Montana State University

Resources for Faculty Mentors

Thank you for your interest in mentoring undergraduate research!  Please see below for an overview of general program information, as well as some of our most frequently asked questions. 

Password Help

The USP Dashboard system requires that students and faculty log-in using their NetID credentials.  This is the same username and password required by D2L and the MSU Library for electronic reserves and e-requests.  As with D2L or Library services, you can log-in to the USP dashboard using your firstname.lastname in lieu of the net id. 

If you need to set or re-set your NetID password, you can do so through the ITC password help page (http://password.montana.edu/) or by calling the ITC Help Desk at x1777. 

Mentor Responsibilities

Faculty mentorship is at the heart of successful undergraduate research experiences.  While USP coordinates project funding and associated administrative aspects of student awards, faculty mentors are responsible for the more direct, day-in-day-out oversight of student projects.  As a faculty mentor, you will be in a position to coach, teach, model, and encourage students as they learn the skills and processes to successfully conduct research in their field of study.  USP expects mentors to work with their students at all levels of the research process – from proposal writing, to conducting research and analyzing results, to preparing a poster and following-through with program requirements.    

Please work with your student to determine expectations for your level of involvement.  USP generally recommends that mentors meet/exchange substantive communication with their students at least every 1-2 weeks, but recognizes that this may vary based on the complexity of the project and the student’s level of experience.        

As the supervising faculty, USP mentors will be also be responsible for assisting students with any departmental or university level compliance items that pertain to the project.  This may include, but is not limited to:  

  • Assessing projects and assigning grades for academic credit (if applicable)
  • Filing travel authorization paperwork (for projects that involve travel and/or USP funded conference travel)
  • Obtaining IRB approval or any other permissions relevant to the project

Please contact the USP office if you have any questions. 

Types of Projects We Fund

USP funds research and scholarship in all academic disciplines, including original creative works in the arts and humanities.  Projects may contribute directly to a faculty member’s research area (for example, assigning a student to a sub-component of your larger research goals), or come out of a more independent research interest proposed by the student.  The key factor in either case is that the student be actively engaged in addressing a substantive research question or creative project.  Student work should move beyond simple lab or research assistance (data entry, routine lab tasks, etc.) to active engagement in framing and answering the research question(s).  One way we try to ensure substantive involvement is by requiring that all proposals be student-written (although mentors are encouraged to provide guidance and editorial assistance during the drafting process). 

FAQ’s

May students apply as a group for funding to work on a collaborative project?

Yes –collaborative projects are welcome and encouraged. Please see the instructions for group projects page for more details.

Are class or capstone projects eligible for funding?

Maybe. In general, we do not fund projects that are a required part of a student’s academic curriculum, although exceptions may be made for students who have extensive project costs or time commitments due to taking on ambitious, “above-and-beyond” capstone or class-related projects. USP typically defers to the faculty mentor’s judgment as to whether a project meets an above-and-beyond quality, with respect to the curricular requirements.

I am teaching a Great Expeditions or other expedition-based course. Should I encourage my students to apply?

Maybe. USP does not provide travel grants expressly to support students’ participation in study-abroad or expedition-based courses, although students planning to engage in a substantive research or creative project in conjunction with the trip 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. Please keep in mind that 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 can commit to helping your student(s) follow through with the project and associated USP program requirements (public presentation, end of term reports, etc.) before suggesting that they apply.

For further details and guidelines, please see the instructions for travel abroad projects page.

Are service-learning projects eligible for funding?

Maybe - if the service learning project involves a substantive research component then yes. If there is not a substantive research component, then no - the project falls outside the scope of USP funding.

I would like to recruit a student to assist me with my current research – are these students eligible to apply?

Yes. Please keep in mind that student work should move beyond simple lab or research assistance (data entry, routine lab tasks, etc.) to active engagement in framing and answering the research question(s). Proposals must be written by the student, although we encourage mentors to provide guidance and editorial assistance during the drafting process.

Can students receive academic credit for USP funded research?

Yes. Students can either apply for USP 490 credits, or independent research credits through their home or research department. In either case, as the faculty mentor, you will be the grading authority. Please see the credits page for more details on the options and administration for academic credit.

May I supplement my student’s USP funding through my research grant or department payroll?

Yes. While, mentors should not “double-pay” students for any single set of hours worked, they can certainly supplement USP funding for additional hours worked, or to account for differences in funding rates. Mentors are also welcome to support projects by providing supplies or support for other project costs (travel, training, etc.).

Students should indicate which project expenses (if any) their mentor/lab/research group will be assisting with on the “budget” page of the electronic USP application. USP will file all paperwork associated with the USP stipend, and mentors should work with their department accountants to initiate any paperwork for supplemental funding through their department or research grant.

What do USP reviewers look for when assessing applications?

Reviewers look for originality and significance of proposed projects, feasibility given the proposed timeline and student’s experience level, and overall quality of the written proposal. Proposals should be well researched and adequately cited, with all required areas addressed. Academic performance is taken into consideration, as well as the contribution the project makes to scholarship in their field of study. For more details, see out tips for writing successful research proposals page.

What is the typical funding rate for USP proposals?

Funding rates typically range between 70 – 80%, with some variation based on the total number of applications we receive in any given semester. Our goal is to fund as many proposals as possible, among those that receive strong reviews, within our available awards budget.

Is there a minimum GPA requirement?

There is no formal minimum GPA requirement to apply, although academic performance is considered during review. Students should be in good academic standing, and priority funding will be awarded to students with strong academic records and students with records of academic improvement over time.

Is USP limited to juniors & seniors?

No – USP is open to all MSU undergraduates.

Can NTT faculty and MSU staff members mentor projects?

Yes – as long as they have sufficient experience and expertise with the subject area, research methods, and associated compliance mechanisms (for example, IRB process or public lands permissions) to help their student successfully navigate and complete the project. Students should briefly address their mentor’s connection/background with the project in the “collaboration with faculty mentor” section of their proposal.

Can graduate students serve as mentors?

Graduate students can assist with project oversight and mentorship, but each applicant must have a faculty member willing to serve as the official project mentor and USP point of contact.

What are the eligibility requirements?

Our main requirements pertain to a student’s undergraduate enrollment status (i.e. must be at undergraduate status, enrolled as full-time students – with some exceptions for summer enrollment and soon-to-be graduating seniors). Please see our eligibility requirements page for a full list of eligibility requirements.

What does the application process entail?

Please see out how to apply page for a full overview of the application process.

How do we appeal if our student is not funded?

If your student is not funded, please carefully review proposal feedback with your student (this will be posted in the student’s dashboard at the conclusion of the review process). If you think there has been a discrepancy or misunderstanding in the review, please contact the Program Director, Dr. Colin Shaw (colin.shaw1@montana.edu) to discuss the outcome of the review.

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