Frequently Asked Questions

Undergraduate Research Assistantships at the NDIAS - Frequently Asked Questions

The Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study seeks talented, dynamic, research-oriented undergraduates to serve as research assistants for major projects being undertaken in a range of disciplines by residential Fellows at the NDIAS during the 2019–2020 academic year as part of the Undergraduate Research Assistant (UGRA) Program.

What is the goal of this Program?

This Program is designed to maximize research experience for undergraduates, to develop their research skills, and to stimulate greater interest for pursuing a life of the mind and continuing education at the graduate level or in other post-secondary pursuits. It does this through a program of participation and experience within the academic community of the NDIAS. Selected students are offered a research assistantship designed to expand their understandings of how research is conducted, especially interdisciplinary research; provide insight and training into how research questions are developed into publications and other scholarship; and challenge them intellectually to think beyond their majors and personal interests. Participating students benefit from a coordinated program designed to aid them in the development of skills essential to contemporary graduate training, the planning of their own independent research projects, engaging with top scholars working across academic disciplines, and the discovery and exploration of new ways to participate in and expand the interdisciplinary research culture at Notre Dame. 

Is this program open to students from any major?

Because of its interdisciplinary nature, students from all majors are invited to apply. As the Program emphasizes research skill development and hands-on training, rising sophomores and juniors who intend to write a senior thesis and/or are considering graduate school are especially encouraged to apply.

What are the general features of the program?

Research assistants are selected to work with scholars in residence at the NDIAS. Assistantships may be for one or two semesters during the 2019–2020 academic year. Assistants work up to 10 hours per week for fifteen weeks per semester at an hourly rate of $10 per hour. Typical research assistant tasks include: retrieving on-campus research materials, conducting initial readings of primary and secondary sources, developing bibliographies and literature reviews, identifying additional and/or alternative sources, drafting notes and annotations, proofreading, copying, and editing. Some students have also been involved in the preparation of finished manuscripts for publication and joint publications. Students meet regularly with their Fellow to discuss questions and ideas related to their project. The program is highly competitive.

Student research assistants are also invited to participate in the academic life of the Institute and may attend seminars at the NDIAS, as their class schedules allow. Research assistants meet on Friday afternoons, as a group, for unique research training and programming. During the 2019–2020 academic year, students in the program will be aided by the Institute’s Coordinator for Undergraduate Research. The program is also aided by Dr. Donald Stelluto, the Associate Director of the NDIAS.

Can I serve as an undergraduate research assistant if I have another student job on campus?

Yes. However, because students may work during the academic year up to a maximum of 20 hours per week and because the UGRA program is a commitment of up to 10 hours per week, a student applying to be an UGRA may not have other student employment commitments totaling more than 10 hours per week. All applicants with other student employment commitments on campus are asked to confirm the number of hours from other employing University units before applying as an UGRA.

What have Notre Dame students serving as research assistants had to say about the program?

As my work with my Fellow progresses, I have become increasingly excited to begin my own research.  Learning how to better ask important research questions and frame research in context has made me more aware of possible topics I would like to pursue in my own research. In fact, it has inspired me to reach out to a professor in the field and discuss a broader topic of interest with him.
– Catherine Etchart, Economics & Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics, 2019 

I am learning an incredible amount about time management, what it means to contribute to research, the academic process, and the environment of higher learning and study. It is exciting, stimulating, and it appeals greatly to me! It is convincing me more and more that this is the type of work I would like to engage in on a professional level. It is assuring me of my choice to apply to graduate school and engage in my own research!
– Nick Munsen, Program of Liberal Studies, 2017

The research that I have been doing on this idea of causation…has affected my scientific lab work here at Notre Dame. …I work with a specific type of bacteria that produces a complex metabolite. Thinking about causation and the philosophy of biology, I began to analyze my own research to see how it relates to these concepts…[and] how scientific research in laboratories are able to describe the real world. The concept of causation is one that causes me to rethink everything that I was able to take for granted prior to this experience. Now, I am forced to think beyond the scientific perspective. [My Fellow’s] research of the theory of causation from a philosophical perspective of science has caused me to think about its purpose throughout my courses and lab work every day.
– Emily Zion, Biochemistry, 2017

Working as a Templeton Undergraduate Research Assistant made me a better, more critical thinker, a more inquisitive student, and more confident in my abilities as a researcher. It has also given me an opportunity to explore, in depth, an issue (consciousness) that I have always been very interested in. Further, it has solidified my interest in pursuing a career in the academy, and humanized professors and researchers, making me think that these positions are tenable and desirable for me to one day take up.
– Sean Costello, Philosophy, 2016

How does this program complement other University undergraduate academic programs?

The NDIAS Undergraduate Research Assistantship Program builds on a tradition at the University of Notre Dame of enriching undergraduate curricula with significant research experiences. This program seeks the most promising undergraduate students at the University of Notre Dame who wish to develop their skills for the study of significant ideas across disciplinary boundaries and to utilize their experience at the Institute as a model for their own training and scholarship.

How do I apply for a 2019-2020 NDIAS Undergraduate Research Assistantship?

The 2019–2020 UGRA application will be available online beginning April 14, 2019, and may be accessed by clicking here, or going to the NDIAS website (http://ndias.nd.edu/). Applicants will be asked (1) to upload a current copy of their resume of academic and work-related experience; (2) to identify and provide contact information for two academic/faculty references who can comment on their research capabilities and performance; and (3) to respond to several questions about research as well as their past research experience. The deadline for completion and submission of all application materials online is Wednesday, July 17, 2019.

How are research assistants selected?

Finalists in the UGRA Program are selected based on their responses to the questions in the application materials, skills that would be useful or necessary for a particular research project (i.e., language skills, lab experience, etc.), interesting insights and experiences, curiosity about the life of the mind, past research employment experience, and their facility with research ideas.

How will the program be evaluated?

During the assistantship, and again at its conclusion, students will be asked to evaluate their experiences, reflecting on new research or innovative skills learned, the improvement of pre-existing skills, techniques or methodologies learned, and how the experience has impacted their understanding of ideas, concepts, and research; how the Program has affected their future educational or career plans; and ways that it has caused them to reconceptualize their own undergraduate education experience. Fellows, faculty mentors, Directors of Undergraduate Studies, program advisors, and directors of honors and other academic programs may be consulted as part of the evaluation process.

When will I know if I have been selected as a 2019–2020 Undergraduate Research Assistant?

The selection of research assistants is highly competitive. Applicants with completed files will be notified about their application between July 29 and August 9, 2019. Those selected as research assistants will receive information in early August, 2019 about their respective Fellows and the research projects on which they will assist. Research assistants will meet for an orientation session and begin working with their respective Fellows by the first week of instruction in August, 2019. Fellows may also send their students background reading about the project in advance of the first meeting.

Who will administer the program?

During the 2019–2020 academic year, students in the program will be aided by the Institute’s Coordinator for Undergraduate Research. The entire program is administered by Donald L. Stelluto, Ph.D., Associate Director of the NDIAS. Questions about the program may be directed to Dr. Stelluto at dstellut@nd.edu.