Vanderbilt Undergraduate Summer Research Program

Frequently Asked Questions

Questions:

  1. How do I find a VUSRP faculty sponsor?
  2. Who can serve as a VUSRP faculty sponsor?
  3. To apply, am I required to attend an information session, and does it matter which session I attend?
  4. My faculty sponsor has an appointment in the medical school, can I still apply?
  5. I will be studying abroad when it is time to apply to the program, can I still apply?
  6. I will be enrolling in summer school, can I still apply?
  7. I will be a rising sophomore this summer, should I apply?
  8. My mentor has already agreed to sponsor another applicant, can s/he sponsor me as well?
  9. Does the project I propose for the VUSRP Fellowship need to be a new line of research for me, or can I propose to continue research that I am already working on with my mentor as a directed research project or as part of my honors thesis?
  10. Should I submit letters of recommendation, or other supplementary materials, with my application?
  11. I have a conflict (e.g., a planned family trip) with some of the dates of the program. Is this a problem?
  12. Does the VUSRP Fellowship include housing?
  13. Does the VUSRP Fellowship include research funds?
  14. Is the VUSRP Fellowship considered taxable income?

 

Answers:

1. How do I find a potential sponsor?
Finding a Sponsor for the VUSRP program is primarily the student’s responsibility. The members of the VUSRP Coordinating Committee do not have a master list of potential sponsors, nor are they equipped to search out such sponsors and match them with potential applicant’s interests. There are however, a number of steps a potential applicant can take to identify a research mentor/sponsor.

First, many potential applicants will already be working with a faculty member as a research assistant, or in the context of an independent study, directed research, or honors project. In many cases this faculty member would make an ideal VUSRP Sponsor.

Second, many departments have web-pages or bulletin boards listing research opportunities for undergraduates, and the faculty offering such opportunities are good candidates to serve as VUSRP Sponsors. If such listings of opportunities are not readily available, it is worth inquiring in the relevant department’s main office about whether such opportunities exist.

Finally, perhaps the most common method of finding a sponsor (or of linking up with a faculty member in the first place) is through word of mouth and the student’s own initiative. Talk with other students in your major about which faculty are working with students, what they are working on, what it is like to work with those faculty members, etc. You also might talk to professors in the department who you know about your interests, and they will often be able to link you up with an appropriate colleague, or they may even be interested in having you work with them, themselves. Then make appointments to talk with faculty whose research sounds interesting to you to discuss your research interests.

2. Who can serve as a VUSRP Faculty Sponsor?
All faculty, regardless of School and rank are eligible to serve as VUSRP sponsors.

3. To apply, am I required to attend an information session, and does it matter which session I attend?
All the information needed to apply for a VUSRP fellowship is available through the VUSRP web site.  Thus, although it is often helpful to attend a VUSRP informational session, attendance at these sessions is not recorded or required.  The primary purpose of these meetings is simply to allow potential applicants have their questions about the program answered by a member of the VUSRP Coordinating Committee.   In addition, although there is sometimes some preference to attend an informational session sponsored by one’s own school, all potential applicants are invited to attend any of the informational sessions that are offered.  All of the informational session leaders are on the VUSRP Coordinating Committee and are very knowledgeable about the program.  For some questions that are specific to the disciplines housed by a particular school (e.g., what is the best way to frame an application involving an engineering project versus a project in the humanities versus a social science project, etc.) your school’s committee member may be better able to answer such questions than the other committee members.  However, in the main, students should feel free to attend whichever informational meeting that best fits their schedule, etc.

4. My faculty sponsor has an appointment in the medical school, can I still apply?
Yes. All faculty, regardless of rank are eligible to serve as VUSRP sponsors.

5. I will be studying abroad when it is time to apply to the program, can I still apply?
Absolutely! In fact, we have developed procedures to make it relatively easy to apply from abroad. First, to avoid having to deal with being able to turn in signed forms, from students who are abroad, we will accept unsigned applications when they are submitted to the Chair of the Program Coordinating Committee (Prof. Clare McCabe) via e-mail, as formatted attachments. The e-mail itself should simply indicate that the submitter (typically the student) is submitting the application to be considered for the current VUSRP competition. We will accept this e-mail in lieu of a signature. In addition, we ask that the faculty mentor on the application also send a brief e-mail indicating that they are aware that the application is being submitted and that they approve of its contents. Second, rather than submitting 5 transcripts, the student should request that the University Registrar send a single copy of their official transcript directly via campus mail to the Program Coordinator (Prof. Clare McCabe, Department of Chemical Engineering, 107 Olin Hall). The Coordinator will see to it that the necessary copies of both the application and transcript are made and distributed to the selection committee.

6. I will be enrolling in summer school, can I still apply?
No as the VUSRP program requires that students engage in 10 weeks of full time research over the summer.  The official dates of the program generally coincide with Vanderbilt’s full summer session. Shifting the dates of participation in the program from the official ones is permitted, as long as the Fellow is engaged in 10 weeks of full-time research over the course of the summer (e.g., starting the program a bit early, or ending it a bit late is permitted).

7. I will be a rising sophomore this summer, should I apply?
If you are interested in pursuing full-time research this summer, and think you can submit a strong application, then you should definitely consider applying. Each year the committee receives a number of strong applications from rising sophomores and each some of these applications are funded. In order to be a successful applicant, it is essential that the applicant both has a strong, well-articulated research plan and GPA.

8. My mentor has already agreed to sponsor another applicant, can s/he sponsor me as well?
In 2017 each faculty mentor can sponsor up to two VUSRP applications.

9. Does the project I propose for the VUSRP Fellowship need to be a new line of research for me, or can I propose to continue research that I am already working on with my mentor as a directed research project or as part of my honors thesis?
You can propose to continue ongoing research for your VUSRP Fellowship, as long as you make clear in your application what you plan to accomplish on your research project during your summer Fellowship. In fact, using the Fellowship to allow one to pursue one’s research in more depth than would otherwise be possible is quite common. Some VUSRP Fellows do propose projects for the summer that are new for them and their mentor and are intended to be self-contained within the summer research period, and such proposals, when well thought-out and strong, are often funded. However, a number of fellows propose projects that are continuations of work they have already started with their mentor as part of a directed research class or as an honors project, and often the work they propose for the summer is further envisioned to continue on into the next acadmeic year, especially in the case of honors thesis work. This is a legitimate use of the VUSRP Fellowship. Applications proposing such projects are especially likely to be viewed favorably if it is made evident to the committee that the summer research will allow the student to pursue a project or thesis that is more meaningful and substantial than would be the case without the proposed summer activities. One caveat to this is that it should be noted that, under no circumstance, will a rising Junior who successfully receives a VUSRP for such continuing research be funded a second summer to further pursue the same project. In rare cases, Fellows have received VUSRP Fellowships for both their junior and senior summers, but in all cases, the fellowships have supported work on rather different projects, usually under the supervision of different mentors.

10. Should I submit letters of recommendation, or other supplementary materials, with my application?
No. The VUSRP application is intentionally kept brief. Submitting materials beyond those explicitly requested on the application (i.e., the application itself, and your academic transcript) is likely to be interpreted by the members of the Coordinating Committee who evaluate the applications as an attempt to gain an unfair advantage over other applicants. Thus, such materials are highly unlikely to be viewed favorably. In cases in which the applicant or mentor would like to call attention to special or extenuating circumstances around the application, they should contact the Chair of the Coordinating Committee (Clare McCabe) to discuss the issue, and to determine the best way of fairly communicating this information to the committee.

11. I have a conflict (e.g., a planned family trip) with some of the dates of the program. Is this a problem?
It depends, but probably not. The official dates of the program coincide with Vanderbilt’s full summer session. For any number of reasons, these exact dates may pose problems for some Fellows, who might want to start the program a bit late, end it a bit early, or take some time off in the middle. Unless the deviations from the official dates are not too severe, shifting the dates of ones participation in the program somewhat from the official ones is often not a problem, as long as the following two conditions are met:

First and foremost, any deviations from the official dates must be discussed with, and approved by, the Fellow’s faculty Sponsor, and

Second, arrangements should be made to ensure that the Fellow is engaged in 10 weeks of full-time research over the course of the summer (e.g, by starting the program a bit early, or ending it a bit late, etc.).

Deviations from the official dates that only involve a couple of days need only be discussed with the Faculty Sponsor. More substantial deviations (> 2 weeks) should also be discussed with the Chair of the Coordinating Committee (Clare McCabe).

12. Does the VUSRP Fellowship include housing?
No. The stipend associated with the VUSRP Fellowship is intended to defray the Fellows’ living expensesses (including room and board) so that they can work on their research full time. Due to a lack of demand, the program currently does not offer on-campus housing. Virtually all recent Fellows have preferred to live off-campus, and in the summer suitable sublets are readily available. In mid-April, after the awards are announced, there will be an orientation meeting for all of this year’s VUSRP Fellows. Fellows often use this meeting as an opportunity to join up with other fellows to arrange for housing. If housing is going to be a problem for you, let the chair of the VUSRP Committee (Clare McCabe) know, and on-campus housing can be arranged at standard on-campus housing rates.

13. Does the VUSRP Fellowship include research funds?
No. The stipend represents the only funds associated with the VUSRP Fellowship. If your proposed project requires research funding, it is expected that these funds will be provided by the Faculty Sponsor, using her or his research funds.

14.Is the VUSRP Fellowship considered taxable income?
The answer to this seemingly simple question is actually rather complicated, and it depends in part on your personal circumstances and how the funds are used. Although a definitive answer cannot be given here, there are resources you can use to help determine whether and how much of the VUSRP award should be reported as taxable income. For instance, here is a link to the most recent version of IRS Publication 970 – Tax Benefits for Education (listed on the linked page under “scholarships and fellowships”). One thing to note is that the VUSRP award is considered to be a non-service stipend, and thus, it is not reported to the IRS, and you will not receive a W2 from Vanderbilt reflecting this income.

Any further questions or comments should be directed to c.mccabe@vanderbilt.edu

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