Supporting students, mentors, and instructors engaged in research.

Emerging Scholars


Emerging Scholars are paid $8/hr to assist a professor with a research or creative project and participate in professional development sessions.


Benefits to you:

  • Get paid to learn: Your work study job will directly benefit your education. You'll have a chance to learn more about an area of interest. This experience may help you make a decision about a major and will expose you to a variety of opportunities on campus.
  • Connect with a professor: Getting to know a professor well your freshman year gives you many advantages.
  • Meet other students doing research: You'll take part in paid professional development sessions at least once per month. During these sessions you'll have a chance to get to know other Emerging Scholars and Center for Undergraduate Research staff.


Eligibility to Apply:

  • First year student (freshman or transfer student)
  • Accept a Federal Work Study (FWS) Award for 2017-2018: If you're not sure whether you've accepted a FWS award, you can check via Enroll & Pay. Once you log in, navigate to the Student Center. There you will find a Finances section. You can click the "View Financial Aid" link to see whether your financial aid package includes a Federal Work Study award. If you would like to add Federal Work Study to your financial aid package, please email Greg Parrish at to find out if you are eligible. If eligible, you will need to fill out a form to request a Federal Work Study award.


Student applications for the 2017-2018 academic year will go live on May 11, 2017. 

Email Dyan Morgan at or call her at 785-864-5733 with any questions


The Emerging Scholars program allows first-year students to use their federal work-study funds for positions as undergraduate research assistants for faculty and research staff at KU.  The goal of this initiative is to involve students in the research and creative process early on in their time at KU. This early exposure to research fosters a valuable academic experience for students.

Research mentors interested in mentoring an Emerging Scholar can submit a job description online.  Students applying to the Emerging Scholars Program will rank which positions they are most interested in, and the Center will place students into positions based on student interest.  If matched with a student, the mentor will attend an orientation to the Emerging Scholars Program in August, then orient and mentor the student in the research project throughout the academic year (Fall 2017-Spring 2018). 

Research mentors should have enough work for a student to work ~7 hours/week.  There is no cost to the mentor or academic department for the student's wage, as that will be covered through the student's Federal Work Study award and the Center for Undergraduate Research. 

Questions about the Emerging Scholars Program?  Check out the mentor section of the FAQ page or email us at


The Center will be hosting two Emerging Scholars Mentor Info Sessions to answer questions about the program, help mentors write job descriptions, and give potential mentors a chance to hear from current faculty participating in the program.  No need to RSVP.

  • Friday, March 31, 10-11:00 am; The Commons, Spooner Hall; with faculty panelists Lorie Vanchena, Germanic Languages & Literatures, & Deanna Hanson-Abromeit, Music Therapy
  • Thursday, April 6, 1-2:00 pm, The Commons, Spooner Hall; with faculty panelists Brad Osborn, Music Theory, & Jennifer Gleason, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology


Writing a Job Description

Your project should be designed to be completed by an Emerging Scholar working on the project ~7 hours per week during the academic year (Fall 2017-Spring 2018). It can be part of a larger project, a pilot project, or be designed to provide preliminary data for future research or creative projects.  While some tasks performed by Emerging Scholars may be fairly basic, the idea is that the student is included in the intellectual work of research; Emerging Scholar positions should move students towards this level of intellectual engagement over the course of the year.

To submit a job description, fill out the Emerging Scholar Job Description Form.  Keep in mind that most Emerging Scholars will have no research experience prior to entering the program, so tasks should be at an entry-level and the description should be written in accessible language.

Tips for writing job descriptions

Based on previous experience, here are some tips for writing a good job description.  The goal is to make these job descriptions accessible and exciting to potential Emerging Scholars, yet at the same time we also want to make sure that the description is specific enough so the student understands the work that would be involved and would be a good fit for your position.
  • Use simple language: To appeal to the typical 18-year-old applying for this program, write your job description as you would a TED talk: avoid jargon, keep it simple, and emphasize the broad appeal and value of your project.
  • Describe the nature of the work: Try to give the student a clear picture of the type of work that they would be doing in this position.  As much as possible, we want the student to understand what they are getting into to make sure this position is a good fit.  Provide specific details about the tasks that the student would do as well as the general dispositions that would make a student well-suited toward a position.  Examples include:
    • Ceramics: "Tasks will begin with mixing clay and glazes, recording and organizing test results such as working properties, texture and color of materials. Depending on the method of production the student will learn various mold-making and casting processes, glazing and/or painting, kiln loading, and will be expected to assist in the packing and shipping of artwork to out-of-state exhibitions. Other tasks will include maintaining an organized workspace and assisting with moving and photographing work. Due to the nature of my work many tasks are repetitive and hands-on. You will get dirty."
    • History: "The research assistant will find appropriate documents by combing online sites and going through the stacks in the library; copy or transcribe the documents, highlighting the best parts; take down all bibliographic information (including potential copyright issues); and file them, either through Dropbox or with a program called EndNote.  Applicants should be interested in history, curious, enjoy detective work, organized, an excellent reader, and detail oriented. Patience also helps, since the process is a little like digging for gold -- you don't always find it."
  • Clearly state deal-breakers: Make sure you clearly state any scheduling requirements or qualifications that would be a deal-breaker for a student to succeed in your position, such as that they need to be available for 3-hour blocks of time during the day; we don't want a student signing up for a position that won't work for them.  Keep in mind that typical students applying for this program have little background in your discipline, so try to keep the baseline qualifications to a minimum and include language that would make your project seem approachable to a first-year student.  One example:
    • Biology: "The ideal student for this project is excited to learn about evolutionary biology and animal behavior.  The student will need to have a set schedule each week, though the exact schedule is flexible. The student must be available during regular working hours for at least four two-hour blocks a week, but fewer, longer blocks are good as well.  The student must have attention to detail, be organized and be willing to ask questions.  The student will need to do some problem solving and troubleshooting because the experiments to be done have never done before.  The experiments are not technically difficult, but may require some thought, as well as trial and error, to be executed properly.  The student will need to be persistent and not easily discouraged.   This project does not require any field specific knowledge or experience.  All that is needed is a willingness to try."

Example job descriptions

Brainstorming ideas for student positions

While having students work as research assistants is common in some disciplines, in others it may take some creative thinking to think of ways that an undergraduate might assist you on your own research/creative work.  To get ideas about what types of tasks an undergraduate might do as an Emerging Scholar, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are there elements of your research that would require relatively few skills to get started, but would benefit from lots of hands?
  • Do you have any side-projects to your research that a student could take on?  If the project takes off, it would contribute to your research, but if it doesn’t, it wouldn’t negatively affect your research.
  • Are there parts of your research that you could delegate to students?
  • What checks could you bring into the process to ensure that the student contributions are of high quality?
Mentors can also email Nikki Perry, Assistant Director with KU's Center for Undergraduate Research, to schedule a time to brainstorm ideas for job descriptions for the Emerging Scholars Program.

Mentor Responsibilities

Once you are matched with a student, we ask that you orient the student to the project and provide training. While you may have a graduate student or research assistant working with the Emerging Scholar student on a day to day basis, the faculty member is expected to assume the primary responsibility for ensuring that the student has a high quality experience.

Mentoring an Emerging Scholar student includes:

  • Schedule their time and provide ~7 hours of work each week
  • Orient them to the research project, including any training related to safety, technology, and responsible conduct of research
  • Provide background readings and discuss the development of the current project
  • Include them in research group meetings, if applicable
  • Meet with them on a regular basis to discuss their progress and performance on the project
  • Engage them in conversations about their current academic experiences and their career interests
  • Communicate any concerns you have about your student with the Center so we can follow up and get them connected with resources
  • Assist the Center in assessing student progress, as needed.

Mentor Eligibility

All KU faculty are eligible to mentor students through the Emerging Scholars Program, as are many KU employees who are actively conducting research through their role at KU (research scientists, academic staff, etc.).  Research staff should get permission from their supervisor/PI before submitting a job description.  We would like to have a diverse set of positions available (sciences, professional schools, arts, etc...) for students, so we encourage people from all departments to submit a job description.  Please email us at if you have a question about your eligibility as a mentor.  Though graduate students may end up working with students, they are not eligible to apply to be the primary mentor of an Emerging Scholar.

Frequently Asked Questions

Student Questions


About Emerging Scholars

What kinds of jobs might I end up doing?

Each Emerging Scholar will have different tasks. When you apply, be sure to look at the tasks listed in each job description. Example tasks for different jobs may include: administering surveys, entering data, reading and summarizing articles, conducting experiments, and analyzing media like photos, videos, or tweets.

How does Emerging Scholars compare to other Federal Work Study jobs on campus?

The positives: As an Emerging Scholar, you’ll be exposed to work in your field. And you’ll start to build relationships in your department with professors, graduate students, and research staff. This hands-on experience is great when you’re trying to decide on a career or major. Our jobs are usually pretty flexible if you have tests coming up and need to switch or reduce hours for a week. You’ll also have support from our staff and peer mentors as you learn how to be a college student. 

The tradeoffs: As an Emerging Scholar, you will be expected to show initiative, troubleshoot, and (after being trained) sometimes work independently while contributing to a project. There will not be down time that is sometimes available during other jobs for doing homework. Some Emerging Scholars have said that having a job like this feels like they are enrolled in an extra class, because you will be thinking a lot while you work.

Is Emerging Scholars the only option for Federal Work Study?

No, if you’re not interested in Emerging Scholars, there are many other jobs on campus and students with Federal Work Study awards are often given preference in the application process. You can learn more about part-time jobs here: There will be a part-time job fair in August and on-campus jobs for the fall will be added to this website throughout the summer:

About Federal Work Study

What is Federal Work Study?

The KU Financial Aid office has more information on their webpage:

Generally, Federal Work Study is a federally subsidized program designed to promote part-time employment of financially eligible students to help avoid excessive debt while in school.

How is Federal Work Study different than other financial aid?

Other financial aid is typically awarded and applied to your student account balance at the start of the semester. However, your Federal Work Study award must be earned through hourly employment. As you work on-campus, you are paid an hourly wage from your Federal Work Study award. If you do not find an on-campus job and ask them to utilize your Federal Work Study award, you will not receive any of your Federal Work Study award.

How can I get Federal Work Study?

If you would like to add Federal Work Study to your financial aid package, please email Greg Parrish at to find out if you are eligible. If eligible, you will need to fill out a form to request a Federal Work Study award.

How do I know if I have a Federal Work Study award?

If you're not sure whether you've accepted a FWS award, you can check via Enroll & Pay. Once you log in, navigate to the Student Center. There you will find a Finances section. You can click the "View Financial Aid" link to see whether your financial aid package includes a Federal Work Study award. If you have questions about your Financial Aid package you can contact the Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships at or 785-864-4700.

Application Process:

When can I apply?

Our online application will open on May 11, 2017 with a priority application deadline of June 1, 2017.

I’ve missed the priority deadline. Can I still apply?

Yes, please apply prior to August 1, 2017. We expect to admit students throughout the summer, with final decisions going out by August 1.

I’ve been waitlisted. What does that mean?

We receive more applications to join Emerging Scholars than we have space to accommodate. If you are placed on the waitlist, that means that you are a strong candidate for the program, but we are not sure we have a spot for you. We will make all final decisions on Emerging Scholars membership by August 1, 2017.

When will I know if I’ve been accepted?

We will make some offers of acceptance as an Emerging Scholar earlier in the summer, but all students will receive an answer about their application by August 1, 2017. This gives you plenty of time to find another job on campus if needed.

I was not offered a job as an Emerging Scholar. How can I find a job to earn my Federal Work Study award?

There are many other jobs on campus and students with Federal Work Study awards are often given preference in the application process. You can learn more about part-time jobs here: There will be a part-time job fair in August and on-campus jobs for the fall will be added to this website throughout the summer:

What documents will I need for employment?

For any job at KU, you will need to bring a few key documents to verify you’re eligible to work and to set up direct deposit of your paycheck. You might start tracking these documents down now so that you have them ready to bring with you to campus in August. You will need:

  • Valid state, federal or local government-issued photo ID
  • Original Social Security card OR valid passport with photocopy of Social Security card
  • Voided check OR Bank name, routing number, and account number


Do I need to have research experience?

No! You just need to be eager to learn and willing to work hard. Your supervisor will teach you everything you need to know. They have designed your job to be doable for someone new to research.

Is there a minimum high school GPA or ACT score to apply?

No, we want to know more about you than numbers. Your responses to the application questions will have the most influence on your application, so take your time with them. We recommend writing your responses somewhere else (like in a Word document), editing them, and then submitting them through our form.

How do I know if I have accepted a Federal Work Study award?

If you're not sure whether you've accepted a FWS award, you can check via Enroll & Pay. Once you log in, navigate to the Student Center. There you will find a Finances section. You can click the "View Financial Aid" link to see whether your financial aid package includes a Federal Work Study award.

Am I eligible if I have a Kansas Work Study award?

No, the Kansas Work Study program is a different program that supports work off campus. You can learn more about this program at this website:

Mentor Questions


How does the student placement process work?  Will I get to meet my student before I agree to work with them?

Prospective Emerging Scholars will select the job descriptions that they are most interested in as part of their application process and write short essays explaining why they are interested in those positions.  Center for Undergraduate Research staff will look at these responses in order to place students in positions that they are most interested in.  We will email mentors over the summer to let you know if a student has been preliminarily placed in your position.  As part of the orientation in August, mentors will have a chance to meet with their prospective student to make sure that it is a good fit.

Do I have to pay anything for my student's wage as a research assistant?

There is no cost to the mentor for the student's wage.  Your Emerging Scholar's wage would be covered through their Federal Work Study award and the Center for Undergraduate Research.

Do I need to approve my Emerging Scholar's timesheet every pay period?

No, mentors do not need to do anything to approve time for their students to get paid.  The Center for Undergraduate Research will approve all Emerging Scholars students' hours and make sure they get paid. 

Emerging Scholars Quick Links

Students: Submit Your Application

The student application for the 2017-2018 school year will go live on May 11, 2017.

Mentors: Submit a Job

Deadline for 2017-2018: May 1, 2017

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Research teaches critical thinking and problem solving — top skills sought by employers
The Research Experience Program has certified more than 2,000 students since 2005
KU is a member of the Council on Undergraduate Research
More than 1,200 students have received Undergraduate Research Awards since 1986
More than 150 mentors sponsored undergraduate projects through the Center for Undergraduate Research each year
KU's first valedictorian, Flora Richardson, conducted research as an undergraduate before graduating in 1873
Highlight your research on your transcript: Get certified through the Research Experience Program
Use research to apply what you learned in the classroom to a real problem
Students who perform research develop strong relationships with KU faculty
Research is a hands-on way to explore career options
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