For undergraduate researchers looking for financial assistance, the Council for Undergraduate Research and Creative Scholarship (CURCS) provides mini-grants to supplement their research and help them along in their projects.
Kim Albracht, assistant director of academic engagement at the Gallagher Center, oversees undergraduate research. She said CURCS’s mission is to spread undergraduate research opportunities on campus, so they provide small grants for students to purchase supplies or pay for travel to research conferences.
Students may apply for the grant so long as they are engaging in research, whether it is academic, for the Honors Program or an independent project. Individual students may apply for up to $750. If a group applies for the project, each student within the group may apply for an additional $250.
CURCS is made up of several professors who work in different departments around campus, Albracht said, including fine arts, medical science and psychology. This allows for a variety of input when an application is submitted, she said, as the grant is not discipline-specific.
“I think (having CURCS) emphasizes how important the experience is for undergraduate students, no matter your discipline,” Albracht said. “Every discipline needs new knowledge, and so being able to contribute to your field in that way is really remarkable.”
Students need a USD faculty member to provide a letter of recommendation when they apply. Once the student receives the grant, the faculty member will act as the student’s mentor, which Albracht said allows the student to get the faculty member’s full attention, unlike research courses.
“This is a one-on-one mentorship that you don’t have to pay for. So you’re not paying tuition, and you get this expertise to work with someone on a research project,” Albracht said. “I think that’s a really valuable experience for any student to be able to get to do that.”
Jenna Kari, a senior graphic design major, received the grant last academic year for her project “Rodeo: A Roundup of Personal Recollections of a Midwestern Tradition” — a photography project which Kari said focused on the camaraderie of athletes in rodeo and the sacrifices their families make for them to be successful.
“I have a big passion for photography (and) design, as well as rodeo and the ranching lifestyle because that’s kind of where I come from,” Kari said. “I definitely knew I wanted to combine those in this project.”
Kari used the grant to fly to Las Vegas and attend the National Finals Rodeo. There, she interviewed rodeo athletes and took pictures with them and their families.
“That was such a great opportunity that I wouldn’t have gotten to do otherwise,” Kari said. “I grew up watching NFR on TV, so that was really exciting for me, and I feel so appreciative that I got the grant and was able to do that.”
Those who receive a grant through CURCS are required to present at Ideafest, USD’s campus-wide research symposium. However, Albracht said if they cannot present at Ideafest, presenting at another conference will fulfill the requirement.
Kari said she encourages students to take advantage of the grant and apply for it, as long as they have a passion for their research and want to demonstrate it.
“All you have to do is fill out this super easy application, and you can carry out really great projects and have great opportunities and experiences,” Kari said.
Applications for the grant are open through May. Albracht said the grants are usually meant for students who have already developed a research project, though anyone interested in the grant can contact her at Kim.Albracht@usd.edu