It's time to make an impact!
Applications to the RUI program must include an “RUI impact statement” (no more than five pages long) in which the application explains how the proposed work will enhance undergraduate scientific education at the sponsoring institution. UW- Whitewater has a strong and growing tradition of undergraduate research. Use this impact statement to explain how your proposal will fit in with and support that tradition. Some information to include:
- UWW sends one of the largest contingents of undergraduate researchers to the annual National Conference for Undergraduate Research (NCUR), often rivaling that of the sponsoring campus;
- UWW has a strong undergraduate research grant program and opportunities for mentors to fund summer research experiences;
- UWW supports faculty in preparing extramural research proposals via teaching releases or summer stipends;
- UWW has a vital McNair Scholars program that supports minority and first- generation college students from disadvantaged backgrounds, preparing them for doctoral training. UWW also sponsors the King-Chavez scholars program for minority and disadvantaged freshmen and is active in the Wisconsin Alliance for Minority Participation (WiscAMP) program;
- Prior to the enactment of the Americans with Disability Act, UWW was designated as the UW System campus serving students with physical and learning disabilities. With its existing infrastructure, support systems, and tradition, UWW is in a strong position to provide research opportunities for undergraduates with disabilities.
For more information on
- NCUR: www.ncur.org
- UWW’s undergraduate research program: contact the program director via email firstname.lastname@example.org; see also uww.edu/urp
- UWW’s Grant Writing Fellowship program, supporting the preparation of extramural research proposals: contact Denise Ehlen, Office of Research and Sponsored Programs email@example.com see also uwworsp.org
- UWW’s McNair Scholars and King-Chavez Scholars programs uww.edu/acadsupport
- WiscAMP wiscamp.engr.wisc.edu
- UWW’s Center for Students with Disabilities uww.edu/csd
Your RUI impact statement should also include more specific information about how your research program will train undergraduates. How will you recruit and train student assistants? What skills will they hone? What will the students get from working with you? How will working with you prepare them for careers in or related to science, or at least make them better consumers of scientific information? Addressing these questions shows you have thought carefully about how your proposed work will enhance students’ experiences. The more you think about these issues the more your students will get from the experience. Following are some points that may help you address them:
- Describe how you and your research students typically connect. For many, students in our courses or majors may take the initiative to ask if we are accepting research students. Or you may approach students with promising qualities (intelligence, organization, curiosity, responsibility) who are currently in one of your courses and ask if they want to work in your lab. Or you may ask colleagues to recommend promising students. There is no single successful strategy nor any optimal strategy that works across all disciplines. However, the more concretely you can describe and explain your recruitment process the better.
- Explain the skills your students will learn, including knowledge of particular kinds of instrumentation or standard research protocols as well as procedures unique to your work. Explain exactly how the students will learn these things. In some cases you will work with them personally until the attain proficiency; in other cases you may have experienced students train new students. Given an idea of the time course of a typical training experience so that reviewers can see how much a typical student will take from the research experience if he or she works for a semester, a full year, or longer.
- Also explain in a broader sense what you hope each student will get from the experience. Students may learn more about how science “really” happens, or about making data-based decisions, or they may learn more about their own capabilities. Many students will not go on to careers in a science but their experiences with you should affect their views and uses of science as educated citizens. You may also use the impact statement to explain why and how your research pace and productivity is different from what reviewers might expect from an applicant at a major research university. Explain that UW-Whitewater does not have the research support infrastructure or personnel that other universities have. Explain the typical UWW teaching load and expectations, and how that interacts with your research time and availability. Be very careful to explain these things as positively as possible. That is, rather than casting these as limitations, explain them as parameters that set conditions on the type and pace of research one might expect at an undergraduate institution. Remember that many reviewers may not be personally familiar with the challenges presented to researchers at undergraduate institutions. Your goal should be to explain your circumstances rather than feel you have to justify them.
At this point you might be wondering how mentoring undergraduate researchers will help you and your research program. Many UWW undergraduates are capable of more than they (or you) might believe. Provided the students are given adequate training, build confidence, and receive continued support when needed (and are left alone sometimes, too) undergraduate research assistants can help your research program realize often surprising achievements. If you have already had such experiences relate them in the impact statement.
For example, perhaps some of your students have presented work at a national conference or developed a new procedure that improves the lab’s productivity. Perhaps a student initiated a fruitful collaboration with another lab via contacts with friends, or brought something he or she learned from a course into your research. These accomplishments bring recognition to your work and to UWW and broaden your professional horizons. If you have not had such experiences yet, anticipate them.
Sample RUI impact statement
The links below are two RUI impact statements prepared for two recently successful RUI proposals. Reviewers and the program director commented that the information contained in this statement was instrumental in the funding decision; the program director stated that the review panel was “excited” about the role of undergraduates in the proposed project. Note that the statement describes institutional support for undergraduate research, the type and level of involvement of the undergraduates, and also the ways in which the undergraduate nature of the institution sets limits on the type and pace of research.