“I’ve never worked in a lab before. Can I still apply?”
Absolutely. We’re not looking for the most experienced students, nor do we want all of our students to come from backgrounds with heavy research experience. In fact, RSP’s goal is to match promising students with or without experience to Duke’s talented researchers. We’re looking for students who have a passion for discovery, and who will reflect that energy in the work they perform with their mentor.
“What is the time commitment required of students?”
We do not have strict hours-per-week requirements. We do, however, require that students establish a schedule with their mentors and abide by it. We will ask students to submit their agreed-upon schedule or weekly time commitment, and will check periodically to ensure that the student is honoring that agreement. Our expectation is that a student’s time commitment will reflect a high level of enthusiasm and commitment to his or her research project.
Students who consistently neglect their agreed-upon time commitment will first be contacted by staff, and if the issue persists, will then be asked to leave the program.
“I am a first-year student. What do I enter where the application asks for my GPA?”
For first-year students, the application deadline will pass before your first semester grades are posted. We therefore ask that you submit a copy of your mid-term grades that will be provided by your instructors during the semester.
“How competitive is admission to the program?
We received almost 200 applications for more than 20 spots annually. The number of slots we have available each year depends on the number of mentors available to take on students.
“How long does the program last?”
Currently, students and mentors are expected to commit a minimum of the entirety of the spring semester to their research endeavors. However, most of our students continue with their projects after their formal one-semester affiliation with the program has been completed. Former students are welcome to any of the seminars or other events that RSP will host throughout the year.
“Can I work with more than one student?”
It is possible for mentors to mentor more than one student for the duration of the program. However, it is not recommended. Mentoring a student requires a lot of commitment. Unless you have had a lot of experience mentoring undergraduate students in research, we do not recommend that you take on more than one student.
“Are mentors involved in the selection of students?”
Absolutely. In fact, mentors make the final decisions regarding student selection. Upon submission, student applications are reviewed thoroughly by RSP staff before select applications are forwarded to mentors for further review. Applications that move beyond the initial round of reviews are forwarded to mentors based on a student’s expressed research interests as well as the content of student responses from the application. At any time during the application window, mentors are welcome to contact RSP leadership with queries regarding the review process.
“How do I know the student I will work with will remain committed throughout the program?”
There is no way to guarantee that a student will demonstrate the qualities necessary to succeed as a partner in research. But we do try to select those students who we believe will be active and engaged contributors. And that is why we involve our mentors in the application process. You will have the final say regarding any student we believe would be a potential member of your team. Once student applications have been processed, RSP will contact mentors regarding students who we believe will be successful research partners. You will then be able to interview potential students and make final determinations regarding which students you feel are looking to enrich their own experience as well as to contribute meaningfully to your work.
We also stipulate that students who enter the program must set a weekly schedule with their mentors. RSP will reconnect periodically with student participants to ensure that the agreed-upon commitment is being upheld. Students who consistently neglect to maintain their weekly schedules will be asked to leave the program.
“How are mentors selected?”
Mentor applications are reviewed by RSP staff in conjunction with Duke faculty and staff. We give careful consideration to each application in order to ensure that any mentor who joins the program will put forward the time and dedication necessary to build a meaningful and productive experience for our students. And we recognize that commitment by doing our best to ensure that any student welcomed into the program embodies the qualities that will enable him or her to be a strong contributor to any given project. For more information, please see Who We Are Looking For.
“Is funding available to help cover the costs of a project a student would be working on?”
We are committed to facilitating a highly enriching environment for both our students and mentors. We also realize that some students may want or need access to resources that may not be covered in their mentor’s research budget. The Undergraduate Research Support Office, the administrative base of RSP, offers many funding sources for undergraduates in research. The Dannenberg Award sponsors students who have not declared majors in their research. The URS Assistantship offers similar support for students who have declared a major. For more information, please visit the URS website.