Funding Fall Call for Proposals

 UROP provides over $200,000 to fund independent research projects across all disciplines


Early this week, funding for independent project proposals will be finalized as the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) closes its fall quarter call for proposals. Known for their support of interdisciplinary research across campus, UROP continues to strive toward excellence in research as they expanded the number of projects by 428 this past fall.

“It takes a lot of hard work and dedication, but I want to emphasize that the credit should go to the faculty and the students,” UROP director Said Shokair said. “We’re here to serve; we’re here to support; we’re here to facilitate.”

Being one of California’s largest Research I universities, UC Irvine has prided itself on research of all calibers.  With this upcoming week of school-spirited Homecoming events, UCI will celebrate all of its achievements  across campus, including having a UROP program that has been ranked ahead of universities such as UCLA in student and faculty-mentor involvement, according to the University of California Undergraduate Experience Survey (UCUES).

“Per graduating class at least 50 percent of the students would have been involved in at least one faculty-mentored research project,”  Shokair said. “Across the UC system, we have the highest involvement of students, staff and faculty-mentors. This is something UCI needs to be proud of.”

Touching in research across campus, along with research at other universities, UROP engages with nearly all forms of research, not just in the sciences. And twice annually, UROP opens its pocket-book to help fund independent projects led by faculty mentors.

“In the arts: choreographing a dance piece — that’s a form of research. In humanities: analyzing the scholarly works of an author — that’s important research,”  Shokair said. “All across campus there is important research, and we treat the students just like we’d treat staff and faculty — that’s just good professional experience.”

Despite the annual influx of proposals while combating budget cuts that have affected the campus as a whole, UROP is trying its best to serve the entire UCI community and create fair opportunities for anyone who wants to do research.

“In general, yes we may be getting more proposals from the sciences, or perhaps the requests are larger, but we address a balance by allocating less money to the sciences so that there is the same ratio across all departments,” Shokair said.

Drawing from personal experience, Shokair wants to make students aware of the benefits of working interdisciplinary.

“I’m an electrical engineer by training. In fact, I did my undergraduate here as a double major in electrical engineering and biological sciences,” Shokair said. “My interests at the time were biomedical engineering, but at the time that discipline didn’t exist. My point is, I want students to think interdisciplinary. I want them to think what they’re working on — how can that complement other disciplines?”

Working across different fields, not only broadening knowledge but also gaining professional experience, UROP offers students and faculty members the opportunity to engage in research outside of the typical domain while contributing a perspective from a different point of view. Students who branch out pursuing their passions may have opportunities to take on positions as lead researcher for projects, under the guidance of some of the best researchers across the UC system.

But it is not just research where UROP supports. The office with a slogan of “we’re here to help,” UROP and its director want students to take advantage of the opportunities that they have here at UCI — finding passion rather than simply getting a degree.

“Education is not about a robotic process. You’re at a research university — take advantage of this environment,” said Shokair. “Identify your interests and turn them into a passion, where ultimately you graduate confident, knowing what you want and what you have a passion for. This is the best vehicle for that, and the best vehicle for grad school.”

With a fall and spring call for proposals, alongside other interdisciplinary programs offered throughout the year, UROP hopes to continue its growth and involvement across campus. How can students get involved? With a website that is tailored toward content, UROP gives students and faculty full access to financial records (dating back to its inception in 1996), as well as dozens of opportunities for involvement.

“For us, there’s no dependency situation,”  Shokair said. “But if a student says ‘we need UROP’s help’ — we’re there to help them.”

This week, over $200,000 will be allocated to fund independent projects across UCI in support of the fall call for proposals, however, UROP will also soon begin preparations for its spring quarter symposium where all of last year’s projects will be presented, and a select few will be published in a research journal. The UROP Symposium is scheduled for Saturday, May 18 during spring quarter.