The Office of the Provost announced on Feb. 18 a pilot program that serves to allocate funds to undergraduate students of all four Georgetown schools with the purpose of expanding research efforts through conference presentations, publications or performances.
The Provost Undergraduate Research Presentation Awards will provide up to $500 to student applicants who endeavor to share their research with the greater professional or scholarly community for travel, hotel fees and registration or publication costs.
An initiative spearheaded by Vice Provost for Education Randall Bass and Vice Provost for Research Janet Mann, the awards will serve as a way to assure no student is barred from presenting their research due to financial constraints.

Students may apply for the awards through an online application with a faculty letter of support and the winners will be selected by members of the Provost Undergraduate Research Council, which is comprised of Groves, Mann and undergraduate students and faculty members. Applications are due Feb. 27 and April 15.

According to Mann, many Georgetown students complete incredibly detailed and creative research projects but are not necessarily appreciated outside of the Georgetown community. PURPAS plans to solve that dilemma.

“Many undergraduate students are heavily involved in research and creative activities on campus either independently or in collaboration with faculty and other students. Much of the work is very high quality and deserves to be seen outside of the Georgetown community,” Mann said.

“Georgetown undergraduates are capable and talented, but sheer labor is also essential for bringing that work to fruition for public or scholarly consumption.”

According to Mann, the awards will help offset the expensive burden that presenting research may have, but will also motivate students to further expand their research efforts and to set the bar high in terms of publication venues.
In addition to benefiting students through encouraging them to present to the highest levels of academia, Mann emphasized the benefits of having the Research Award on a student’s scholarly record.

“[Students] not only have the PURPAS to put on their resume, but also the conference presentation, publication or performance,” Mann said. “It helps motivate the student to follow through on their work and achieve at a higher level.”

According to Mann, funding for the awards is a result of alumni outreach efforts advocated by Vice Provost Bass for a trial period of one year with the hopeful conclusion of a permanent fund for PURPAS.

“Vice Provost Bass has been engaged with our alumni and many are particularly interested in supporting student research activities,” Mann said.

According to Bass, PURPAS is a result of the realization that potential funding should be available to all students, not just those who are able to find it through various means.

“Every year a few students come knocking on various doors for funding,” Bass said. “As Vice Provost Mann and I were talking about this over the last year, it struck us that we should just make this a regular opportunity open for all students, less ad hoc and not just rewarding the few students to find their way to funding sources,” Bass said.

While Mann encouraged all prospective applicants to apply, she especially endorsed applicants who view their research with personal significance and promote its importance on a broader scale.

“We are most interested in seeing applications that demonstrate the importance of the work to the student and hopefully, to the larger community,” Mann said. “It is a terrific learning experience to create a scholarly or artistic product for the community outside of Georgetown.”

In conjunction with PURPAS, Bass also said he wants to see additional undergraduate research in the years to come.
“Over the next five to 10 years, we hope more and more undergraduates will have the opportunity to do original research either individually or collaboratively,” Bass said. “We would love it if students and faculty would come to see this kind of opportunity to present or publish as just part of the landscape of undergraduate education.”

Prospective applicant Nicole Mansour (NHS ’18) said he heavily values the inception of the PURPAS program and sees it as an initial step in encouraging additional students to become more involved with on-campus research efforts.

“The new Provost’s Research Presentation Awards provides students with the opportunity to pursue research regardless of financial means,” Mansour said. “In the NHS as well as Georgetown as a whole, much is learned in the traditional classroom, but with this research award, people can expand their learning experience to include hands-on learning outside the classroom and foster creativity without tight financial constraints.” Mansour said.

Jason Petty (SFS ’17), who hopes to present his research on agriculture and gainful employment in Lesotho at other universities and science conferences, said that he believes the awards will encourage students to share their research with others.

“I think the Provost’s Office offering to assist paying for research can only expand the curricular and enrichment opportunities available for students,” Petty said. “Students ought to be able to present their research and body of work, which takes considerable time to accumulate, and the Provost Office is taking steps to ensure that financial barriers do not inhibit such an incredible opportunity. I think it’s fantastic and hopefully students take advantage of it.”

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