A new grant program developed in Emory College
will provide up to $2,500 of independent research support to individual
undergraduates beginning in the spring.
The application deadline for the first round of Scholarly Inquiry
and Research at Emory (SIRE) grants is Tuesday, Oct. 28, and the
new pilot project represents the newest opportunity for undergraduates
to expand the scope of their education.
"We wanted to give all undergraduate students an opportunity
to perform independent research that they may not have been able
to do before," said Joanne Brzinski, associate dean for undergraduate
education. The SIRE program began taking shape last summer, but
Emory College faculty and administrators have been working for several
years to create programming that helps students hone their research
Emory College already has several support programs in place for
undergraduate research, especially in the sciences where half of
all undergraduates participate in research either for course credit
or hourly wages. The college’s senior honors program also
gives about 140 students each year the opportunity to complete an
independent research project.
Places where current programs perhaps have not been fully utilized
are in the humanities and social sciences. The SIRE grant is the
first part of a wider series of pilot projects designed to give
all undergraduates more opportunity to participate in scholarly
inquiry and to do so at an earlier point in their college careers.
"It’s important to have a grant for general student work
and not just for a specific division or department," Brzinski
said. Any student can take advantage of the grants, but Brzinski
said it is expected they will most appeal to upperclassmen.
The grants would cover research costs such as books, transportation,
faxes and calls, mailings and other related expenses. Work related
to an honors thesis or study abroad would be eligible, for instance.
Brzinski estimated that about 15 grants would be awarded for Spring
2004, but that number depends on how much money applicants request.
The $2,500 per student is a maximum; awards can be smaller if expenses
In addition to a budget and a detailed description of the planned
project, part of the student’s application for the SIRE grant
includes a faculty letter of support. The writer of this letter
will serve as the student’s faculty mentor and oversee his
or her work. As part of their mentoring, faculty could be eligible
for up to $500 in research funds of their own related to the project.
During the grant period, SIRE students will be required to meet
periodically with other recipients to discuss the progress of their
research. At the conclusion of their project, students will present
their results at a research symposium organized during Emory Scholars
weekend in the spring and Family Weekend in the fall; which symposium
students attend will depend on when they received their grant. Copies
of their final reports will be posted on a website for exposure
to the widest possible audience.
SIRE is the first part of a series of projects that expand assistance
to budding undergraduate researchers. Set to begin in the 2004–05
academic year, a second pilot program creates faculty-student research
partnerships. By first assisting in the research of a professor,
the hope is to train sophomores and juniors (the program’s
targeted students) to perform their own independent research down
The scope of the wider undergraduate scholarly inquiry and research
project also suggests a structure for faculty oversight of undergraduate
research. Plans call for each department to designate one faculty
member as undergraduate research director (some divisions and departments
already have such a structure, but others do not). Within divisions,
these representatives would meet twice a semester to choose college
research grant recipients and discuss the general progress of undergraduate
The chairs of each divisional committee would form the college SIRE
committee, which would steer the grant program and oversee the symposia.
Representatives from other college centers, such as the Center for
Science Education, Center for International Programs Abroad and
others, also would sit on the SIRE committee so that scholarly inquiry
can be coordinated across all the college’s programs. That
committee will select the first round of grant recipients, and Brzinski
said she hopes to have it in place by mid-November.
One final effort is to better identify current undergraduate research.
The result would be the creation of a website within the college’s
Department for Undergraduate Education that highlights successful
After one year, the projects will re-evaluated and adjusted if necessary,