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IAP Seminar Gives Advice- How to Get a UROP

By Daniel C. Stevenson
Associate Night Editor

"You'll have to start somewhere -- professors were once just like you," said Claude J. Poux, an administrator for the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, advising an undergraduate interested in getting involved in research.

Poux spoke yesterday afternoon in 6-120 as part of an IAP seminar entitled UROP Exploration: How to, When to, Why to, Where to, Who to. Poux presented guidelines for finding a UROP (see chart) and discussed rsum writing and UROP procedures.

UROP seekers should physically visit their prospective UROP faculty adviser, Poux advised. "Don't call, just show up on their doorstep," he said. "I can't underscore enough the impact you'll make on the faculty."

Poux counseled students to clip a snapshot of themselves to their rsum so that the professor will have a face to associate with the description. He also suggested that prospective researchers familiarize themselves with the professor's work and ask about current research papers.

When applying for a UROP, think about "what might captivate you" Poux said. He encouraged students to have some sense of their interests before talking to a professor.

Credit, pay, or volunteer

Poux described the three kinds of UROPs available for students: credit, pay, and volunteer. Credit might not be a feasible option for first-year students, said Poux, because of credit limits.

To receive pay for a UROP, students need to first discuss with their supervisor whether or not the lab or the UROP office will provide funding. The minimum wage for research is $6.90 an hour, but some students, especially computer science majors, can make up to $17 per hour, according to Poux. For a regular UROP, expect to work between eight and 15 hours a week, Poux said.

Students who do not choose or want credit or pay UROPs can choose volunteer UROPs instead. "Volunteer UROPs are encouraged for people who are not sure they want to immerse themselves in the research enterprise," Poux said. Such UROPs would involve "hanging around the research area" or shadowing a researcher.

In addition, freshmen who want to have a summer UROP should have previous UROP experience, Poux noted. A volunteer UROP starting in February or March would be a "launching pad to a full summer UROP."

Of the 15 weeks available for summer UROPs, students are expected to work for 12 weeks, Poux said. In response to a question about summer housing costs, Poux acknowledged that "UROP does not pay for your housing," but inexpensive housing options are available, including renting rooms at fraternity houses and cooperative living group arrangements.

Rsum guidelines

Several students at the seminar asked about the recommended content of a rsum. Poux advised keeping the size down to a single page, but "if what you have to put down is really of substance" two pages can be used. Some tricks to fit more content on a single page are using 0.5 inch margins and 10 point text, but no smaller.

For high school activities, Poux suggested listing only those activities or achievements which were particularly outstanding or in which the student held one of the top two positions.

For students who are applying for UROPs in two diverse areas, Poux recommended preparing two different rsums, one geared to each area.

Feedback in the form of UROP evaluations is important, Poux said. "Basically we're interested in frank, honest, direct feedback about your experience." The evaluations are "99 percent confidential" according to Poux. The only time evaluations are used outside of the UROP program are for conflict resolution, and then only with the student's consent, Poux said.

Poux advised prospective researchers to visit their professors and submit their proposals as soon as possible, as the review of UROP proposals for the spring term begins on Jan. 14. For summer UROPs, the review process begins on April 1, and on Registration Day for the fall term.

If students have any questions, Poux encouraged them to call the UROP office at 253-7306, or send electronic mail to urop@mit.edu.