FRAP and URCA Lead the Charge for Undergraduate Research

Image Courtesy of Queen's University | Flickr

Minh Hua
Campus Beat Reporter

As a major research university, UC Santa Barbara offers a wide selection of collaborative research programs, such as the Faculty Research Assistance Program (FRAP). Additionally, students interested in independent research can also find support from programs such as the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (URCA) Grant and McNair Scholars Program.

Students who are interested in faculty research can consult the FRAP, a directory which provides information about faculty currently involved in research and the prerequisites needed to participate in the projects.

Getting involved through FRAP can be as easy as sending in an inquiry email, and students need not be overly restricted by their major in choosing a research program.

For example, the English Broadside Ballad Archive (EBBA) is one of the many research initiatives listed on FRAP. According to Kristen McCants, the program’s Assistant Director, undergraduates interested in working for the archive can expect to do most of the same tasks as graduate students.

“It is not difficult at all to get involved with EBBA. We welcome undergrads from all majors, not just humanities majors,” said McCants.

Additionally, undergraduates who find themselves engrossed by their professors’ lectures and research can approach them directly.

Haley Nieh, who graduated last year as a double major in political science and environmental studies, told The Bottom Line, “I was a research assistant at the Bren School under Professor Mark Buntaine. I approached him during office hours after setting up a meeting via email. He was super kind and lots of professors are this way if you show you’ve done your due diligence on their research.”

On the other hand, the university has programs in place to support students who have specific research ideas in mind and would like to pursue their own independent research.

The URCA grant provides undergraduate students conducting independent research projects or creative activities with a maximum award of $750 dollars per project. Undergraduates applying to the grant must be in good academic standing, be currently engaged in research or planning to start one, and identify a faculty member who is willing to supervise their project.

To conclude their work, URCA grant recipients are expected to present their work at the Undergraduate Research Colloquium during the spring quarter of the year the grant was applied for.

The Undergraduate Research Colloquium is an annual exhibition of UCSB undergraduate research or creative activity. Any individual or group can submit an entry to participate in the colloquium.

Undergraduates who are interested in going further with their education can also check out the McNair Scholars Program, which prepares undergraduates for entrance to a Ph.D. program in all fields of study.

Xochitl Briseno, a third year political science major, told The Bottom Line, “[the program] connected me with a faculty mentor and my research centers on high impact education, which are forms of extracurriculars or experiences that develop the students in and out of the classroom.”

In order to be eligible for the McNair Scholars Program, an applicant must have been enrolled in UCSB for a quarter with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher, completed at least 60 units, be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, intend to pursue a Ph.D. after graduation, and be a low income and a first generation college student.

“Stick with it. Do not give up on getting involved and research under mentors/professors. They’re busy too, so it takes a great deal of persistence, communication, and hard work in not only getting involved in research, but [also] producing great work,” encouraged Neih.

Participating in research as an undergraduate can be daunting considering the perception that professors are hard to approach. However, having research experience can be a valuable asset for undergraduates who are seeking careers or planning on attending graduate school.

According to Jeremy Levine, a fourth year Economics major and research assistant at the Economics Forecast Project, “researching with [the Economics Forecast Project] has been extremely beneficial in teaching me applied economics and helping me decide the career path I want to pursue. Most importantly, both types of work I’ve done with EFP showed me how economics can be practically used to answer questions people care about.”

Students interested in doing research at UCSB can check out for a complete list of available opportunities.