Background information about the broader context of the research in the chosen field
  • Methodology, technique, or practice needed in the research
  • Description of specific research to be carried out by the student
  • How the student will benefit from performing research at this intense level 
    • Potential benefits include the connection of the proposed project to the student's career goals

Additionally, the student should acquire:

  • A brief, one-page letter of reference from the faculty mentor supporting the student's research
  • A written agreement from the student that they will write a 1,500-2000 word URA Report of their research experience at the end of the semester, as well as participate in Research Days

A panel of SMU faculty will review the submitted applications. Proposals selected by the faculty panel will be approved for funding.

URA Research Experience Report:

Final reports are expected of all URA students. These reports should be written by the student, and students are encouraged to seek editorial comment from their faculty mentor. The reports should be written to satisfy the following criteria:

  • Title
  • Abstract (200-500 words) which should address:
    • Research focus
    • Research methods (ex: experimental laboratory work, case studies, field studies, questionnaires, etc.)
    • Brief description of the results found through the stated research method
    • Main conclusions based on the results
  • Background information
  • Motivation which should address:
    • Explanation of research problem being addressed
    • Hypothesis about results of study
  • Methodology
  • Student's main contributions to the research project
  • Recommendations for future work
  • Reflective component which should address:
    • What the student learned from this experience
    • How the experience will translate into their career plans or expectations
  • Relevant images, diagrams, graphs and other figures

Based on these criteria, as well as overall writing quality, each report will be judged by a faculty panel. Suitable reports will be referred for possible publication in the Journal of Undergraduate Research (JoUR).

Want to pursue student-driven research? Check out Engaged Learning Fellowships!