Student-Initiated Projects

Eligible juniors and seniors may apply for up to $2,000 in SPUR funding to support their own research project. Students may initiate their own proposal for independent research, for research as part of the CNR Honors Program, or may modify a faculty-initiated project from the SPUR website. To provide research opportunities to as many students as possible, individuals may only apply once for student-initiated SPUR funding during their time in CNR.

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 CNR department: Agricultural and Resource Economics (ARE), Energy & Resources Group (ERG), Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM), Plant & Microbial Biology (PMB), or Nutritional Science & 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 are also required to present their research at a CNR Poster Session.

Before You Apply:

Preparing and Submitting Your Student-Initiated Proposal:

Program Requirements:

Student Eligibility
Students must be in the College of Natural Resources at the time of application. Intended CNR 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.

Funding is available 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 summer SPUR funding.

Appropriate Use of Funding
SPUR funding may be used to cover lab supplies and expenses, travel costs (mileage/air fare) to domestic research sites, conference registration fees (if presenting a poster or paper), etc. SPUR funds will not pay for personal laptops, digital cameras, and similar personal equipment except in extraordinary circumstances. If you plan to apply for SPUR funding to cover other travel costs (international travel to research sites, domestic/international travel to conferences for poster presentation, lodging, etc.), please see the SPUR coordinator.

Any equipment that is approved for purchase with SPUR funding will be considered property of the University of California and will remain with the student's faculty mentor. Funding shall not be used for student stipends or honoraria, nor to cover rent, food or other living expenses in the Bay Area.

SPUR and the CNR Honors Program
The CNR 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. CNR encourages students applying to the Honors Program to apply for SPUR funding if financial assistance is needed. The deadline to submit the CNR 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 paid out to the faculty mentor’s research account. No funding shall be paid out directly to students so as not to disadvantage students on financial aid, for whom the grant or stipend amount would be deducted from their financial aid package for the year.

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. The faculty mentor also agrees to be responsible for covering any over-expenditure of the SPUR grant. However, if some of the SPUR grant remains unused by the end of the project’s completion, the funds will remain in the faculty mentor’s research account and can be used toward other purposes.

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 access research funds (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 performance. 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 faculty mentor accounts 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 CNR 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.

Awarding of the SPUR Grant
No funding shall be paid out to students directly so as not to disadvantage students on financial aid, for whom the grant or stipend amount would be deducted from their financial aid package for the year.

During the fifth week of instruction, the SPUR Coordinator verifies that the student has enrolled in the required units before SPUR funds are awarded. The appropriate departmental and Dean's Office financial officers will also be notified of the amount of funding being awarded to each project. The SPUR grant will be transferred to the faculty mentor’s research account during the 7th week of instruction. Students are urged to work with their faculty mentor if funding is needed earlier in the semester.

It is the faculty mentor’s responsibility to guide the student through departmental procedures for submitting purchase orders or reimbursement requests.

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 CNR 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 CNR Poster Session
Undergraduates benefiting from this collaboration with faculty mentors and from the generous financial support of CNR alumni are required to share their completed or in progress research project with the CNR 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.