The University of Arizona

Undergraduate Research Assistantship (URA) Program

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This program provides undergraduate math majors the opportunity to learn about mathematics research by working with a faculty mentor on a project. Duties include solving mathematical problems and writing a final report for web publication. Program participants, called Undergraduate Research Assistants (URAs), typically work for credit. Some faculty may have grant funding enabling them to pay URAs.

Why undergraduate research? 

SUnMaRC 2018 group photo

URAs explore areas of mathematics that are not typically taught in a classroom setting.

URAs refine their communication skills.

URAs can earn upper-division credit (or sometimes pay) on a flexible schedule.

URAs have experience in their field of study to include on their resumes.

URAs have faculty mentors who can write strong letters of recommendation, based on their close working relationship.

URAs planning to attend graduate school are better prepared for graduate-level research.

URAs may be invited to travel to a conference like SUnMaRC and could win a prize at a conference like the UA Student Showcase for presenting their research results.

URAs might even publish research work in a scholarly journal. Research mentors will often have journals in mind to submit to; there's also the Arizona Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies.

How do I get involved?

First, you will need to find a faculty mentor and decide on a project.  There are several ways to go about this:

Important: if you are sending emails to faculty to inquire about research opportunities, make sure you demonstrate in your email that you have looked at the professor's web page and have interest in their specific research area. If you haven't bothered to do any research on their work, they will not take your inquiry seriously. For additional advice and email templates, check out the UA Undergraduate Research website. There are also some good guidelines and examples here.   

Next, if you will be earning credit for your URA experience, you will need to register through the math department Academic Office; there is a special form needed. The form requires a description of the work to be done, and signatures from your project advisor and major advisor.  If your faculty mentor has funding to pay you, he/she will work with our Business Office to help you set this up.

Honors College students are eligible to apply for grant funding (up to $1500) to pay for their time spent on independent research through the Spirit of Inquiry Research Program.

Smaller grants may be available through the Graduate College for undergraduate students. Learn more on their website.

Program History

The best way to learn about the activities of past URAs is to check out the participants list, which has links to proposals, reports, or sometimes even entire project websites. The URA Program was created in Fall 1996 by William McCallum, who was Associate Head for Undergraduate Studies at that time. Robert Indik was the URA Program Coordinator until 2009, at which time Moysey Brio became URA Program Coordinator.   In 2016, our current Coordinator, Sergey Cherkis, took over.