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UROP, ILP join to seek corporate sponsors

The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) and the Industrial Liaison Program (ILP) have announced a new joint endeavor called the Undergraduate Corporate Research Fellows Program.

With this program, UROP and the ILP hope to increase the number of opportunities available for undergraduates to do interesting research. Also corporations will be able to make more direct connections with undergraduates than they can do now within the typical UROP framework.

There are two options for companies in this program. They may propose a specific project with a particular design or product outcome in mind. Or they can propose exploratory research within a broad area of science or engineering. In either case, the project is expected to meet regular UROP guidelines for credit-worthiness in the supervising faculty member's department.

In the first case, when a company proposes a specific project, a faculty member with expertise in that area will be asked to review it for appropriateness to an undergraduate and will be invited to supervise the project. With the supervision will come a modest amount of money to cover the project's materials and services costs and a stipend for an entire academic year (fall term, IAP and spring term) for a student. That student may be a junior or senior (or a sophomore if the supervisor feels he/she has the requisite background). At the end of the spring semester the student is expected to report directly to the company and may be invited to work at the company on-site during the summer. The faculty member and student will be requested by the UROP office to evaluate the work accomplished in the usual manner. Cost to the company for a year is $9,475.

In the second case, the company may express interest in a general area, not a specific project. Money for materials and services and a stipend for a UROP student will be available for an interested faculty member whose work is in the area suggested. The faculty member will be able to define a project of his or her choosing within the given research area. Once again, the usual academic standards for UROP projects apply. The cost to the company is $8,260.

Getting involved in research has been one of the most highly valued aspects of an MIT undergraduate's education. In recent years as many as half the undergraduate student body has been involved in ongoing research with faculty on campus through UROP. Yet there are far more students interested in having such exciting hands-on experiences than there are opportunities for paid UROP work. On the corporate side, the program increases opportunities to tap student creativity and selectively recruit at the same time. The Undergraduate Corporate Research Fellows Program hopes to benefit industry and undergraduates alike by increasing the number of choices and research options for both.

This new corporate link is modeled on a previously successful UROP program. UROP's "off-campus" program of the 1970s made it possible for MIT students to work for local industry, government agencies and not-for-profit organizations, UROP Director Norma McGavern recalled. "The program was especially appealing to those companies that had `back-burner' projects for which the boldness and enthusiasm of undergraduates was particularly suited."

"It is important to have as many students as possible involved in research and getting a sense of how their work connects with the corporate world," added Travis Merritt, dean for undergraduate academic affairs. "We hope this new kind of UROP will give companies and students a chance to look one another over at closer range."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 3, 1995.

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