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Summer Research Assistantships (SRA)

Summer Research Assistantships (SRA)

Research activity during the summer is an excellent way for a student researcher to make focused progress in a project.  There are many such opportunities across campus, and students are encouraged to talk to faculty members to devise a new project, or continue one begun during the academic year.  Projects can be either student generated ideas, or projects connected to a faculty mentor's ongoing research.  SMU supports assistantships for students to pursue their research interests full-time so that undergraduates can make the most of opportunities provided by their faculty mentors.  These Summer Research Assistantships (SRAs) allow students to earn up to $4,500 during the summer, including the 50% match from the University, doing the research of their choice.  They will be paid hourly on a biweekly basis.

The selection of SRAs is a competitive process.  To be considered, the interested student should prepare a proposal of 750 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 the following:

  • Clear title
  • Overall motivation for the research
  • Methodology, technique or practice needed in the research
  • Description of specific research to be carried out by the student
  • The student should also indicate how they hope to benefit from performing research, with particular emphasis on the proposed SRA effort.  Potential benefits include the connection of the proposed project to their vocational/career goals
  • A brief letter of reference from the faculty mentor supporting the student
  • Acknowledgement that the student will write a 1,500 - 2,000 word report of their research experience, which will be due no later than Wednesday, August 15, 2018.

The deadline for submission of the SRA application is Monday, April 2, 2018 at 5:00 PM.  To submit the application, please send the completed URA form, SRA proposal, and faculty letter of recommendation to the Director of Undergraduate Research by the April 2nd deadline.  On the URA form, page 2 can be left blank except for the signature of the faculty mentor at the bottom since the longer SRA proposal will be submitted separately.  The electronic Payroll Authorization Form (ePAF) will then be submitted separately later by the department administrative assistant if the SRA proposal is approved.

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

The SRA Report

Final reports are expected of all SRA students.  Normal part-time URA support for the student or faculty mentor can be renewed for the subsequent term only once the SRA report has been submitted.  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.  Further explanation of these criteria are available here: SRA Report Guidelines.

  • Title
  • Abstract (200 - 500 words)
  • Project Description
  • Motivation
  • Methodology
  • Results
  • Discussion
    • Explanation of results and implications
    • Student's main contribution(s) to the research project
    • Recommendations for future work
  • Reflective Component
    • What did you learn from this experience?
    • Did your experience impact your vocational plans or expectations? If so, how?

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 consideration for publication in the SMU Journal of Undergraduate Research (JoUR).  Students authoring the highest quality reports will be invited to present their results at the Undergraduate Research Presentations session of the SMU Research Day held in Spring Semester.  This review and selection process is highly competitive.  Invitees unable to attend that event will be able to present at an Engaged Learning sponsored event during Fall or Spring.  Invited students who present their work earn the distinction of Summer Research Fellow (SRF).

Faculty Guidelines on SRA:

Faculty mentors should review the URA Program Guidelines.  For the summer, they can seek support for up to three SRAs, with a limit of a total of six students including part-time URAs. 

There are two choices for summer research either as a part-time URA or full-time SRA:

  • URA: If the student is enrolled in a credit-bearing (one or more credit) course during the relevant summer period and will be working less than 20 hours/week, they are classified as a 'Student Worker'.  This student pays income tax but is exempt from the FICA tax and no benefits are charged to the home base Fund/Org.

NOTE: Enrollment in a zero-credit hour class does NOT meet the enrollment requirement for the 'Student Worker' classification.  Though enrollment in a zero-credit research course is not required, enrollment is recommended if such a course is available in the department of the faculty mentor who is supervising the student research.  The zero-credit research course will be shown on the student transcripts.

  • SRA/URA (not enrolled in a credit-bearing course): For students not enrolled in SMU credit-bearing courses and/or who will be working more than 20 hours/week, they are as classified as 'Temporary Staff'.  The student is charged income and FICA tax.  Benefits charges are incurred against the same Fund/Org that the wages are paid from (50% to the Fund/Org provided by the department or grant; 50% to the URA program).

It is important that the students be classified in one of these two categories.  Complete instructions on submitting ePAFs for Student Workers and Temporary Staff are available here: Student Job Classifications.

For those applications that rely on a source of matching funds for which the application is still pending, such as McNair Scholars or Hamilton Scholars, the SRA application should still be submitted by the deadline for full consideration.  In this case, the application should include:

  • Mention of this status
  • Name of the matching program (e.g. Hamilton Scholars, McNair Scholars)
  • Date that program’s application decisions are expected to be known 

The latter is particularly important for external sources of funding.  SRA approvals will be decided based on merit, but new openings may arise after the deadline for full-consideration if any approved SRAs don't secure matching funding.

By contrast, if a student is applying for an internship but would be interested in applying for an SRA should the internship not become available, the student should only apply for SRA when they are informed of this status.