FAQ: Research Assistantships with Sewanee faculty
I would like to work with a professor on an academic project this summer. How can I apply to do that?
Approach a professor that you are interested in working with and ask them about their research. If their research interests you, ask if they might consider having a research assistant during the summer. If so, work out the details with them, including tasks, responsibilities, number of weeks, and dates. If funding is needed, apply for research assistantship funding on the Career & Leadership Development website.
Why was the name changed from “internships” to “research assistantships”?
All academic research opportunities involving Sewanee faculty have been renamed "research assistantships" (RAs) instead of "internships," in order to clearly distinguish between academic research-oriented experiences mentored by our faculty (RAs) and more general career-related experiences (internships.) The term “research assistantship” is understood to apply to all research or creative activity in all modes of inquiry in the sciences, arts, humanities, and social sciences.
I want to be a research assistant on campus but I don’t know who I want to work with. Where should I look?
Begin by considering what kind of research interests you. Many professors display their scholarly work— posters, publications, book covers, artwork, etc—near their offices. You might also look at departmental websites to learn more about the work going on. The next step is to talk with a professor in that department about research broadly and inquire about possible opportunities. The Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and the office’s website (research.sewanee.edu) can also often provide information about work going on across the campus. Finally, check TigerNet. Some professors post their research assistantships there and you can apply for them directly on TigerNet; most have application deadlines on Feb. 15.
What if my research assistantship is unpaid?
Ask your RA faculty sponsor for a letter or email of confirmation, confirming that you have been offered your unpaid RA. Please ask them to include 1) the department name; 2) the faculty sponsor’s name, address, phone number and email address; 3) the number of weeks for the RA; and, 4) a brief description of the RA's responsibilities. You will need this letter/email in order to apply for funding. Alternatively, you may provide your faculty advisor with the link to the online Confirmation Form for Internships/Research Assistantships. The form is submitted directly to Career & Leadership Development.
* Without a confirmation letter/email/form, it is highly likely that your application will not be given full consideration and it will be waitlisted.
Apply for RA funding on the Career & Leadership Development website.
Write the 2-page funding proposal, with input from your faculty sponsor as to your responsibilities and anticipated outcomes of the research. Please note that this proposal will be read by a general audience and as such should not be overly technical. It should outline the significance of the project, the timeline of the work needed to be completed, your qualifications for carrying out the project and the expected outcomes both tangible (e.g., a paper) and intangible (e.g., your educational development or career preparation).
You will be notified whether or not they received funding within 2 weeks of the deadline. If you receive funding, the student is responsible for submitting a final report and an evaluation of your work as an RA by your faculty sponsor to Career & Leadership Development/CLD (and your faculty sponsor, if they request that you do so.)
What are the rules and qualifications for the funding?
Generally, funding is intended to support full engagement in the scholarly work for a period of 6-8 weeks. Research assistants are paid a stipend of $375 per week, with the expectation that they will work full time (32-40 hours per week) on the project. Typically, this expectation means that the research assistant will not have other jobs. That said, the precise arrangements are somewhat flexible and can be negotiated with the faculty sponsor. The qualifications are first and foremost determined by the professor that is sponsoring the work. It is very important to note that there are limited University funds available to support student research assistants. Factors considered include the quality of the proposal and the general qualifications of the student application.
What research assistant projects tend to be funded? Do you have any tips for writing a competitive proposal?
It is critical to realize that as more students and faculty engage in collaborative scholarship, the pressure on the available funds has become significant, meaning that the proposal review process is increasingly competitive. Recognizing that judging projects from a wide range of disciplines is intrinsically difficult, the various review committees look at the student’s prior academic record (readiness to carry out scholarly work), the aims of the project, the appropriateness of the project timeline and the likely outcomes of the work. This last category includes both the tangible products (i.e. presentations, papers, works of art, etc) and the intangible products (e.g. student intellectual growth or career preparation).
A strong proposal will convince the reviewing committee that the work is important, that the plan of work is feasible and will accomplish the goals set forth, and that the student is fully qualified to carry out the work. If you need further guidance about the eligibility of a project for funding or how best to frame the proposal, please contact the Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research directly to discuss your ideas.
Can I apply for funding after I graduate in May?
It is not currently forbidden for a graduating senior to apply for such funding; however, such students will almost universally receive a lower priority for funding than continuing students in a competitive funding process. Additionally, support beyond 2-4 weeks is fairly unlikely given current availability of funds.
Questions about the appropriateness of the request might be discussed with the Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research or the individual charged with administering a given fund.
Can I take a summer school course at Sewanee in addition to having a research assistantship?