How to Apply: Research Grants
USP funds projects that students have developed in consultation with a MSU faculty mentor. Proposals must be written by the student applicants. Editorial assistance form faculty mentors is strongly encouraged, but proposals must be essentially student written.. Students who have questions about how to get connected with a research project or opportunity are encouraged to visit the Undergraduate Research HUB site or contact the USP office.
Please review the eligibility requirements page to determine if you are eligible to apply. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the USP office.
Applicants should research previous work related to their project to help inform the direction and methods for their project. Depending on the nature of your project, you may need to do extensive background reading to learn techniques and methods involved with your project.
Once you have developed an idea, outlined a research plan, and completed background
reading you will begin the application process by writing a project proposal. The
proposal must convince the review panel that your project makes a significant contribution
to your field of study and that you have the skills and knowledge to complete your
project successfully. The proposal should also concisely outline your detailed research
plan. The body of the proposal should not exceed five double-spaced pages including
figures and tables. Additional pages should be included to document your works cited/references
and a brief report on any previous research experience (if applicable).
In order to expedite the review process, we recommend that you review a draft of the proposal with your faculty mentor prior to submitting your application.
Click here for detailed guidelines for writing your project proposal.
After you write your proposal (Project Description) you will need to fill out an online application. Go to https://www.montana.edu/uspapps/, log-on with your D2L username and password (NetID), and follow the online instructions. Contact USP if you have questions.
You will need to provide:
- Information about yourself, your mentor and your project
- A 250-word project summary
- A complete project budget
- A copy of your unofficial transcript (you will upload this to your online application)
- Your project proposal and associated documents (you will upload this to your online application)
Once you have submitted your application, it will be forwarded first to your faculty mentor for review and approval, and then to USP for funding consideration.
If you are applying for funding for a collaborative/group project in which each member is seeking USP funding, each member should submit an individual online application and proposal. Each group member's proposal should identify 1) that the project is a collaborative effort, providing an overview of the overall goals of the project and nature of the collaboration, and 2) that member's specific contribution to the project goals. These two elements should be identified in the "introduction" section of the proposal, and the "methods" section should clearly detail the specific methodologies/creative techniques for that member's contribution. Please contact the USP office if you have further questions about applying for a collaborative project.
Students applying for renewal must upload a 1-2 page summary of previous research experience in addition to the 5 page written proposal. The summary should address the following: 1) a brief overview of the previous project(s) and their outcomes/progress to date, and 2) how this previous research relates to and informs the current project proposal you are submitting.
While the research summary will provide a more detailed account of the previous research project, students should also reference their previous research briefly in the introduction of the written proposal to make a clear connection between the previously funded project and current proposal. The proposal should be updated to reflect the new timeline, updated objectives and methodologies (if applicable), and how the previous research has informed the current direction of the project. Proposals which appear to be "recycled" from a previous term, do not reflect substantive progress or insights* gained from the previous term of funding, or that do not outline a clear objective for continuing the project will not be recommended for funding. Your proposal should convince the review committee 1) that you made good use of your previous time and funding, and 2) that you have a clear purpose and objective for continuing the project into a second term of funding.
*Note - progress may not be "results," in every case, but perhaps insights gained through the research process. For example, if you ran a set of experiments that failed in one term, renewal may still be warranted if these "failed" experiments provided insights to a new direction or approach to the problem. The review committee understands that research does not always go as planned - in fact, this is often what points us toward more innovative ways of considering our reserach questions. Your goal, in the renewal, is to make the case for how your previous term of funding left you better prepared to tackle the problem in a second term of funding!
Please keep in mind that USP does not provide travel grants expressly to support students' participation in study-abroad or expedition-based courses. Students planning to engage in a substantive research or creative project in conjunction with the trip, however, are encouraged to apply for project support through our research grants program. USP has funded a number of successful expedition-based projects in the past, and welcomes these applications.
Since expeditions-based projects may face unique challenges ranging from language barriers, to accessing data/subjects, to time constraints in balancing an independent research project with the rigors of the course and travel schedule, students and mentors should carefully consider the time investment a project will require both in the field and in preparation before the trip (establishing contacts, conducting the background research, etc.). Please be sure that you clearly address the steps you will take prior to the trip to prepare for conducting your research, as well as the contacts and plans you have in place to carry out the research once you arrive. Students should also address a contingency plan to ensure that they have adequate contacts and supports in place to safely conduct their research and travels.
The maximum USP award amounts during the academic year are $1800 for the entire academic year (fall and spring) or $900 for a single semester. The maximum USP award for summer is $1800. Awards are based on hourly time commitment to the project. If you anticipate spending 200 hours or more for academic year/summer projects or 100 hours or more for semester projects you are eligible for the full stipend amount. If you anticipate spending less time on your project your stipend will be calculated at a rate of $9/hour.
Maximum INBRE award amounts are also $1800 for the entire academic year or $900 for a single semester, and require a 200 hour (full academic year) or 100 hour (single semester) commitment. Summer INBRE awards require a 400 hour time commitment during a 10 week window from early June - early August. The summer award amount is $4600. Space is limited, so any projects not funded by INBRE will automatically be considered for general USP funding, at the budget amounts outlined above. See the INBRE website for further details.
Please note - USP/INBRE cannot purchase supplies for student projects. Students may use their stipend payments, at their discretion, toward project expenses. You will be asked to complete a budget for estimated project expenses for review purposes only.
Once you have submitted your application, please log-in periodically to your USP student dashboard to track the progress of your project through the review process. Please be sure to keep the lines of communication open between our office and your mentor if you notice any approval delays or error messages. This will help ensure a timely review of your application.
The review process typically takes 3-4 weeks. Students will be notified by email once the reviews and funding decisions have been finalized, and reviewer feedback will post to your student dashboard. For spring applications, the review time may take longer due to faculty travel during winter break. Applicants will be notified within the first 3-4 weeks of spring semester about their funding status.
Expectations for Funded Projects
Students who are approved for funding will need to attend an info session to receive their award letter and fill out associated paperwork. Since USP payments are processed through the campus payroll office, students may need to file or update IRS forms in order to receive payment. If you have not filed an I-9 or W-4 form with MSU, please come to your session prepared with the required identification form(s) as outlined by the Department of Homeland Security. Students whose paperwork has expired (I-9's expire every 3 years, unless students have been continually employed with the University since the time of filing) may be asked to file updated forms. USP will email each student a schedule of info sessions along with a confirmation of whether tax documents need to be filed following the initial awards notification.
Failure to attend the scheduled info sessions and/or complete any required tax documents may result in delays to your payment schedule.
Academic year projects for USP/INBRE require a time commitment of approximately 200 hours for full funding, while semester long projects require approximately 100 hours. That is about 7-8 hours each week during times when classes are in session. For summer projects USP requires 200 hours (about five weeks full time or ten weeks half-time) for full funding and INBRE requires 400 hours (essentially a full time summer research commitment). Students may apply for partial funding for projects that take less than the hours designated above. A stipend calculator is available on the online application form to help students determine appropriate funding requests for projects requiring fewer hours than the standard term guidelines.
Students may apply for academic credit in conjunction with a USP project – either through USP or their home/research department. Since each department has specific policies regarding how independent research credits count toward degree requirements, we encourage students applying for academic credit to consult with their academic advisors to determine which option will best suit their departmental curricular requirements.
Please see our Applying for Academic Credit page for instructions on how to register. Note, applying for research credits is optional - it is not required for your funding eligibility.
Students will receive their USP awards in 2-3 lump sum stipend payments through the campus payroll office as follows:
- Fall Awards: November 11 (First Payment), January 11 (Final Payment)
- Academic Year Awards: November 11 (First Payment), June 11 (Final Payment)
- Spring Awards: February 11 (First Payment), June 11 (Final Payment)
- Summer Awards: June 11 (First Payment), August 11 (Second Payment), September 11 (Final Payment)
USP front-loads first payments, so students have more funding up front to work with. Final payments are contingent on completion of program requirements.
INBRE students, please see payment schedule outlined in your award letters.
Please note - USP cannot purchase supplies for student projects. Students may use their stipend payments, at their discretion, toward project expenses.
All USP/INBRE grantees must present their results to the public. Students funded by USP are expected to present their research at the MSU Student Research Celebration in April, unless other arrangements are made in advance with your mentor and the USP office. Additionally, students interested in presenting their work to a national audience at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research are eligible to apply for funding to help offset travel expenses. You may also choose to present at one of the many research symposia offered by departments and research institutes on campus during MSU Student Research Month.
Before you receive your last stipend payment you must complete a final report using
the online application and reporting system. The final report verifies that that you
have met the terms of your undergraduate research. Be prepared to answer questions
about your project, whether you completed your planned research and where you presented
your results. We also ask questions about your future plans and request contact information
so we can follow up with you about your future achievements.
Continued Research: Many students continue research projects over multiple funding periods. If you do
submit another USP/INBRE proposal remember to include a 1-2 page addendum outlining
the success of your previous project(s).
Keeping in Touch: We ask that you keep us posted as you move on to new challenges. Please let us know if you publish or present any of your undergraduate research. We also love to hear about new projects.
By making the effort to stay in touch and keep us informed, you help the undergraduate research programs at MSU maintain more complete records of outcomes and success. This helps ensure that future students have the same opportunities to pursue undergraduate research that you had. Thanks, in advance, for your support of undergraduate research.