What is research and why should I participate?

There are many reasons to get involved in research. The main motivation should come from you—you should have a desire to understand something better and to contribute to the world’s understanding of it. Participating in an undergraduate research experience can indeed help you understand a subject better. But it also can help you explore connections between disciplines, prepare for graduate school, or gain experience that will help when it comes time to apply to graduate school or for prestigious fellowships. Westminster College believes that research improves students’ critical, analytical and integrative thinking, helps them be more creative and reflective, and it builds leadership, teamwork, and communication skills. Many graduate programs involve students in research. Learning lab skills and techniques will give you the edge when it comes to getting into the graduate program of your choice.

How do I get involved?

There are many opportunities to participate in research as an undergraduate at Westminster. Look through this site and explore both the on campus and off campus possibilities. Talk to your professors and find out if there are ways to assist them with their research. Westminster College sponsors a number of grants each summer. See the links on the left for those applications. The Gore family sponsors the Gore Math/Science research grants each summer. The Environmental Studies Program sponsors two independent research grants. The Center for Civic Engagement and the Environmental Center both offer summer research opportunities, and the Provost's Office sponsors a number of summer research grants. In addition, schools, agencies and organizations have programs that pay students to be involved in research. The following list has many of those opportunities. Be resourceful. Try internet searches. Look at the undergraduate research web pages at other universities. Read descriptions carefully—some have restrictions on who can apply.

Research Opportunities

The following list has many opportunities for students to get involved in undergraduate research projects. Most of them occur off campus during the summer. Pay close attention to eligibility requirements. For more information please contact Scott Gust, 832-2449, sgust@westminstercollege.edu.

Undergraduate Research Options for Students

At Westminster College students have many options to get involved in undergraduate research. Some disciplines allow students to received academic credit for udergraduate research. There are also a number of work study supported undergraduate research assistant positions available. During each summer there are funds available from a variety of sources to support students who conduct undergraduate research with a faculty mentor. Most use the same application which can be found in the menu to the left of this page. The deadline for summer research grant applications is usually in early March of each year.

In order to be considered for one of these grants you must be an undergraduate. Seniors may not apply for funds that occur after their graduation. Students must also have a faculty mentor and in most cases, a project in mind. The research can be proposed by the student, by the student and faculty working together, or by the faculty member. Applicants must meet all eligibility requirements and deadlines. Late applications will not be considered. All applications will be considered by the Undergraduate Research Faculty committee who will make final selections based on available funding, viability of the research project, and the qualifications of the student.

Occasionally students will be considered for part time (20 hours per week) grant. If you and your research mentor have agreed to a part time schedule, please indicate that in your application.

Student Information/Overview

Westminster College is pleased to announce the availability of summer 2016 undergraduate research positions for students doing collaborative research with Westminster faculty. Any Westminster student is eligible to apply for a research position if they will be enrolled as an undergraduate at Westminster in the fall of 2016. The program provides students up to $3000 (maximum) paid in increments every two weeks for full-time research done over the eight week summer session, contingent upon funding availability and satisfactory progress. This program is supported by the Gore Math/Science Endowment, the Eskuche Fund, The Environmental Studies Program, the Dee Foundation, the Martin Fund, the Provost’s Office, and the Westminster Scholars program.

The Teaching, Learning, and Resource Faculty committee will consider all applications and make recommendations concerning these positions. Generally, the students who receive these summer positions have excelled in their classes and have an interest in a field similar to a professor’s research field. Eligible projects are those on which a student and Westminster professor can work collaboratively during the summer. A student may approach a potential faculty mentor with a specific research topic in mind, or may simply ask a potential faculty mentor to suggest possible research projects that would be appropriate. In either case, a mutual agreement between the student and potential faculty mentor regarding general project goals must be identified prior to submission of this application. Final awards are contingent upon available funds and the merit of the proposed projects.

Program Overview

The goal of this program is to provide an intensive research experience for students working one-on-one with a faculty mentor. The definition of Undergraduate Research communicated by the Council of Undergraduate Research (CUR) is: An inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline. It is expected that each student research project:

  • will produce a significant, high-impact student learning experience,
  • has well-defined objectives and methods,
  • requires engagement with the disciplinary literature, and
  • will involve both oral and written presentation of information

Students receive training in the research methods applicable to their specific project, employ critical analysis, and create written and oral presentations of their results. They attend weekly interdisciplinary meetings designed to address some practical aspects of research and an end of the summer research symposium where students present the results of their research projects. In addition, students are encouraged to present at other regional and/or national conferences.

Program Expectations
  • Each student will work closely with a faculty mentor on a research project (up to full- time, 40 hours per week) for 8 weeks, or the equivalent, unless agreed upon by the student and faculty member. Students working full time on research projects should not take multiple courses in the summer session or have another job commitment.
  • Students will meet regularly with their faculty advisor on a schedule agreed upon by students and faculty, as necessary for the progression of their research.
  • Attendance at periodic interdisciplinary research meetings (or pre-planned alternative ways to engage with the research group and research meeting content if the student is unable to attend the meetings) is also required (schedule to be announced).
  • Students are expected to participate in a forum in late summer or early fall where each student can share the progress on projects with the community (date to be announced).
  • Each student is also expected to present the results of their research (by creating a video presentation, delivering an oral presentation, or participating in a poster session) at an appropriate local, regional, or national meeting during the following academic year.
  • Students who are proposing to conduct research away from the Westminster campus must submit a plan for regular contact with their faculty advisor that includes periodic status updates on the progress of their research that can be shared with the research meeting group.

To be considered for one of these grants the student and faculty mentor each need to submit the appropriate online forms (links are below). If the research project is a student-initiated, independent project, the student will provide the faculty member with a 500-1000 word project overview that also addresses the research outcomes (below in faculty section) that will be submitted by the faculty mentor. It may be helpful to compose and edit responses first using a word processor and then cut and paste responses into the text boxes in the online form. There is no “save draft” function, once you click "Submit Form" your application will be submitted.

Faculty Information
Proposal, Outcomes and Faculty Responsibilities

To be considered for one of these grants the student and faculty mentor each need to submit the appropriate online application form (link below). If the research project is a student-initiated, independent project, the student should provide the faculty member with a project proposal that will be submitted by the faculty mentor.

Faculty are responsible for submitting: the Student/Faculty Proposal addressing the project goal and research outcomes below (500-1000 words accessible to a general academic audience), a description of the nature of the student responsibilities and activities in the project, and the expected student learning outcomes (some are listed below). Any of these sections can be co-written with the student, but must be submitted on the faculty application. The final section addresses the Faculty Responsibilities, including an evaluation and feedback plan, and mentoring model (information below)—this section will be used to determine faculty stipend. Faculty who are working with multiple students, can opt to submit one application per student, or one application per project, as they see fit. There is no “save draft” function, once you click "Submit Form" your application will be submitted.

Mentoring Models

There are three different models of mentoring undergraduate research. Please indicate in your proposal which model best describes the work you’ll be doing this summer with your student. Ranges of support are given for each model and will depend on faculty self-report of effort and number of students supervised.

  • Independent Researcher Model: The faculty mentor periodically advises the student on a project that is by and large the student's idea and effort. Stipends range from $500-$1000.
  • Student Faculty Team Model, part time: The faculty mentor is a collaborator who is engaged in the project along with a student or students providing consistent, but periodic, supervision and feedback on the work and/or ideas. Stipends range from $1000-$2000.
  • Student Faculty Team Model, full time: The faculty mentor is a collaborator who is engaged in the project along with students providing consistent, daily supervision (e.g. due to difficult technical or safety needs) and feedback on the work and/or ideas. Stipends range from $2000-$3000.
Evaluation Criteria

The goal of this program is to provide an intensive research experience for students working one-on-one or in a small team with a faculty mentor. Projects will be evaluated on their potential to provide positive learning outcomes for students, including:

Research Outcomes
  • well-defined objectives and methods
  • substantial contact with the literature
  • potential for original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline
Student Learning Outcomes
  • positive student learning outcomes, emphasizing one or more of the College Wide Learning Goals
  • training in the research methods and analysis applicable to the specific project
  • oral and written presentation of research process and results

Environmental Studies Independent Research Grant

Number of Awards: 2 (contingent upon funding availability)

Description: Stipend for independent summer research guided by a Westminster faculty member.

Award Amount: $1500 stipend per award

Eligibility: Typically awarded to Environmental Humanities or Civic Environmental majors.

Expectations: Award recipients will present findings on campus during the fall semester after receiving the award.

Application Process

Applicants should submit

  • Resume, including GPA
  • 2–3 page project proposal
  • 500 word personal statement explaining why you want to do the project, and why you are the one to make it succeed
  • A letter of support from faculty sponsor (see details below)
  • Funding will be contingent upon obtaining appropriate IRB if you're using human subjects

Application Deadline: TBD

For Faculty Mentors

The Environmental Studies Independent Summer Research Grant program supports students in summer research projects of their own design and execution. As a faculty referee you are not expected to assist directly with this summer research, but we do hope that you are willing to give guidance, as needed, for this project. The student will report progress to you during the summer; as such, you and the student, as well as the nature of the project, should determine the number and frequency of these reports. We ask that you also meet with the student once at the beginning of fall semester.

Please describe the capabilities of the student applicant, the significance of the proposed project, and the likelihood of its being completed over the summer.

In addition, please describe your faculty responsibilities and activities related to this project. This section will be used to determine faculty stipend.

These grants act as a stipend for independent summer research experience mentored by a faculty member.

Number of Awards: 2

Award Amount: $3750 stipend.

Eligibility
  • Has completed at least 4 Honors classes by the end of the spring semester;
  • Does not have another summer job requiring more than 20 hours per week.
Expectations
  • Complete a 2-3 page mid project report for the Honors Program Director;
  • Submit a final 3 to 5 page report detailing the research or creative activity;
  • Present to the Honors community;
  • Encouraged to present results at a local, state, or national conference.

Application: Application consists of a 250-word project abstract, a project process description, an impact statement, and two faculty letters of support.

Application Deadline: Early March

This program provides a stipend and on-campus housing for McNair students for 30/40 hours per week of supervised research and participation in McNair activities.

Number of Awards: 8-10

Award Amount: $2800 stipend, $700 food allowance, on campus housing, travel to California McNair Program, Berkeley.

Eligibility

Any Westminster student who is enrolled in the McNair program.

Expectations
  • Participate in McNair workshops;
  • Present research results at the on-campus McNair symposium;
  • Are encouraged to present at external conferences;
  • Are encouraged to submit a final report for publication in an online journal.

Application Process: Complete a written application submitted to the McNair Program Director.

Application Deadline: End of March

Students are placed with a local business or community-based organization in a four month consultancy during spring semester at 10–15 hours a week. The intern works on specific projects providing management and technical assistance such as: business plans, marketing plans, research, financial/accounting assistance, public relations, etc.

Number of Awards: 10–12 per year.

Award Amount: Compensated at $12.50 per hour for 10–15 hours per week.

Eligibility

Westminster students majoring in communication, accounting, economics, marketing, management, political science and other disciplines.

Expectations
  • Establish specific goals at the beginning of the project
  • Write a final reflective paper detailing how the experience helps achieve the college wide learning goals

Application Process: Contact Annalisa Holcombe at asteggell@westminstercollege.edu

Application Deadline: No later than 3 weeks into the semester when the project will take place.

Support for projects focused on environmental learning and action on campus or in the community.

Number of Awards: 2

Award Amount: Up to $500 project support

Eligibility

Open to all Westminster students.

Expectations

Award recipients submit a final report to the Director of the Center for the Environment.

Application Process: Complete a written application submitted to the Director of the Center for the Environment.

Application Deadline: Ongoing

Support for the creation of high production value integrated arts projects in elementary schools, and for the production of a documentary film detailing the projects.

Number of Awards: 18 (contingent upon funding)

Award Amount: $1200 per scholar.

Eligibility

Open to all Westminster students.

Expectations
  • Work in a team of two students mentored by a faculty member
  • Put in 40 hours of work into the project including planning time in the spring

Application Process: Resume and 1–2 page narrative describing experience in the arts sent to David Dynak.

Application Deadline: tbd