- Northeastern: 02/15/2019
- Fellowship: 03/15/2019
Summer Scholars Independent Research Fellowships (SSIRFs) are designed to help students explore and discover. The awards support original, student-initiated independent research, creative performance, and project-making in close collaboration with a faculty mentor. Northeastern’s most generous undergraduate research awards, SSIRFs require students –as individuals or in groups -- to demonstrate a high degree of independence in project development and execution and provide up to $5,000 to fund at least ten weeks of full-time work during the summer. This year, in addition to awards offered within the University Scholars Program (where the SIRF Program originated), URF will award 5-10 SSIRFs to undergraduate students regardless of their affiliation within the university. Provided they meet the other requirements, all Northeastern undergraduate students are eligible to apply for this SSIRF award.
More than just a financial award, as part of the SSIRF application process, students receive training in how to craft and carry out research proposals. This is a competitive grant process and funding is not guaranteed.
See below for a few examples of projects SSIRFs can be used to carry out, as well as stories from students who have undertaken the projects:
- A big-data analysis to identify environmental and political factors contributing to desertification in North Africa.
- Evaluating a microfinancing initiative that helped Nepalese taxi drivers purchase their own taxis was effective in raising the drivers’ quality of life and per capita income.
- Developing a prototype of a chic diabetic shoe
- Creating a method of compiling computer programs that guarantees proven correctness properties are preserved throughout the translation process.
- Building and testing a mathematical model to predict demand for emergency response from the UN High Commission on Refugees.
- Analyzing whether international law regarding Antarctica could be a viable model for updating international agreements on exploitation of resources in outer space.
- Production of a podcast series about the lingering effects of the War on Drugs and the crack cocaine epidemic, as told from the perspective of communities of color in Boston.
Term Length: A minimum of 10 weeks
Needs Institutional Endorsement
Minimum GPA: 3.5
- All Northeastern University undergraduates in good academic standing and with a GPA of at least 3.5 can apply for a SSIRF.
- Applicants must be regularly enrolled at Northeastern University during completion of a SSIRF-funded research project.
- Applicants must meet all deadlines, complete the required sequence of pre-application workshops, and fulfill project reporting requirements.
- Newly admitted students are not eligible for summer funding the summer before enrollment.
- Group research projects are eligible for SSIRF funding. Groups may have up to three members, all of whom must meet all other eligibility criteria.
- Projects must be mentored by full-time Northeastern University faculty members.
- Fellowships cannot be used for tuition or instruction at Northeastern or elsewhere.
- Students are expected to dedicate at least 10 weeks of full-time effort (40 hours per week) to the completion of their project; additional time will likely be necessary and should be accounted for in project planning prior to the start of the project. Accordingly, students must maintain a regular presence at their research site (whether the Northeastern University campus or an off-campus research site) for the duration of the project. Projects must commence during the Summer sessions.
- Students may not participate in a SSIRF while on a Dialogue of Civilizations or during Summer session classes without the express, written consent of the faculty project mentor and the faculty member teaching their Dialogue or summer courses, and the approval of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships.
- Research conducted through the University must be carried out in keeping with ethical norms and federal regulations. Therefore, all projects involving human subjects research (if your project will likely involve data obtained from intervention or interaction with an individual, identifiable private information, or bodily materials) or vertebrate animals must be approved by Northeastern’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) or IACUC. Faculty advisors are considered the principal investigator for all student (undergraduate and graduate) projects with human subjects or vertebrates. Advisors are therefore responsible that the research is conducted in accordance with federal regulations and university guidelines, including obtaining approvals. Applicants must receive an IRB exemption note or IRB/IACUC approvals for research BEFORE conducting the research. Proof of IRB/IACUC approvals should be included with the application. If you are not sure whether or not your research needs these institutional approvals, please ask.
- Projects involving international travel must conform to all university guidelines, including but not limited to the following requirements:
- Read and understand the Northeastern University Policy on International Travel.
- Attend all required program pre-departure orientations and safety training.
- Enter your travel itinerary on My Travel Plans, also called the Northeastern Travel Registry.
- Determine if the university considers your destination high risk. If so, alert the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships and seek guidance about submitting an Exception Petition to request permission from the university to travel to that destination.
- Sign and submit Required Waivers.
- Update your emergency contact and FERPA information in the MyNEU portal.
The following criteria will be used when selecting projects to fund.
- Novelty/Importance: SSIRF projects are expected to make a significant, original contribution to an intellectual or creative field of endeavor. Applications should contextualize the project amid current work in the field and make clear the project’s unique contribution.
- Independence: SSIRFs are intended to support independent, student-initiated undergraduate research and creative endeavor. SSIRF applicants must demonstrate autonomy in the design and implementation of the research project. These awards cannot be used to substitute for a grant-funded position and are not designed to pay for the work of a research assistant.
In the case of the sciences and engineering, the projects can be carried out in close collaboration with a faculty mentor. However, there should be a distinction between the faculty member’s funded research and that of the SSIRF applicant. Students are expected to make their own clearly defined intellectual contributions via a SSIRF project.
- Feasibility: As demonstrated through preparation of a detailed project timeline, SSIRF projects must have a scope appropriate to the expectation that students will dedicate at least 10 weeks of full-time effort (40 hours per week) to the completion of their project. Accordingly, students must maintain a regular presence at their research site (whether the Northeastern University campus or an off-campus research site) for the duration of the project. Projects must commence during the Summer sessions. Feasibility also encompasses the safety of the student researcher (particularly with regard to travel) and the requirement that all research comply with regulations on research involving human subjects or vertebrate animals. Feasibility of the project is enhanced when projects are undertaken in the student’s field of study and relevant skills or expertise have been developed through previous research/creative, cooperative, or service activities.
- Mentoring: Students are expected to establish and maintain a schedule of regular contact with their faculty mentor. The Mentoring Plan should demonstrate a willingness on both the student’s and the mentor’s part to maintain this relationship despite challenges such as geographic distance, travel, and limited connectivity.
- Outcomes: SSIRF projects are expected to produce outcomes in a format appropriate to the subject matter and field of inquiry. How will the project’s results be shared with the world: as a film, a website, a prototype, a performance, a scholarly article? In addition to producing and submitting this research or creative product, SSIRF recipients must: (1) submit a mid-project report and a final report, both of which must be approved by the project’s faculty mentor; (2) present their work for other members of the Northeastern community in the fall; and (3) locate an appropriate venue for external review of their work.
- The Future: Projects are evaluated on the alignment of the project with student learning and life goals. Does this project move the student towards a powerful and provocative potential future, including graduate school, fellowships, and employment opportunities?
Up to $5,000 per student to fund a minimum of nine weeks of full-time research or creative endeavor during the summer (more is better). More than just a financial award, as part of the SSIRF process, students receive training in how to craft and carry out research proposals, as well as share their research.
The SSIRF application procedure has three parts:
- Preparation: All applicants must attend the series of SSIRF Workshops, including “Developing a Research Question or Creative Problem,” “Cultivating a Faculty Mentor,” “Ethical Conduct of Research,” “Formulating a Project Proposal,” “Finding Your Sources, Working with the Library,” and one “Proposal Review Workshop.” These workshops are offered in both the fall and spring semesters, and the sequence must be completed before the final application deadline.
- Intention: Submitting a brief, preliminary Letter of Intent. Letters of Intent are due for the Northeastern Deadline, noted in the sidebar. For more information, see below.
- Application: Submitting a full proposal, including a letter of support from your Faculty Mentor. Applications are due on the Fellowship Deadline, noted in the sidebar.
Letter of Intent
You can find examples of Letters of Intent here and here. To initiate the application process, SSIRF applicants should use the Letter of Intent Portal to submit a Letter of Intent not exceeding 500 words, which will provide the basis for your final proposal. Groups should submit a single letter of intent on behalf of the entire group. Letters of intent are due by the Northeastern Deadline (see sidebar). The letter should do the following:
- State the research question or describe what you intend to create, invent, or discover.
- Briefly discuss the potential significance of the project, both for your own personal development and your field of specialization.
- Indicate whether the project requires or is likely to require IRB and/or IACUC approval.
- Indicate whether the project involves international travel, and, if so, whether you will need permission to travel to a country the university considers high-risk.
- Outline any prior/preliminary work accomplished and/or experience that might be relevant to your proposed project.
- Indicate the name of your faculty advisor and the preliminary work you have done with him or her.
Students who have met all requirements and filed an appropriate letter of intent are invited to submit a full project proposal. The proposal consists of:
- An information form
- A SIRF Project Proposal Narrative
- A detailed, line-item budget prepared using the 2018 SSIRF Budget Template.
- A current official transcript
- A current resume
- A confirmation of IRB/IACUC approval
- A letter of support from your faculty advisor (please share this informational letter with your faculty mentor)
The elements of these pieces are described below.
Information form: You are asked to provide personal information as well as basic information about your project.
Project Proposal Narrative: Please address the following questions in the following order. The narrative portion of your proposal should be 2-3 pages in length (single-spaced, 12-point font, 1-inch margins), excluding the annotated bibliography. Be sure that your name appears on each page and that your pages are numbered.
- Personal Statement describing your personal and professional qualifications to pursue this research or creative endeavor and how you expect this work to fit into your academic plans and career ambitions. Group project proposals should include a personal statement from each collaborator. (200 words per personal statement)
- If you have previously received a SSIRF award or Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavor Award, describe how your experience with the previous project has informed your application and influenced your approach to planning and conducting a research or creative project. (150 words)
- Project Background and Objectives stating what question, problem, or creative area you hope to explore and outlining the objectives of the research. This section should also provide important background information for your project, contextualizing the project in terms of the broader work in the field. This section should, therefore, include at least three comprehensive references to articles or books in the field. To begin, check out the Northeastern library’s Subject Guides for Research as well as these tips for evaluating scholarly sources. (300 words)
- Project Design and Methodology This important section should outline your methodology—that is, the theory and techniques on which your project will rely—as well as a specific course of action for carrying the project through to completion. This statement should include an assessment of resources required for project planning and implementation and a consideration of potential project challenges. (400 words)
- For group projects only, you are asked to also provide a statement justifying why this project must be undertaken as a group, as well as what roles you expect each member to play in seeing the project through to fruition. (300 words)
- Project Timeline that lays out what you intend to do and when you intend to do it. Structure this like a syllabus, week by week, dividing your project into steps and apportioning your time appropriately. While this timeline can include pre-project preparations, the timeline should cover a minimum of nine weeks actively working on the project and exclusively dedicated to its execution. Students cannot attend classes or participate on co-op during the duration of their projects. All projects begin during the first day of Summer classes. (200 words)
- Mentoring Plan that outlines the anticipated frequency and mode (e.g., in person, phone, email, Skype) of your communications with your faculty advisor. Be sure to account for conditions such as travel (yours or your advisor’s), time zone differences, and the like, and be sure to discuss the Mentoring Plan with your advisor before submitting it. (150 words)
- Outcomes Statement that describes the anticipated outcomes or products of your project. (Note that the research product is different from the required final SSIRF report. The product is the actual thing you expect to have made: a paper written, a portfolio assembled, a prototype crafted, a film screened, a website launched, etc.) Detail how will you share the results of your project, including potential venues to share your work both within and outside Northeastern (e.g. the Fall Research Symposium, the Research, Innovation, and Scholarship Expo (RISE), a discipline-specific conference, specialized publication, etc.). (200 words)
- Annotated bibliography including works cited in the proposal and other key sources you anticipate using in your research. An annotated bibliography provides a brief synopsis of each listed work, explaining its relevance and applicability to your project. The annotated bibliography should include at least 10 references.
- Supplementary Materials. If needed, you may include graphs and illustrations, preliminary research, or portfolios.
Budget: Prepare your project’s budget using the provided SSIRF Budget Template. This spreadsheet provides separate lines for you to list and explain each itemized expense or resource. Modify or add to the pre-populated line items as necessary for your project.
- Expenses: Itemize expenses for your research, including travel directly related to your research (travel to conduct research at your home is not covered), living expenses (not while at home), program fees, material costs, and other expenses. The fellowship cannot be used to pay yourself or collaborators.
- If your project requires travel outside the United States, you must use the university’s travel agent to arrange flights (do not purchase them on your own!), and you must include a $150 per participant Foreign Travel Administrative Fee, which covers the university’s efforts to ensure your health and safety while abroad. The budget template differentiates international travel expenses arranged by the university’s travel agent from other travel expenses arranged by the student–please attend carefully to these separate categories.
- If your project requires durable equipment that is not readily available through the university — please utilize existing resources of the library and colleges — such as a camera, microphone, or voice recorder, please indicate this (as well as listing the price of such items in your budget). When possible, SSIRF recipients will be loaned equipment already owned by the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships. If SSIRF funds are used to purchase any equipment, that equipment becomes the property of the university and must be returned at the conclusion of the project. Similarly, the office will purchase items such as books, software, and datasets on your behalf if not available through the university.
- Laboratory expenses (for materials, specimens, supplies, etc.) will be funded directly to the PI of the lab in which a SSIRF recipient is working.
- In all instances, please provide the cost of the most reasonably priced, safe, and feasible option. For example, if public transportation is regarded as safe and reliable at your destination, budget for that rather than taxis.
- Resources: Please list any personal contributions, additional travel or study grants you have received for this project, or other financial resources you will use to conduct your research.
The spreadsheet will sum your total expenses and total resources, then use these figures to calculate your Funding Request.
Current transcript and resume: Groups should provide these for each member.
Confirmation of IRB/IACUC Approval. If you have received official confirmation that your project does not require this approval, attach that correspondence here, as well. No project involving human or vertebrate animal subjects will be funded, and no such research may commence, until the appropriate approvals have been secured.
Letter of Support: The Letter of Support should directed to the SSIRF Selection Committee and should address the faculty advisor’s involvement with the project; discuss the student’s initiative, motivation, and determination for the proposed project; comment on the quality, originality, and worthiness of the proposal; outline arrangements to ensure completion of the project and verify willingness to review and sign-off on the final product of the research and the final project report. Faculty advisors are considered the principal investigator for all student (undergraduate and graduate) projects with human subjects or vertebrate animals. Advisors are therefore responsible that the research is conducted in accordance with federal regulations and university guidelines, including obtaining approvals. Research conducted through the University must be conducted in keeping with ethical norms. Proposed research involving the use of human subjects or vertebrate animals requires approval from the University’s Institutional Review Board (IRB), or Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). A signed Assurance by the faculty advisor, Department Chair/Program Head and the student must be submitted with the student’s proposal. We rely on faculty members to verify a project’s intellectual merit and feasibility; please raise significant concerns about a project with the student, our office, and in your letter, should you choose to write it. Beyond these approvals, we rely on faculty members to honestly assess the intellectual merit and feasibility (including safety) of a student proposal.
When soliciting faculty support, please share with your potential advisor this document describing the SSIRF award.
Decisions will be announced before the end of the spring term.