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Mentor Tools & Resources

Project Planning

What makes a successful UROP project? A good UROP project should be one in which the student not only contributes to the research and opportunities to explore the field, but also one that has built in room for failure – since we all know research does not always pan out as expected.

There are a few other recommended project planning tips:

  • For newer/inexperienced students, if there isn’t time or space for failure, then the UROPproject shouldn’t be an integral part of critical research or the supervisor’s thesis work.
  • The project should build off the student’s field of inquiry and teach usefulfield/disciplinary skills.
  • There always will be some busy/monotonous work in research, but…UROP students should also be doing some novel work and/or learning skills and techniques relevant to the field that will help move the project forward in some manner.
  • For fall/spring term UROPs, since students often get busy in classes, we recommend that every UROP project has an MVP (minimal viable product). This MVP should be a contribution or set of duties that can be accomplished with less hours of effort a week throughout the term. This is because there are weeks that students will need days off for exams, etc and many tasks might take your UROP student longer than you!
  • “Reach” goals are often accomplished with more hours per week on top of the MVP.

Within the project it is always a good idea to:

  • Contextualize the student work within the bigger project, lab vision, or the field
  • Relate this work to future potential internships, jobs or graduate school
  • Add useful literature or network ties to the work — i.e is this work something that makesthem encounter people or things in the field that are key for their development?

For project planning, we strongly recommend a Facilitating Effective Research (FER) workshop, to always plan backwards from the goal of the project to the tasks needed each week. If you want to explore this topic in more in depth, we encourage you to sign up for an upcoming workshop.

While UROPing during the fall or spring semester is perhaps the most common, IAP and Summer term UROPs are also very common and a great time to devote to research.

How do you plan an IAP UROP?

IAP Project Planning Tips

A lot of people have UROPs during IAP, which is a great time to UROP! There are 3 main categories:

  1. Continuing student from fall (Fall → IAP)
    • Building off what they learned in Fall by treating them as a full time lab memberfor a month
    • Giving them a focused month to iterate on or document what was done in Fall
  2. Onboarding a student in IAP to continue in the Spring (IAP → Spring)
    • Training and building foundation for spring
    • Literature review
    • ntegrating them into lab processes and culture
  3. IAP only

Basically you want either a predictable building block or a small contained module

  • A small sprint to do a mockup or to explore something that needs to belearned (i.e a new software or method)
  • A literature review
  • Help communicating or analyzing existing data

How do you plan a Summer UROP?

Summer is an awesome time to UROP because classes aren’t in session, which means students can be full time (35-40 hours weekly) for approximately three months!

Summer Project Planning Tips
  • Generally, summer projects and duties should be structured to treat the student like a full time member of the laboratory.
  • Gain an understanding of the student’s goals for this summer and if they are interested in continuing research beyond the summer.
  • Plan and calendar these goals with them, including any summer vacations they (and you) may be taking.
  • Clearly state the expected output and set-up structured milestones since they will be working more hours each week.
  • Check-in with summer UROPs frequently; make sure they aren’t stuck on a project component and need guidance
  • Have a venue for your student to present at the end of the summer, preferably in a group meeting, but at least to your faculty member if you are not the PI. (Note: some departments host poster sessions. Ask your department if they have such opportunities for UROPs).

Need more tips & advice?