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Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program  Student FAQ

Working as a URF allows students to partner with faculty mentors and be paid to do so. It is important to understand that you cannot do a URF without a faculty mentor so the first thing you need to do is find one (See question below). Once you’ve found a faculty mentor, the project has been approved, and you’ve been hired and cleared to work by Human Resources, you’ll start conducting your research. Your faculty mentor should be guiding you through this process.

You are expected to present your research at the Annual Celebration of Student Scholarship, which is held every April.

Most faculty mentors will encourage their students to try to present their research at other opportunities (NCUR, Posters at the Capital, etc.).

Students can complete up to four years of URF work. A year of URF work typically lasts two semesters, with most of the research coming in the fall and then preparations for the Celebration of Student Scholarship in the spring.

But why be a URF? Many reasons. It’s hands-on, relevant experience you’re getting outside of a classroom that you put on your resume and talk about in job interviews. If you’re considering graduate school, something to know is that these programs are competitive and heavily research based so having research experience will help you stand out. Being a URF will also help you build career skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, and written and oral communication. You can also take the theories and concepts you’ve learned about in class and apply them to the real world.

This is the difficult part. Start with what you know about faculty members and their work. You can use Google Scholar to search the faculty’s name and find their most recent article. Find the faculty that aligns best to what you want to do for your research.

When you first approach, focus on discussing your interests, passions, and goals – this will leave a stronger impression than discussing your GPA, major, or other such information.

Usually though, faculty approach students they think would be a good fit with their projects. They will often make announcements in their classes about opportunities they have for students, so pay attention.

This is also difficult. Keeping in mind that faculty usually approach the students they want to work with, it is hard for students to know the opportunities that are out there. As of now, MSU does not have a database to keep track of research/URF opportunities.

Talking to your professors is perhaps the biggest way to find a URF opportunity. But there’s a few other ways.

Go to ScholarWorks – this is an archive of undergraduate research that has been presented at the Annual Celebration of Student Scholarship. You can search through the content in a variety of ways but pay attention to the faculty who are connected to the research. They might be willing to take on another URF.

There are interest forms on our website that students can fill out. It doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be matched up with a faculty mentor, but the Coordinator of Undergraduate Research will add your name to a list and will do their best to find an opportunity for you.

Most importantly, you need to be a full-time student. Otherwise, any requirements you need to meet is up to the discretion of the faculty mentors and the departments they’re working in.

It depends. It’s entirely possible that the research project you’re working on will require you to travel off campus. But it might not. A lot of students will be able to complete their research without travel requirements. Talk to your faculty mentor about travel concerns. Also, if you decide to present your research at conferences, you’ll have to travel for that.

It’s important to know that students can only work 20 hours a week in institutional jobs, which the URF falls under. So yes, you can, but the total number of hours you work cannot exceed 20.

The URF request application is meant to be filled out by faculty. However, during the hiring process with Human Resources, you will need to complete the onboarding process, which is paperwork.  

There will also be an evaluation sent to URFs after the Celebration of Student Scholarship – if you want to consider that paperwork. 

There is also paperwork that needs to be filled out in order to present at the Celebration of Student Scholarship, but it won’t be hard. 

After the faculty mentor submits the URF request form/application, it will then be sent for approval by department chairs/associate deans and college deans. Once the request has been approved, the Coordinator of Undergraduate Research will submit the proper paper to start the hiring process.

There are several parts to the process at this point, but what is most notable for students is Human Resources. If you have never worked on campus before, you will be sent an email about a background check (HireRight). You’ll need to follow those instructions. Once you’ve passed the background check, you’ll be moved on to Onboarding. You will receive another email outlining a list of things you’ll need to do. Everything will be done online, except for the I9 form. That will need to be filled out in person at Human Resources.

How quickly you as a student work through these things will affect how long it takes to be hired.

If you’ve already worked on campus, this process should be a lot quicker.

Once the student has been approved to start working, the Coordinator of Undergraduate Research will be notified and they will send that news to you (the student), the faculty mentor, and whoever else needs to know.

Yes, URFs are paid. The rate is based on how many fellowships a student has had – you can complete up to four.

  • First-time URF - $9.00/hr
  • Second-time URF - $9.50/hr
  • Third-time URF - $10.00/hr
  • Fourth-time URF - $10.50/hr

This will be done through your self-service portal. You can find help with this here. Scroll until you see ‘Time Entry for Student Employees’ under the student section.

Honors students are required to complete two semesters of an unpaid URF. After those two semesters, though, you can continue to engage in the fellowships and be paid to do. Please make sure you let your faculty mentor know that you are an honors student.

This will depend on quite a few different things. Some students will be working 20 hours a week, others might only work 2 hours a week – this will be decided before the URF is approved and hired. You and your faculty mentor should sit down and work out what it is you need to be doing in terms of the research and then figure out how it will fit into your schedule.

You should never work more than the time you’ve been approved for. And, if you’re working less than the time you’ve been approved for, the Coordinator of Undergraduate Research should be contacted.

Yes. Participating in the Annual Celebration of Student Scholarship is an expectation. Students will give either oral or poster presentations.

In addition, faculty will often encourage students to find conferences to present their research, so you might end up having more than one.

The Annual Celebration of Student Scholarship showcases the research, scholarly and creative activities of all faculty-mentored student projects. This is a daylong event where students will present their work either through oral presentations or poster presentations. Awards will be given at the end of the event based on feedback from the judges.

A call for nominations is usually in late February/early March. Your faculty-mentor should help you prepare and remind you of both the application and the presentation. The Coordinator of Undergraduate Research will also try to send out reminders.

Faculty mentors will often help students, but there will hopefully be a workshop/information session for students to attend sometime in the Spring to help them with the poster creation.

Additional information

Faculty mentors will often help students, but there will hopefully be a workshop/information session sometime in the Spring to help students with their ability to communicate their presentation.

Yes, there is some money to help students with travel expenses, but it’s limited. Keep in mind that the funds are only available to MSU undergraduate students.

Ideally, there will be a workshop/information session sometime in the Spring to help students with this. But you can also make an appointment with someone in Career Services in the Center for Career Development and Experiential Education to help build your resume.

Call: 606-783-2233


Office: Ground Floor of Camden-Carroll Library