Undergraduate Research Assistantship (URA) Program
This program provides undergraduate math majors the opportunity to learn about mathematics research by working with a faculty mentor on a project. Duties include solving mathematical problems and writing a final report for web publication. Program participants, called Undergraduate Research Assistants (URAs), typically work for credit. Some faculty may have grant funding enabling them to pay URAs.
Why undergraduate research?
URAs explore areas of mathematics that are not typically taught in a classroom setting.
URAs refine their communication skills.
URAs can earn upper-division credit (or sometimes pay) on a flexible schedule.
URAs have experience in their field of study to include on their resumes.
URAs have faculty mentors who can write strong letters of recommendation, based on their close working relationship.
URAs planning to attend graduate school are better prepared for graduate-level research.
URAs may be invited to travel to a conference like SUnMaRC and could win a prize at a conference like the UA Student Showcase for presenting their research results.
URAs might even publish research work in a scholarly journal. Research mentors will often have journals in mind to submit to; there's also the Arizona Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies.
How do I get involved?
First, you will need to find a faculty mentor and decide on a project. There are several ways to go about this:
- Look through our list of research project ideas submitted by faculty members. If one of those ideas piques your interest, contact that faculty member to further discuss the possibilities. These faculty have indicated interest in working with undergraduates on research, and may have newer projects available, too.
- Try the search tool on the University of Arizona Undergraduate Research website (https://ur.arizona.edu/find/search-ua-researchers) These search results include faculty from a variety of departments on campus.
- Talk to an Undergraduate Research Ambassador. URAs can help you find individual research opportunities or research-based classes to help you build critical skills. They can also present research opportunities to your class, group, or club. Come to LifeLab on Wednesdays from 2-4 or Thursdays from 3-5, or set up a 1:1 appointment with a URA through Handshake! (In Handshake, go to the Career Center at the top right, then click Appointments > Schedule a New Appointment > University of Arizona Career Advising > Meet with an Undergraduate Research Ambassador.)
- Enroll in MATH 396C - Undergraduate Research Seminar (1 unit, currently offered in fall semesters). This workshop is designed to introduce students to research opportunities in mathematics at the U of A.
- Have a favorite professor? Ask him/her about their area of research. If it sounds interesting, find out if there might be a way for you to participate.
- Perhaps you already have one or more faculty members in mind you'd like to work with, but are unsure on what you could work with them, or don't like the particular project they might have on the list mentioned above. Simply approach your favorite faculty member and discuss alternate possibilities with them. Faculty often are open to working on projects that are not on the list.
- If you have a particular project in mind but don’t know which faculty member(s) to approach with the idea, the URA Program Coordinator will be glad to help you locate an appropriate faculty member, and the friendly advisors in the Math Center will be equally happy to assist you.
Important: if you are sending emails to faculty to inquire about research opportunities, make sure you demonstrate in your email that you have looked at the professor's web page and have interest in their specific research area. If you haven't bothered to do any research on their work, they will not take your inquiry seriously. For additional advice and email templates, check out the UA Undergraduate Research website. There are also some good guidelines and examples here.
Next, if you will be earning credit for your URA experience, you will need to register through the math department Academic Office; there is a special form needed. The form requires a description of the work to be done, and signatures from your project advisor and major advisor. If your faculty mentor has funding to pay you, he/she will work with our Business Office to help you set this up.
Honors College students are eligible to apply for grant funding (up to $1500) to pay for their time spent on independent research through the Spirit of Inquiry Research Program.
The best way to learn about the activities of past URAs is to check out the participants list, which has links to proposals, reports, or sometimes even entire project websites. The URA Program was created in Fall 1996 by William McCallum, who was Associate Head for Undergraduate Studies at that time. Robert Indik was the URA Program Coordinator until 2009, at which time Moysey Brio became URA Program Coordinator. In 2016, our current Coordinator, Sergey Cherkis, took over. Beginning Fall 2020, Anton Izosimov will be the URA Program Coordinator, as our current coordinator, Sergey Cherkis will be on sabbatical.