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2014 Undergraduate Discovery Summer Grants

One of the great advantages Penn State offers to undergraduate students is the opportunity to work with faculty who are on the cutting edge of research and creative endeavors. The Office of Undergraduate Education established the Undergraduate Discovery Summer Grants program to help students take advantage of Penn State’s research environment. Supported by an endowment from the Penn State Alumni Association and funding from the Vice President and Dean for Undergraduate Education and several colleges, the purpose of these grants is to promote faculty/undergraduate collaboration as students engage in original research, scholarship, and creative work during the summer under the direct supervision of a faculty member.

Student-initiated projects in the sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities, and arts are intended to provide experience in all facets of the research, scholarship, or creative processes. This includes conceptualization of a question or focus, proposal writing, identification and implementation of methods, and communication of results (reporting, exhibition, or performance). Projects should be primarily the student's own work; although the project may be related to the supervising faculty member's research or scholarly interests, it should not simply provide assistance to faculty work.

Each grant is in the amount of $3,000 and may be used to cover living expenses and project costs (supplies, materials, books, specialized software, travel for the purpose of data collection, etc.). (Note: Funds will be deposited to student accounts and therefore may have an impact on student aid or be applied to outstanding charges.)

Approximately 50 grants are available through the Office of Undergraduate Education for summer 2014. Additional Discovery Grants may be funded through college support.

Eligibility

Penn State undergraduate students from all campuses in all fields of study may apply for a grant. Students are eligible for grants in the summer following their first year through the summer before the year in which they will graduate (limit of one grant per student). Recipients must be enrolled at Penn State for at least one semester following the summer work. Students must have a Penn State faculty supervisor who is available during the summer to consult with the student and evaluate how the project is conducted. Eligible projects include laboratory and field research, scholarly inquiry, and creative work in music, art, theatre, and other fields. Study abroad, travel unrelated to research, and projects not grounded in an academic discipline are not eligible for Discovery Grant funding.

The Discovery Grants are intended to enable students to immerse themselves in their projects. It is expected that the Discovery project will receive significant student engagement during the summer and will be accorded sufficient hours and effort to produce excellent work. Any summer jobs should be limited to fifteen hours per week.

Grant Requirements

Projects involving human participants, animal subjects, or biohazardous materials require review through the Office for Research Protections and must have the appropriate approval before grant funds are distributed. It is expected that required approvals will be secured by June 1, 2014.

Students whose projects require international travel are required to obtain short-term international health insurance through the Penn State Student Health Insurance Office and are subject to the University's international travel policy for undergraduate students.

International students must provide required IRS reporting information in order to receive grant funds. Information about this requirement is available from the Student Loans and Scholarships Office (www.studentloans.psu.edu/tax.cfm).

Grant recipients are required to submit a one-page report on their projects by the end of August. Faculty supervisors must provide a one-page evaluation of the student's work including how the grant funds were spent, how much time the student spent on the project and how the student engaged in the discovery process, and the nature of the faculty/student interaction.

Grant recipients are expected to present their work at the annual Undergraduate Exhibition the following spring if they are enrolled at Penn State at that time.

Application Requirements

Applications will be accepted beginning December 1, 2013 and must be submitted by 5:00 p.m. Friday, February 7, 2014, to the Office of Undergraduate Education, 417 Old Main. NO LATE APPLICATIONS WILL BE ACCEPTED. Required application materials include:

  1. Student information form (available online December 1). Student applicants must complete and submit this form online, print a copy and have it signed by the faculty supervisor, and turn it in to 417 Old Main with the project summary.
  2. A two-page summary of the project, written by the student, and including the following:
    • The question or goal to be addressed and its relevance to the discipline or field. Proposals for creative projects should describe the academic nature of the work.
    • The methods or processes that will be used to address the question or goal.
    • Why the project is of interest to the student and his or her preparation to complete it (courses, other experiences, etc.).
    • How the supervision by the faculty member will contribute to the project.

The project summary should be single-sided and may be single-spaced, and include the student's name at the top of each page.

In addition, a one-page recommendation must be submitted by the faculty supervisor to the Office of Undergraduate Education. The recommendation should include:

  1. name of the student
  2. title of the project
  3. an evaluation of the proposal and the student's ability to complete the project

Faculty recommendations may be sent to Mary Beth Crowe, Assistant Vice President and Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Education, 417 Old Main, or emailed to mbc5@psu.edu.

Application Review and Notification

Applications will be reviewed by a faculty committee. Review criteria include:

  1. Scholarly nature – Does the project involve research, scholarship, or creative work? (Educational or personal enrichment activities – e.g. study abroad, travel unrelated to research, projects not grounded in an academic discipline, etc., do not apply.)
  2. Student engagement – Did the student help to frame the question or focus of the project and will the student activities involve the major steps in the research or creative process? (Projects should not merely provide assistance to the faculty supervisor's work.)
  3. Faculty collaboration – Will the faculty supervisor provide a level of supervision that guides the student's work and adds value to the project?
  4. Faculty recommendation – Does the faculty supervisor consider the project worthwhile academically and endorse the student's ability to complete it?

Applicants will be notified in early April regarding funding decisions. Grant funds will be distributed to student accounts at the beginning of the first six-week summer session.

Questions about the Undergraduate Exhibition should be directed to Dr. Mary Beth Crowe, Assistant Vice President and Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Education (814-863-1864, mbc5@psu.edu).