Starting Fall 2012, juniors and seniors in Course 6 will have the option to participate in the Advanced Undergraduate Research Program, also known as the “Super” UROP. Students in the program commit to a full year of research with their chosen lab or group, as well as two semesters of the six-unit 6.UAR (Preparation for Undergraduate Research) class, which focuses on topics such as choosing and developing a research topic, industry best practices, and presentation skills.
50 students will be named “Undergraduate Research and Innovation Scholars,” and will be assigned an industry mentor (in addition to their faculty supervisor). They will also receive $3,000 a semester for 10 hours/week of UROP work. Their faculty supervisors will receive $4,000 to support the student for the entire year.
Students who complete the program will earn a certificate in advanced undergraduate research, which will be offered in a variety of fields, including artificial intelligence, computer systems, and nanotechnology, among others. Those who are not funded through the scholars program can still earn the certificate and receive normal UROP funding or academic credit instead. “Super” UROP targets those who wish to make a bigger commitment to their research and have had previous UROP or industry experience.
Anantha P. Chandrakasan, Course 6 department head, said that the program was born out of a desire to give students the opportunity to connect with faculty and have a deeper research experience.
“We currently have a very successful UROP program, in which students tend to sample a lot of different research projects in order to get a feel for what they’re interested in. We want the ‘Super’ UROP program, however, to give students the chance to gain a more in-depth research experience by working with a faculty member for an entire year. The program will also better prepare students for graduate school, startups or industry,” he said.
Chandrakasan also emphasized that though some project ideas from faculty members will be available on the “Super” UROP website, students are encouraged to reach out to faculty and propose their own projects as well. “We encourage students to be entrepreneurial and creative in coming up with their own research ideas.”
Most of the funding for the inaugural year of the program will come from about eight industry sponsors, the likes of which currently include Google, VMWare, and Analog Devices, among others (a full list of the companies can be found on the official “Super” UROP website). Mentors from these companies will also be matched up with students based on their research interests. Participating students may also have the opportunity to present their research at the company or at an annual Institute undergraduate research conference that will start in 2013.
In an email to The Tech, Ray S. Stata ’57, founder of Analog Devices, said, “As an industrial sponsor, Analog Devices will look for opportunities to collaborate with students and faculty on research topics of continual interest and provide insights into the relevance of research to real world applications. … Analog Devices is excited about exploring new possibilities to strengthen our relationship with MIT students and faculty through the ‘Super’ UROP program.”
Creating the program
According to Chandrakasan, the EECS planning group started working on the program last July. In January, Chandrakasan and his colleague Professor Dennis Freeman PhD ’86, along with other faculty members and the Course 6 Undergraduate Student Advisory Group in EECS (USAGE) worked to fine-tune “Super” UROP internally, before presenting it to the Office of Undergraduate Advising and Academic Programming (UAAP).
Catherine A. Olsson ’12, a member of USAGE, said that the group wanted to ensure the program made research seem as attractive and rewarding to students as industry.
“Students all know there are lots of exciting opportunities in industry, and that it can seem extremely glamorous, especially from all the career fairs. However, we want people to have the same level of attraction toward research and recognize that it can be just as rewarding, especially if people want to go into academia, or even industry.”
The USAGE group also offered feedback on the details that would be relevant to students, such as the pay and credit structure. Olsson said that some students also met with industry sponsors who wanted student feedback as well. “It was really cool to go to the industry meetings; the companies were all extremely excited about reaching out to students and supporting cutting edge research.”
The Course 6 department then worked with Julie B. Norman, senior associate dean for undergraduate education and director of the UAAP office, to finalize the program, making sure its funding structure was in compliance with MIT’s financial aid policies.
Norman said, “Our office was focused on how we could best facilitate and support the “Super” UROP program. After checking that it complied with financial aid guidelines — which it did — we submitted a proposal to the Committee on Curricula to formally create the certificate program. We also emphasized that students would receive credit for the academic portion of the program — the 6.UAR subject — and pay for the actual UROP work.”
Norman added, “I think it was a wonderful collaboration with Course 6, and I’m excited to give students the opportunity to engage with faculty and do exciting and innovative research.
Students who wish to apply to the program can submit an application from May 15 through Sept. 15, 2012. More details can be found at http://superurop.eecs.mit.edu.