Office of Undergraduate Research notes increased grant funding in 2018-19 academic year


Noah Frick-Alofs/Daily Senior Staffer

An ad that encourages students to apply for an undergraduate research grant. This year, the Office of Undergraduate Research has received 37 percent more proposals than last year.

Zach Bright, Reporter

The Office of Undergraduate Research received a record-breaking 203 academic year undergraduate research grant applications this year and will fund 134 proposals, according to its 2018-2019 Academic Year summary.

This is a 37 percent increase in applications the office received and a subsequent 39 percent increase in number of awards given, the summary said. Peter Civetta, the director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, said the office better promoted these opportunities to eligible students than they had in the past.

“The forming of the office and the staffing enabled us to do significantly more outreach,” he said. “Particular to this year, such a big jump is tied to the fact that we can now get data from the registrar.”

University Provost Jonathan Holloway partly credited this outreach for the rise, but also speculated that University has been attracting more students looking for research opportunities.

“You guys are at Northwestern during an era when its academic reputation is just blowing up and escalating with each year,” Holloway said in an interview with The Daily last November. “It may be that we are attracting more students who … are interested in research than we have in the past.”

This academic year, the Office of the Registrar provided key information to the URG program about eligible students enrolled in 398- and 399-level classes as well as independent studies. In the past, Civetta said the URG program didn’t target students as specifically.

Despite schoolwide budgetary concerns, the number of grants awarded has remained proportional with years past, and Civetta said the office is responsible for raising its own money for grants. During the 2018-2019 academic year, the office accepted and fully funded 66 percent of applications, a slight increase from 65 percent last year.

The University changed its financing of the office this fiscal year by providing a set budget based on historical spending instead of retroactively approving funding, Holloway told The Daily.

Civetta said faculty from across the University review applications based on merit, evaluating the quality of projects and the proposals.

“There is no cap to the number of awards that they can give,” Civetta said.

Civetta said the office granted awards to students across all academic levels, but because older students take more research seminars, applicants tend to be upperclassmen.

SESP senior Ruthie Charendoff, who applied and received a year-long research grant through the office in the fall, said she heard about the program from friends and her thesis adviser. She is currently conducting research on the sexual health of modern Orthodox Jewish women.

“It’s really, really important that the undergrad research office is really supportive of non-STEM and social science research,” Charendoff said.

According to the URG’s academic year summary, the office, in its seventh year, has seen grant applications increase across disciplines, with a rise in applications from students representing many schools. Civetta said the largest increases in recent years have come in the arts, humanities and social sciences, as students focused on STEM are likely to already work in research labs as part of their 398- or 399-courses.

Straying away from the typical lab environment, Weinberg junior Amos Pomp heard about the grant through the Buffett Institute for Global Studies while developing sustainable waste management systems in Guatemala last summer. He received a grant to further review and monitor that work.

“The grant enables us to go back and see how the project is going, what’s working and what can be improved,” Pomp said.

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Twitter: @zachbrightt

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