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Research & Innovation Grants (RIG)

Research & Innovation Grants (RIG) provide research expenses of $3,500 for undergraduate students from across all disciplines (Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural & Applied Sciences) working with a faculty sponsor. Only students applying to the College are eligible for these grants. Grants are awarded as part of the admission process and students cannot apply for them directly. Eligible sponsors are faculty members who hold any type of appointment (including clinical, emeritus, adjunct, research associate, instructor, etc.) in any part of the University.


The benefits of RIG

These grants can help you get involved in experiential activities that:

  • Stimulate your mind
  • Broaden your perspectives
  • Expand your intellectual and social networking
  • Strengthen your connections to the University community and to the research and creative communities throughout the world

How you can use RIG funding

Compensation for research

Students awarded a RIG who are appointed as undergraduate research assistants are compensated at a to-be-determined hourly rate.

Equipment and materials associated with research

Students awarded a RIG who are hired for an unpaid and non-credit bearing internship or service-learning position are compensated at an hourly rate. All service-learning positions must be certified by the Center for Community Engagement.

Travel in pursuit of fellowships

Students competing for fellowships and internships related to their research can use their grant for domestic travel and lodging associated with the interview and hiring process for the position.

Human subjects

All research and creative activities at the University of Rochester are subject to federal and state laws and regulations. All research involving human subjects requires Institutional Review Board approval.

Conference travel

Students who attend professional conferences and presentations related to their proposed topic of study can use their grant for associated domestic travel and lodging costs.

Internships/service learning

Students awarded a RIG who are hired for an unpaid and non-credit bearing internship or service-learning position are compensated at an hourly rate. All service-learning positions must be certified by the Center for Community Engagement.

Research experience abroad

Grants can be used for costs associated with research and experiential learning opportunities outside the United States.

  • Students participating in programs of study and research occurring during the academic year may use their grant for travel costs associated with their research.
  • Students participating in programs of study and research occurring during the summer may use their grant for costs associated with travel and the pursuit of academic credit.

University of Rochester students planning to study or do research abroad are advised to research your destination and consult the University’s policies on travel to areas on the US State Department’s Travel Warning list.

The Humanities Center welcome sign.

RIG and the Humanities

The University received a $1 million grant from the Mellon Foundation for research in the humanities. Part of this grant is being used to intensify the opportunities for the RIG specifically for students interested in pursuing research within the humanities and social sciences.

This incredible opportunity matches students with faculty mentors, helps them identify their interests, teaches them how to propose and design an independent research project, and then finances that project to make it a reality. Programs like this make Rochester a powerful place where even first-year students can produce cutting-edge research.

Learn about the Humanities Center

Finding a faculty sponsor

All students who are awarded the RIG begin with their own research idea. In order to disburse the funding and begin their research, students work with a faculty sponsor. Many students will change or modify their original research proposal after close consultation with their sponsor.

You should not contact faculty directly until you are on campus and ready to begin your application for grant disbursement.

Step 1: Explore the College website

Before submitting your preliminary request for RIG funding dispersment, you should look for faculty members you might like to collaborate with when you get to Rochester. You should not contact them directly in the preliminary phase. On your preliminary application, list names and current research projects of faculty you may like to work with to support your proposed work.

Research opportunities by department

Step 2: Make a list of possible faculty sponsors

If your preliminary application is accepted and you receive a grant, you should begin to narrow and refine your search for a faculty sponsor. A good starting place is faculty members you may know (for example, instructors you’ve had for a class). You could also ask the teaching assistants (TAs) you’ve had to recommend possible sponsors. If your academic advisor is a faculty member, you could put her or him on your list, or just ask your academic advisor for suggestions.

Finally, ask your friends about professors they may know, either from a class or from some out-of-class experience, such as undergraduate research. Online, you can begin by searching the ILLIAD faculty interests database, the professors’ personal web pages (usually linked from the departmental web pages), and library online catalogs and databases. Your goal is to identify commonalities in your intellectual interests and to identify topics to discuss during your initial meeting.

Step 3: Send emails

Make sure you know something about the research interests of each possible sponsor on your list. You can use departmental web pages to discover details about a sponsor’s research. Your email should:

  • Indicate that you were awarded a RIG at the time of your admission to the University, with a brief description of the grant requirements
  • Describe your interest in the faculty member’s research
  • Provide a brief description of who you are; for example, your major, your class year in the College, and your strong points for doing research
  • Ask for a specific time and place to meet to discuss research possibilities

Step 4: Meet your potential sponsor(s)

Plan an agenda of questions you would like answered before you leave the meeting.

Begin by introducing yourself and your desire to work with them as a sponsor. Make sure you know as much as possible about their work when you start the conversation.

It is possible that the professor will be unable at the time to take on another student. Or you may decide that the professor is not the right fit for you. You should then ask about faculty members with similar areas of interest whom you might approach. Be sure to send a thank-you note or email.

Step 5: Begin working with your faculty sponsor

Your relationship with your faculty sponsor may vary depending on how you will use your grant. Once the grant disbursement begins, you should meet regularly with your sponsor to discuss the progress of your work. Your sponsor will need to sign off on the successful completion of your research experience.

Meshrob Mashtots Innovation Grant

Beyond the normal RIG awards, there are several other grants given each year to students with unique potential for research and innovation. The most prestigious of these is the Mesrob Mashtots Innovation Grant. Initially awarded in 2010, this $5,000 grant, named after the Armenian linguist, theologian, and statesman, has been granted to students with a strong interest in the social sciences and humanities.

Students who have expressed interest in the RIG program or have exhibited exceptional aptitude for the social sciences and humanities are invited to apply for the grant during the spring of their senior year. This award is sponsored by University Trustee Ani Gabrellian ’84 and her husband Mark Gabrellian ’79, distinguished alumni and sponsors of the arts and humanities at the University of Rochester.

Through this award, students are able to expand their opportunities for research, innovation, and exploration both on campus and around the globe. The Mesrob Mashtots grant can be used in the same way as a normal research grant to explore and fund research expenses, travel abroad, cover conference costs, and make the most of opportunities for innovation.

Camels, people, and trucks wander an unpaved road, a snapshot of a Mashtots grant recipient’s time in Egypt and the Middle East.
Photo credit: Dillon Bowman, Class of 2015, a Mesrob Mashtots Innovation Grant recipient who used his award to travel abroad to Egypt and the Middle East to study Arabic.

Additional endowed grants

Currently, the University of Rochester offers two additional endowed RIG opportunities. Each of the following grants is awarded to a student who shows an impressive aptitude in the sciences:

  • Brian E. Anderson ’06 Innovation Grant
  • Sean P. Anderson ’11 (PhD) Innovation Grant

Frequently asked questions

What is a grant?

A grant is a sum of money awarded to finance a particular activity or project. To receive a grant, an application or proposal is usually required. Generally, grant funds do not need to be paid back.

What is RIG?

Research and Innovation Grants (RIG) are grants funded by the University of Rochester and awarded to a select group of prospective students after they enroll. RIG allows students to pursue their own academic interests beyond the classroom—learning they design on their own.

I’m not a science person. Why did you choose me for a RIG?

Research takes many forms, some of which may have nothing to do with lab coats, test tubes, and microscopes. Refer to our University Research website for examples of research and innovation across the curriculum. For additional inspiration, scour faculty pages, check out back issues of the Journal of Undergraduate Research, or see current projects in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

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