Student-Initiated Projects

Eligible juniors and seniors may submit a proposal for their own research project, sponsored by teaching faculty.

Students may initiate their own proposal for independent research, for research as part of the Rausser College Honors Program, or as an outgrowth of a faculty-initiated project from the SPUR website. To provide research opportunities to as many students as possible, individuals may only apply once for a student-initiated SPUR funding project during their time in Rausser College. Thanks to the Natural Resources Fund, limited funding is available to defray expenses for equipment and supplies.

It is the student’s responsibility to find an appropriate faculty mentor well in advance of the semester in which the project is to be initiated. The student's faculty research mentor must belong to a Rausser College department: Agricultural and Resource Economics
(ARE), Energy and Resources Group (ERG), Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM), Plant and Microbial Biology (PMB), or Nutritional Science and Toxicology (NST). Submitting a research project proposal and a detailed research budget (approved by the student’s faculty research mentor), is a required part of the application process. Recipients of student-initiated SPUR funding Students are also required to present their research at a Rausser College Poster Session.

Before You Apply:

Preparing and Submitting Your Student-Initiated Proposal:

Program Requirements:

Student Eligibility
Students must be in the Rausser College of Natural Resources at the time of application. Intended Rausser College students are not eligible until declared. Students must have junior or senior standing (completed 4 semesters in attendance) and a minimum 3.0 overall GPA to apply. Transfer students may apply after one semester at Berkeley has been completed.

Projects are approved for continuing students only. If a graduating senior is on the spring degree list, they are not eligible to apply for funding the summer after graduation. If a graduating senior is on the summer degree list, they are eligible to apply for a SPUR student-initiated project.

Appropriate Use of Funding
SPUR students are enrolled in a 199 research course (or honors section for the honors students) and earn units for their projects. Students must submit a budget proposal, using this Budget Proposal Template , that clearly shows how all potential expenses pertain directly to the student’s research project and are needed for it. Sponsoring faculty must sign the budget proposal before the student submits. Applications without a detailed budget will be considered incomplete and will not be funded.

SPUR may provide funding of up to $2,000 to be used to cover:

  • Conference Registration Fees
    • Must be presenting a poster or paper. Verification of participation required.
    • Conference must take place during the term of SPUR award
  • Travel Costs to Research Site(s)
    • Must provide proof of cost estimates (e.g. print out of quotes from airline, hotel, or rental car sites).
    • Travel to destinations reachable by Alameda Contra-Costa Transit are not eligible for reimbursement since the Student EasyPass provides free unlimited AC Transit access.
  • Lap Supplies and Equipment
    • Faculty mentors must sign “Confirmation of Student Need” on the proposed budget.
    • SPUR funds will not pay for personal laptops, digital cameras, or similar personal equipment. Such items included within a budget will not be funded.
    • All purchased equipment must be returned to your faculty mentor’s lab at the end of term.
  • Gift Awards to Interviewees
    • May not exceed $10 per person. Unused funds for this expense must be returned.
  • SPUR awards cannot fund:
    • personal salaries, meals, rent, or other expenses deemed unrelated to the research project.

SPUR and the Rausser College Honors Program
The Rausser College Honors Program is designed to support undergraduate students interested in developing, executing, and evaluating a year-long independent research project under the guidance of a faculty mentor. Rausser College encourages students applying to the Honors Program to apply for SPUR if assistance is needed. The deadline to submit the Rausser College Honors Program Enrollment Form to the student’s undergraduate staff advisor is the end of the third week of instruction. SPUR student-initiated project deadlines are much earlier, so advance planning is required. See the calendar for deadlines.

Preparing Your Proposal and Budget
Students are strongly advised to begin the process of identifying a faculty mentor and project well in advance, preferably in the semester preceding the one in which the student project will begin. Faculty mentors are encouraged to provide guidance and feedback to students who approach them during this preparatory process.

During the preceding semester, students are encouraged to:

  • Begin writing a research project proposal that includes a project title, abstract, background, objectives, hypothesis, methods, timeline, expected results, and references. Students are strongly encouraged to attend a research workshop offered by the Office of Undergraduate Research for proposal writing guidelines or follow the Writing a Proposal Guidelines
  • Create a detailed budget proposal that includes the itemized expected expenses (with embedded hyperlinks on the price, when available), purpose of the materials, the total amount of funding requested for project, and other sources of funding for the remainder of the project costs. The faculty mentor's name, department, and contact information should also be included on the budget.
  • See Sample Student Initiated Project Budget Proposal

Faculty Mentor Responsibility
SPUR funding is transferred to the faculty mentor’s research account where it can be accessed for expenses through the University accounting system.

By approving the budget for a student-initiated project, the faculty mentor indicates that s/he will be responsible for assisting the student with accessing their research funds and obtaining reimbursements for approved expenses. The faculty mentor also agrees to be responsible for covering any over-expenditure of the SPUR grant.

After the student submits their student-initiated project, the faculty mentor must log on to the SPUR website to approve the student's project. The approval serves as the faculty mentor’s agreement to participate as the research mentor, as well as their approval of the proposed research budget. If the project is approved, students will be directed to contact their faculty mentor for departmental guidelines on how to apply for reimbursements or purchase orders (departmental purchase order or reimbursement guidelines and procedures). This process varies by department.

Proposal Submission and the Review Process
When the submission cycle opens, students must log on to the SPUR website and select the Submit a Student-Initiated Project tab to create a new project. The research proposal and budget, as well as a copy of the student's unofficial transcript, must be uploaded to the website. Once uploaded, the faculty mentor must also log on to approve the student's project in order to be considered.

Research project proposals will be reviewed by a committee comprised of the Assistant Dean, Associate Dean, Executive Associate Dean, and the SPUR Coordinator. Projects are evaluated on the strength of the research proposal, the thoroughness of the proposed budget, and the student's academic preparation. Students will be notified of the committee's decision by email.

Enrolling in Research Units
The SPUR program requires students with approved projects to enroll in research units by the end of the fifth week of instruction. Funds are not released to for reimbursements until the SPUR coordinator has verified that all students are enrolled in units.

The SPUR coordinator will send a SPUR Enrollment Form after decisions are made. The department on the application must correspond to the faculty mentor's department. The number of units are determined between the student and faculty mentor. One unit is the equivalent of three hours of research to be conducted per week. 99/199 units may only be taken on a P/NP basis. If the student is participating in the Rausser College Honors Program, they must be enrolled in H196 units by the enrollment deadline.

During the summer term, students are not required to enroll in units. In lieu of enrolling in units, students may submit a SPUR Summer Learning Contract, signed by their faculty mentor, to the SPUR Coordinator no later than the last day of instruction of the preceding spring semester. For an overview of summer application deadlines, please see the calendar.

Transfer of Expense Funds
During the fifth week of instruction, the SPUR Coordinator verifies that the student has enrolled in the required units before any allocated SPUR expense funds are transferred to the sponsoring lab account. SPUR funds will be transferred during the 7th week of instruction. Students are urged to work with their faculty mentor if funding is needed earlier in the semester.

Final Grades and End of Semester Report
Students are required to provide feedback on their experience with the SPUR program. These reports are submitted online through the SPUR website. With the researchers’ permission, feedback may be shared with the alumni who donated the funds that support the SPUR program. End of semester reports are due on the last day of instruction. See the deadlines calendar for exact dates.

Faculty mentors are not required to submit a final report for student-initiated projects, but they are required to report the student's grade on CalCentral at the end of the term.

Sharing Your Research at the Ruasser College Poster Session
Students participating in SPUR are required to share their completed or in progress research project with the Rausser College community in the form of a research poster. The research poster summarizing the project and (expected) results may be presented at the fall or spring Poster Session. The SPUR Coordinator will send out information regarding poster session dates, registration, and printing.