Frequently Asked Questions
What is Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Activity?
These terms refer to a project conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to a discipline, and applies to every discipline at UAF. In a science field, a research project might include the testing of a scientific hypothesis by collecting and analyzing data. In the arts and humanities, a scholarly activity might include the creation of an original piece of art or the composition of music. In engineering, a creative project might include the creation of a model of a machine. There are many ways to think about these terms.
“Past Awards” on the URSA website lists the projects and travel we have funded in previous years.
Here are some examples of creative and scholarly projects:
- English - A summer-long writing project that interrogated the relationship between geographic place, history and image.
- Art – A student worked with an internationally acclaimed artist at a workshop about portraying figurative sculpture in clay.
- Theatre – A student created original costumes for UAF theatre productions.
- Music – A student traveled to Italy with the Alaska Chamber Chorale Tour and explored the role of a music educator.
- Art/Photography - A student traveled to the Photo Expo Plus Portfolio Review in New York City to share her work with experts.
How many of these awards do you give out each year?
Our award year is based on the UAF school calendar. Fall is the start of the award cycle and it ends the following summer (September to the following August). In 2017-2018, we awarded 158 awards for a total of $338, 781 through our student, mentor, community-engaged learning and Innovative Technology (ITE) Awards.
Is URSA only for science majors?
No! URSA is available for all students. We have funded students in almost every department at UAF.
I’m not an Honors student – do I have to be super smart to do this?
No! In fact, over 41% of all UAF students get involved in research or creative activities during their undergraduate years at UAF. The minimum GPA requirement is 2.3 to be eligible for URSA-funded projects.
I can only afford to go to school part-time – can I apply?
Yes! URSA is open to degree-seeking undergraduate students enrolled in at least six credits in Associate and Bachelor degree programs. Once a student has graduated, they are no longer eligible.
How many awards can I get from URSA?
Students may receive one project and one travel award each academic year (fall, spring and summer). Students are welcome to apply every year that are enrolled at UAF. A student can receive $2,000 for a travel award as well as $2,500 for a fall or spring project award or up to $5,000 for a summer project award. That’s up to $7,000 every year that you attend UAF!
If I don’t get funded the first time I apply does that mean I will never get funded?
No! Many students do not get funded the first time they apply as URSA funding is competitive. Each application is reviewed by four faculty members, two from the arts/humanities and two from the sciences. URSA provides the comments from the reviewers to help each student develop an improved application for the next round. In our experience, students are much more successful when they work closely with their mentor, talk to URSA staff and address the reviewers comments the next time they apply.
Can I get funding from two different sources for the same work (like BLaST or INBRE)?
No! We encourage students to apply to BLaST and INBRE if their project or travel needs meets their unique requirements. We work closely with these programs to ensure that students do not receive funding from more than one organization for the same project or travel opportunity.
I attend a rural campus – how would this work for me?
Please contact URSA and we can help guide you to resources to complete your project away from the Fairbanks campus.
I missed the application deadline – do you make exceptions?
No! If you miss the deadline to apply for an award, you must wait for the next opportunity. There are no exceptions. Plan ahead!
One of the key aspects of an URSA award is the relationship that takes place between a student and their mentor. This is key to creating an opportunity for the student to pursue their area of interest and to learn valuable skills from their mentor such as; new laboratory techniques, qualitative research methods or presenting to a large audience at a national conference. Faculty mentors are experts in their field and they welcome students to learn about their discipline through interactions with the members of their lab group, other experts in their field, and introducing opportunities that a student might never know exist at UAF.
Who can be my mentor?
This person must be UAF faculty member, postdoctoral researcher or graduate student willing to mentor you for the duration of your project or travel. Undergraduate students cannot mentor other undergraduate students.
Do you provide mentors for students?
No! However, we have a list of active projects on our website (Opportunities at UAF). This list provides project descriptions and faculty mentors looking for students. Many students find their mentor by asking current professors. When you contact URSA, we can guide you to faculty members that may be helpful for your specific interests.
Can I get help with my application?
Yes! Work with your mentor and stop by the URSA office. We have a notebook with applications that have been funded in our office. You are welcome to look at them, but we will not make copies or email them to you. Many students have found these very useful in creating a successful application.
When you set up your budget, make sure you think it through carefully! You cannot move funds once they have been awarded. If you don’t use them by the end of the semester, they will be returned to URSA.
- URSA does not provide hourly wages for students, only fellowships. These are paid to your personal bank account and you are responsible for paying taxes on those funds.
- You will not complete a time sheet. There are no “hours” to log.
- You may not “hire” other undergraduate students to work for you.
- If you choose to receive tuition funding, you may receive an amount up to or equal to four credits.
- You must use this funding for a course that is relevant to your project.
- If you do not sign up for the course, the funds will be returned to URSA.
- If you fail the course or drop it, you will be required to return the funds to URSA.
- Before you spend any money on travel, you must have a completed travel authorization on file with your department/college/school travel coordinator.
- If you do not spend all the travel funds you requested, you may not transfer them to a fellowship or supplies. Plan carefully!
- All supplies purchased must be used for your project. Anything purchased with URSA money is the property of your college/school, they do not belong to you.
- If you fail to use your supply funds by the end of the semester, they will be returned to URSA.
Summer Project Awards
- These awards cross the UAF fiscal year. This is very important to consider as you create your budget. The funds will be split into two parts – one amount for the period before June 30 and one amount for the period after July 1. You must decide how you want to divide your funds – once you do, there is no way to change your mind. Please contact URSA for help as you plan.
Students that receive funding are required to complete their work within the semester in which they receive the funding. For example, a student that receives a Spring Project Award must complete the work by the end of the spring semester.
Students must provide a brief synopsis of their work and they must complete a reflection of their experience within two weeks of the end of the semester in which they received funding.
Research and Creative Activity Day
- All students that receive awards are required to present their work with either a poster, display or performance at the annual Research and Creative Activity Day.
- Students that receive funding for spring semester may present their work to date (i.e., work in progress).
- Students that received travel awards are also required to participate in Research and Creative Activity Day.
- Students that will not be attending UAF during the spring semester (e.g., study abroad, or graduating the previous December) are still required to provide URSA with a poster to display in your absence at Research and Creative Activity Day.
- The next Research and Creative Activity Day will take place on April 9, 2019 in the UAF Wood Center.
URSA will contact you and your mentor in the middle of the semester to check on your progress. If your project is not progressing or your mentor has concerns, you will need to schedule a time to speak with the URSA director (Trent Sutton) to discuss your options.
Failure to complete your project
URSA expects you to complete the project or travel for which you received funding to the satisfaction of your mentor. We are very willing to work with you to ensure your success. However, if you fail to complete your project according to your timeline, you will be required to return all of your funds to URSA. In addition, you will no longer be eligible for URSA funding.
What students say about URSA
- "I didn't feel undergrad research was attainable as a freshman, but looking back it is one of the best things I have done during undergrad. Research, especially my ties with URSA, have helped me tremendously both for career preparation and advancement and building my self-esteem and confidence."
- "URSA funded my study on the social hierarchy and behavior of wood bison in Alaska. I spent an entire summer observing these massive beasts, with views of the ocean and towering mountains as a scenic backdrop. This experience helped inspire me to pursue a career in wildlife biology, and helped me obtain an internship with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Through URSA, a wild idea turned into professional development, my first published research, and the experience of a lifetime."
- "This project award was a very strong learning experience for myself. There were many bumps along the road from a pH probe stop working and I had to wait for a replacement to freezing weather making it impossible to do any field work. This being my first research project I’ve ever done, I really had to think to solve all these problems. I had to spend long hours in the lab and even longer hours in the greenhouse. The project got very stressful at times combined with other class work. Yet I would do it all again. I thoroughly enjoyed my project and the knowledge I learned will only be the foundation for future research."
- "My project went very well and I ended up with great results! I learned many valuable laboratory techniques and made meaningful professional connections through my project. I also gained great experience in working with people involved in various aspects of the project and collaborating to produce a project report."
- "I think we met most of our goals. We definitely had to adjust some along the way, the first sampling period was a wake-up call for us all and we set more realistic goals for the second. Most of this was in relation to how much ground we could cover and how much in-depth data we would be able to collect. It was a good learning experience in this respect."
- "My experience working on my own project was enlightening and wonderful. I had previously worked in the genetics lab, doing exactly the same work for someone else's project. And I feel like it's a completely different experience when the project is actually yours, making everything much more exciting, every success being entirely yours, every problem yours to figure out. I would recommend it to everyone interested in doing actual science."
- "I learned more about research after one month of working on my project than I did in most of my biology classes."
- "This trip was absolutely instrumental in the furthering of my academic career. As a potential English graduate student, I benefited tremendously from the conference's various programs and panels. The Pac Rim Conference was the first time I'd ever been exposed to the professional side of my discipline, and it was absolutely eye-opening. I feel much better prepared for any potential panels and research projects I might work on in the future."
- "Our experience at competition was a mixed bag. On one hand, we had the extremely valuable experience of getting to network with other teams from all over the US and the world, getting UAF's name out there as a notable team in the DBF competition. People were very impressed with our plane and our preparedness; we were the only team with a simulator of our plane. On the other hand, a plane that flew really well in Fairbanks will not necessarily fare so well in Wichita. The wind literally blew us away, preventing us from completing any of the flight missions successfully."
- "My experience was very educational and quite helpful for my future education and career goals. I was able to speak about my research in front of a few hundred people in my field. I also got the chance to answer questions about my research, which is something I will be doing the rest of my career and was wonderful to get the chance to practice. I was also able to attend many other presentations which were quite enlightening and I was able to attend a grad school fair to learn about other schools."