Research Initiative Award for Undergraduates

Award Amount: $1,000
Application Deadline: Friday, 11/19/2021


This annual award recognizes excellence in the early phases of undergraduate research, demonstrated by the initiation and organization of a project leading towards a senior thesis, capstone project, or an independent research project.

The award recognizes student engagement in a process of research spurred by their curiosity and interest. Specifically, the Award Committee is interested in a student’s ability to:

  • Identify and refine a research topic of interest
  • Work with faculty and librarians to develop a research strategy and to assess the scope and direction of an independent research project
  • Gather materials for the early phases of a research project
  • Establish methods for selecting and evaluating sources


Applicants must be full-time undergraduate students enrolled at the University of Rochester and be interested in working towards a senior thesis, capstone project, or an independent research project. The award is open to all undergraduates, but students in their late Junior year or early Senior/Take Five year are especially encouraged to apply.

How to Apply

Applications consist of:

  • Project title & description
  • Reflective essay
  • Project timeline
  • Annotated bibliography
  • Two letters of support, one from a faculty member and one from a librarian

Please submit your application as a Word or PDF document to Ashlee Huff ( by Friday, 11/19/2021. 


Past Winners

2019 winners:
Mackenzie Steen
 ’21 (Second Place), A Systematic Review of Trauma-Informed Teaching in Medical Education
Jisoo Woo ’20 (First Place), Using LED Light to Enable Asymmetric Olefin Difunctionalization with CO2
Julian Maceren ’20 (Third Place), Investigating Metal-Free Azide-Alkyne “Click” Reactions for Conjugating Peptides to Nanoparticle Carriers

2019 Winners


2018 Winners: Carrie Heusinkveld ’19 (Second Prize), French Literature; Daria Lynch ’19 (First Prize), History;  Zeen Xiao ’20 (Third Prize), Music History

Research Initiative Award Winners - 2018


2017 Winners: Eli Rogers (’18), Ahmed Selmi (’19), and Ling Yang (’19)

Research Initiatives Award WInners, 2017


2016 Winner: Austin Bailey (’16) Left to right: Susan K. Cardinal, STEM Librarian, Austin Bailey, and Todd D. Krauss, Professor of Chemistry and Chair, Professor of Optics.

Research Initiatives Award Winner, 2016


2015 Winners Claire Webster (’16) and Amy Eisenstadt (’16) receiving their awards. 
On left:
 Eileen Daly-Boas, Religion & Classics Librarian, Claire Webster, and Curt Cadorette, Professor of Religion & Classics. 
On right: Blair Tinker, Research Specialist for GIS, Amy Eisenstadt, and Cindy Ebinger, Professor of Earth & Environmental Sciences.

Research Initiatives Award Winner, 2015
Research Initiatives Award Winner, 2015

Application Materials

  • Title and project description (less than 500 words) of your research topic and the research questions (or research problem) your work seeks to address. Because the award focuses on the process of research, the description does not need to present a fully developed argument or definitive claims about your topic. Rather, the Award Committee is interested in the analytical questions or problems guiding your work and leading into your research.
  • A reflective essay (3-4 pages) that addresses how you have developed a research topic; used library resources and developed research strategies; and found, evaluated, and analyzed information. The following questions might help you get started. (These questions are meant as rough guidelines; you do not need to directly address every question in your essay.)
    • Developing a research topic
      • How did you come to your research topic/guiding questions?
      • How have you refined your topic/questions based on preliminary research? (Have you broadened, narrowed, or shifted your topic/questions?)
      • What role did your advisor and/or librarian play in shaping your topic and/or guiding questions?
    • Library resources/Research strategies
      • What UR resources have you found/do you plan to use as part of your research?
      • What did you discover about the tools and techniques used for research?
      • What specific strategies did you develop for finding and using relevant information?
      • What kinds of search strategies have you used? Have you encountered “dead ends”? What did you do?
      • What role did your advisor and/or librarian play in your process of research?
      • Besides your advisor and librarian, have you consulted with others in your field of interest?
      • What surprises and/or challenges have you encountered in the research process?
    • Finding, evaluating, analyzing information
      • How did you determine the credibility of the sources you found?
      • What did you learn about finding and evaluating information on your topic or in your discipline?
      • Did you have trouble finding some kinds of information?
      • What were some of your reasons for not selecting specific sources, even though they appeared promising?
  • Your project timeline (milestones, due date, etc.).
  • An annotated bibliography of 5-10 sources with brief descriptions of each source’s relevance to your topic. You may use any citation style you wish, so long as you use it correctly and consistently. You may use materials provided by an instructor, but you should balance them with a selection of sources discovered through your own research process.

Letters of support

  • One letter of support from a UR faculty member/advisor who is familiar with your research project
  • One letter of support from a UR librarian who has worked with you during your research process

Please ask recommenders to send their letters to Ashlee Huff ( by Friday, 11/19/2021.

Criteria for Evaluation

The Award Committee is interested in your ability to independently and actively seek information beyond assigned class readings which leads into an independent research project.

Applications will be evaluated according to how well they demonstrate:

  • Evidence of independent inquiry and creativity in the research process.
  • Depth or breadth in the use of library sources and collections.
  • Ability to identify, evaluate, and synthesize sources and to use them in the creation of a project in any medium that shows originality and/or has the potential to lead to original research in the future.

If you have any questions about this award or the process of application, please contact: Ashlee Huff (