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Undergraduate Research

Emerging Scholars Faculty FAQ

Why Get Involved?

“I have had the honor of mentoring 19 Emerging Scholars since the inception of the program. These students have been simply brilliant! Each student has, in her or his own way, embraced the process of scientific inquiry and contributed in significant ways to projects that investigate a diverse array of topics in the biological sciences, from the effects of environmental pollutants on behavior and physiology and sex differences in metabolic rates to habitat preferences and temperature-dependent sex determination.

The Emerging Scholars program provides a unique opportunity for students in the early stages of their undergraduate careers to innovate, to dive into the primary literature, to assemble a tremendously diverse skill set (both intellectual and technical), and to participate in each and every aspect of hypothesis-driven scientific investigation. It has been a distinct pleasure to mentor such highly motivated and passionate students!”

— Ryan L. Earley
Professor, Biological Sciences, Earley Lab

How does ESP work?

As of Spring 2023, the Emerging Scholars Program (ESP) accepts University of Alabama students ranging from incoming freshmen to upcoming juniors interested in research and creative activities. This an application-based program – application deadlines vary from year to year. Those who are selected may choose whether they will start Semester 1 of the program during the Fall or the Spring.

During Semester 1, Emerging Scholars will take UA 155, a newly redesigned Research Methods course that teaches students how to read research articles and think critically and creatively about research issues. The class teaches students how to develop their own research projects. They will also seek out a potential faculty mentor to work with for their research semester.

During Semester 2, Emerging Scholars will work with their faculty mentor on at least one research project. They earn research credit by enrolling in UA 156.

Scholars are required to present their research at the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Conference (URCA) within one Academic Year of starting Semester 2 of the program. The program offers free workshops and online resources to help students prepare their poster and/or oral presentations for this conference.

At the end of Semester 2, Scholars are encouraged to stay with their faculty mentors until graduation.

What are my obligations?

Faculty mentors are expected to be reasonably available to their Scholars through email, office hours, and/or scheduled meetings. Faculty mentors are required to supervise a Scholar’s research in some capacity.

For faculty who work independently or with colleagues, but do not work in a lab environment, there should be a reasonable amount of contact between the Scholar and faculty mentor. This may be through regularly scheduled meetings, emails, phone calls, or whatever arrangement works well for you and the Scholar.

For faculty who have labs with graduate students and other undergraduates, the Scholar may work directly with experienced students or graduate students more often than the faculty member. This arrangement is acceptable, as long as these students are capable of providing the necessary guidance and the faculty mentor is providing some level of supervision over the lab.

What about creative activities?

In order to be considered credit for UA 156, a student is expected to play a major role in or take the lead on a significant creative project. Their contribution should require them to do some in-depth background research in order to execute the project. Performance is not, itself, sufficient. However, performance accompanied by evidence of preparation is sufficient.

How many hours should students work with me?

During their research semester, Emerging Scholars are required to sign up for UA 156, which is awarded 1-3 credits, as determined by the student and their mentor. While it is up to the discretion of the faculty mentor and the scholar, we recommend 6 to 10 hours of research each week.

Depending on the nature of your research, your work schedule may require Scholars to work extra hours one week and no hours another. Scholars should be reasonably flexible about this type of work schedule, but please keep in mind that they have other coursework and academic obligations, as well. This is something best discussed during an initial meeting before an agreement is made.

Can I choose to not work with a Scholar who contacts me about my research?

Yes. The goal of ESP is to pair faculty and students with similar interests so that the partnership can last beyond a single semester of research. Emerging Scholars are told to treat initial meetings as job interviews and to be understanding if a research partnership cannot be worked out.

If you are contacted by an Emerging Scholar, we encourage you to schedule a meeting with the Scholar. You are not obligated to mentor the Scholar, and you are not restricted from continuing to seek out other Scholars.

What are Scholars interested in?

Emerging Scholars represent a wide range of research interests. Although a large percentage of Scholars are majoring in Engineering or the Natural Sciences, many are also interested in Social Sciences and the Humanities.

Scholars are also encouraged to seek out research that interests them, even if it is not in their major area of study.

These interdisciplinary Scholar-Faculty mentor partnerships have resulted in very interesting and creative research projects.

Do Scholars get to pick their own research study?

It is up to you and your Scholar to decide whether students will create their own projects or will be working on a project you have already planned or are working on. Most Scholars initially work as Research Assistants on projects already in progress. Over time they may develop their own research questions and demonstrate their ability to lead a project.

How do Scholars get course credit?

Scholars receive course credit during their semester of research through UA 156.

As of Spring 2017, departmental research courses will no longer be substituted for a Scholar’s research semester (UA 156). Students are, however, encouraged to continue their research with you after UA 156 is completed and sign up for departmental research courses and/or independent studies.

UA 156 will have an instructor of record determined by The Office for Undergraduate Research, which will monitor the status of Scholars throughout their research semester. However, at the end of the semester you, as the research mentor, will be asked to recommend a grade for the student, which will then be issued.

My Scholar is asking about a Research Contract/Letter of Intent. What is that?

Starting in Spring 2017, all Emerging Scholars are required to complete a Research Contract/Letter of Intent in UA 156, which is a brief outline, identifying their mentor, the project, and the responsibilities during their research semester.

Emerging Scholars and their mentors will be expected to work together to complete and sign a Research Contract/Letter of Intent. These documents ensure that the faculty mentor’s expectations for the Scholar are clearly outlined and that any important deadlines are documented.

The template for this document will be provided from The Office for Undergraduate Research through DocuSign.  Students must have a completed Research Contract on file with the Instructor of record for UA 156 by the second week of classes in their research semester.