Navigating undergraduate summer research at Northwestern


Illustration by Olivia Abeyta

Applications are opening up for undergraduate students to get started with summer research at Northwestern.

Charlotte Che, Reporter

As Winter Quarter comes to a close, Northwestern is opening its summer research opportunities for undergraduate students.

According to Associate Director Megan Novak Wood, the Office of Undergraduate Research provides two main research programs over the summer: summer undergraduate research grants and the undergraduate research assistant program. SURG funds independent projects with a $4,000 stipend to cover living expenses for eight weeks of full-time research, and URAP allows students to work as an apprentice to faculty and support faculty on a faculty driven project. 

Wood said OUR offers resources to help students looking to get started in research. The office runs two variations of a weekly workshop, “Finding a Faculty” and “Finding a Lab,” which are recorded conversations that answer frequently asked questions for students getting started. 

“These short five to seven minute videos are meant to help students understand how normal confusion is and that it’s really scary to get started in research, but there’s lots of support to do so,” Wood said.

The office of undergraduate research is not the only resource students can use. 

Wood said she suggests students utilize advising to cater toward their specific research interests. Both the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and the McCormick School of Engineering have their own school-centric grants, including the Baker Program in Undergraduate Research and Continuing Umbrella of Research Experience, respectively.

“We talk with students about other grants that could be a better fit with them and direct them to other campus resources, if that ultimately makes sense for the student,” Wood said.

The Leopold Fellowship program provides all undergraduate students the opportunity to work with current faculty on historical research projects. 

“There are various programs where undergraduates need to get summer grants to do their own research, but this is doing research for a professor,” Assistant Director Elzbieta Foeller-Pituch said. “So it’s guided, and I think it would be an ideal step towards doing your own research.”

The Leopold Fellowship pays students $13 per hour for an average of eight to 10 hours per week. 

Weinberg junior and Leopold Fellow Griffin Harris worked with history Prof. Joanna Grisinger on “Public Interest or Public Corruption? Airline Regulation and Administrative Politics” during summer and fall 2021. 

Harris said the Leopold Fellowship was time-manageable, even in the summer when he also worked a full-time internship. He looked through administrative records from the Civil Aeronautics Board, a government agency that controlled airlines before deregulation.

“It’s been enormously helpful. I’m planning to do a senior thesis, and the Leopold Fellowship is going to be the biggest tool I have going into that,” Harris said.

Harris continued his research in the fall, which he said stayed reasonable to manage with classes. But even with the benefits of research in the summer, like extra time, Harris said his peers should get started as soon as possible. 

There are various ways in which students can get involved in summer research at NU, from emailing professors directly or meeting with advisors. 

“I’m a huge fan of research across all disciplines because I feel like it gives students real world tangible experiences and practical experiences,” Wood said. “Research is an exercise in project management, where you have to think through different stages of what the project will look like. And that’s true regardless of field, whether you’re in science or whether you’re in theatre.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @charlotteche03

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