How to Apply: Research Awards
USP funds projects that students have developed in consultation with a MSU faculty mentor.
Proposals must be written by the student applicants. Editorial assistance from 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 USP office or contact [email protected].
Applications can be found on the USP Application Portal as they become available (see calendar). Students must create a Submittable account before they can apply for opportunities.
Please review the eligibility requirements page to determine if you are eligible to apply.
Students are required to have a project mentor that is a faculty member at MSU Bozeman.
USP expects mentors to work with their students at all levels of the research process – from project planning and proposal writing, to conducting research and analyzing results, to preparing a poster and following-through with program requirements.
It is essential that students meet with their project mentor well before the deadline to submit.
Project mentors also provide the review panel with a confidential funding recommendation for their student's project. If a project mentor does not recommend that their student receives funding, the panel will not review the proposal.
Please ask your mentor if they are supporting other USP scholars as the USP program has an upper limit of 2-3 students per faculty mentor.
USP grants are standardized.
You can expect to receive your first payment (about 75% of the total amount) about a month after your award is announced. You will receive the remainder after your final report is submitted.
USP does not track hours.
Most students spend about 6-7 hours per week (~200 hours) per academic year working on their USP project. Most USP researchers keep the entire stipend as compensation for the time that they spend working on their project.
Funds also can be used to pay for research expenses that are not covered by the research mentor or other sources. Students are free to keep equipment and supplies purchased with USP funding.
The USP Research Grant Application requires a brief Budget Summary that with estimates of anticipated project costs that will be paid from the USP stipend, by the mentor, or by other sources that directly support the student project. We ask for this information to help you think through all of the resources that your project will need.
Your budget does not affect the total amount of your award, it just outlines how you plan to Spend the standard award amount. Research project costs not covered by the mentor or other sources must be paid out of the USP stipend award, thus reducing the amount of compensation retained by the student. We encourage USP mentors to cover as many of the research expenses as possible so students can be fairly compensated for their contribution to research by keeping most, or all of the research stipend.
The USP budget summary spreadsheet calculates the amount of compensation that is left for the student after research expenses are paid. Use these budget template spreadsheets to work out your budget before starting your online application.
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.
An effective proposal does the following:
- Shows that your project makes a significant contribution to your field of study
- Explains how you have the skills and knowledge to complete your project successfully.
- Concisely outlines your detailed research plan.
- The body does not exceed five double-spaced pages including figures and tables.
- Additional pages should be included to document your works cited/references
- 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. Students submit their applications in Submittable.
You will need to provide:
- Information about yourself, your mentor and your project
- A 250-word project summary
- A PDF upload of your unofficial transcript
- Your 5-page project proposal and associated documents
Once you have submitted your application, you will receive an email to forward your proposal to your faculty mentor so that they can submit their official recommendation. Once the faculty recommendation is submitted, then USP will process your application.
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:
- That the project is a collaborative effort, providing an overview of the overall goals of the project and nature of the collaboration
- 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 and/ or creative techniques for that member's contribution.
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:
- A brief overview of the previous project(s) and their outcomes/progress to date
- How this previous research relates to and informs the current project proposal you are submitting.
While the research summary will provide a 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 and conference awards 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.
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.
Please note - USP 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.
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
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 lump sum stipend payments.
- Academic Year Schedule
- Pay 1: November 17
- Pay 2: June 15
- Fall schedule
- Pay 1: November 17
- Pay 2: January 12
- Spring schedule
- Pay 1: February 23
- Pay 2: May 25
USP front-loads first payments, so students have more funding up front to work with. Final payments are contingent on completion of program requirements.
Please note - USP cannot purchase supplies for student projects. Students may use their stipend payments, at their discretion, toward project expenses.
Awards will be made via Fellowship form paid through MSU’s Business Office. Required papwerwork typically includes the following:
- Fellowship Form – this form will detail the dates and amounts of your award and the nature of your tax reporting responsibilities. Taylor will send this form via DocuSign, so please keep an eye out for the email.
- W9 – This form will be routed to you through secure file transfer since it will require your SSN. Again, please keep an eye out for the email.
- Please note that you will not be eligible to receive your award until the Fellowship form and W9 are completed.
All USP/INBRE research awardees 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.
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.
USP and INBRE students will be emailed a link to the final report 2 weeks before the scheduled deadline.
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.