Two student researchers taking samples of the water from a stream.

Emerging Scholars Program

The Emerging Scholars Program provides research experiences for low-income students in their first year at KU and supports their overall transition to college. Students get paid an hourly wage to work 4-7 hours per week as a research assistant and to complete a monthly professional development activity and attend the monthly professional development workshops.

Application opens: May 13, 2024

Priority Deadline: June 1, 2024

Final Deadline: July 1, 2024

  • To be eligible to apply, you must be a degree-seeking, first year student at KU (freshman or transfer) who is or will be enrolled full-time (12 credit hours) at KU for the Fall 2024 semester. Students apply for this program the summer before they start at KU.
  • Accept a $2,000 Federal Work-Study (FWS) Award for the upcoming academic year at KU: If you're not sure whether you've accepted an FWS award, you can check your financial aid in Enroll & Pay. If you would like to add Federal Work-Study to your financial aid package, please email Zach Puckett ( of Financial Aid & Scholarships if you have any questions or to determine if you are eligible.

The Emerging Scholars Program provides research experiences for low-income students during their first year at KU and supports their overall transition to college. Students are paid $10/hour to work for a faculty member as a research assistant and participate in monthly professional development activities.

Students are required to have a $2000 Federal Work Study award to be eligible for the program, as their wages are paid in part through this award.

Emerging Scholars work in departments from all across campus, from history to engineering to the arts. No prior research experience is required, just an interest in research and learning something new! 

Incoming Emerging Scholars are expected to: 

  • Have Wednesday or Thursday from 4-5pm open on their class schedule. Based on their availability, they will be assigned to a group that meets once a month on one of those days.
  • Attend the program orientation that will take place from 4-5 pm during the first Wednesday and Thursday of the fall semester. All participants will sign an Emerging Scholars Program Participation Contract at the program orientation.
  • Attend paid monthly professional development sessions through the Center for Undergraduate Research which are scheduled at the beginning of the month in September, October, November, February, March, and April.
  • Complete paid monthly activities on Canvas which are due at the end of the month.
  • Attend paid monthly one-on-one meetings with a peer mentor who was in the Emerging Scholars Program during their first year at KU. This peer mentor will guide you as you develop as a researcher and as you adjust to life in college.
  • Work at least 4 hours per week, not to exceed 7 hours per week (on average), as a research assistant for a professor or research staff member for the fall and spring semesters (August through May). All positions are entry level and do not require previous research experience.
  • Participate in the paid Emerging Scholars Poster Session day to be held around mid-April.
  • Maintain consistent and professional communications with their research mentor and the Emerging Scholars Program staff. We expect students to respond to emails or phone calls within 48 hours. 

Once a student has been notified of their acceptance to the program, they will need to apply for their Emerging Scholars Research Assistant job through KU's Human Resources (HR) Employment System. A resume or cover letter are not required

It is strongly recommended that incoming Emerging Scholars apply for their job as soon as possible. Online job application submissions will be completed by early August. A specific date to complete the online HR job application is provided to applicants who are accepted in the program.

Students will use their KU email address for their job application.

Steps of the job application process:

  1. Students accepted to the program will be sent the offer to participate in the Emerging Scholars Program from the Center for Undergraduate Research/Emerging Scholars Program. They will need to formally accept or decline the offer to participate in the program by completing an online form that is included in their program acceptance notification.

  2. The job application information will be provided once a student has formally accepted their offer of participation. 

  3. They will start the online job application and complete the background check.

  4. Next, applicants will complete onboarding paperwork which will consist of the W-4, direct deposit, etc.

  5. Once they finish the onboarding paperwork, they will meet with a Human Resources Shared Service Center (SSC) representative to verify I-9 documents.

  6. IMPORTANT: Employees must provide documentation to show their identity and authorization to work. Please review the I-9 Acceptable Documents List.

    • Please bring the applicable I-9 documents to campus.

    • IMPORTANT: If you have never held a position at KU or with the State of Kansas, you will need to bring your social security card for state of Kansas employee verification and to verify how to correctly spell your name for HRPay.

For more information about the hiring process, visit the Onboarding FAQs webpage.

If you have questions about the Emerging Scholars Program, please email us at

The Center for Undergraduate Research will be able to financially support some of our Emerging Scholars for a 2nd academic year. Student applications for the following academic year typically due in March. 1st Year Emerging Scholars are notified when the 2nd Year application is open.

Details about the Second-Year Program

The program for second-year Emerging Scholars differs a bit from the first year:

  • Potential for more hours & higher pay: Since KU awards larger Federal Work-Study amounts to continuing students, as a second-year Emerging Scholar you will be able to work up to 13 hours per week, earning $12/hour if you have a standard $4,500 award.  These hours may vary somewhat depending on your individual financial aid package. Award amounts that are lower than $4,500 will be taken into consideration for acceptance.
  • No mandatory monthly meetings: 2nd-year students in Emerging Scholars do not have regular meetings with our Center staff or with other students. As of the 2024-25 academic year, 2nd-Year Emerging Scholars will be required to meet with an Emerging Scholars Program staff member once/semester. Of course, our staff are always here to help if students have questions at any time!
  • Peer mentors: A small pool of interested 2nd-year Emerging Scholars will be selected to serve as peer mentors for ~5 of their weekly hours of work. Current 1st-Year students can also ask their peer mentor how they decided to apply for that role.
  • Job application is not required: Emerging Scholars who will be continuing in the program the following year will be rehired. They will not have to submit a job application through Human Resources. 


Only students who are participants in the 1st-Year Emerging Scholars Program are eligible to apply for participation in the 2nd-Year program. 

Participation in Emerging Scholars is contingent upon accepting a Federal Work-Study award for next year. Be sure you have logged into Enroll & Pay and have reviewed and accepted any financial aid you are interested in accepting. The typical Federal Work-Study award for a second-year student is $4,500, however each student's financial aid package is different. Students with the full $4,500 Federal Work-Study award could work up to 13 hours per week during the Fall-Spring of their 2nd academic year at KU. These 13 hours could all be spent doing research or they could be split with 5 hours spent as a peer mentor and 8 hours per week working on research. If your Federal Work-Study award is substantially lower than $4500, you may not be eligible to participate. Regardless, please apply.

Directions for Applying

A complete application for second-year funding includes:

  1. Student Application
  2. Mentor Reference

Both the student application and the mentor reference are required for students to be considered for funding. Both forms are due on a specified date in March of each year. 1st-Year Emerging Scholars and their research mentors will be notified when the application period is open.

NOTE: Students who will be employed 100% through their research mentor do not need to fill out this online application for a second year through our office, as they will be employed separately through their research mentor.

Prior to completing these forms, students and mentors should meet to clarify expectations. This discussion should include:

  • The number of hours per week of work the mentor has available. Keep in mind that if the mentor only has a few hours of work per week available, the student will not earn the full $4,500 Federal Work Study award.
  • The number of hours per week the student can manage given their course load and other commitments.
  • The project or tasks that the student will work on. Will this change or stay the same as this year?


For the 2023-2024 academic year, there will be a special cohort of Emerging Scholars that is specifically for incoming transfer students who are interested in biology and mathematics research. Details about this Transfer Scholars Program are slightly different than the regular Emerging Scholars Program, so read below for more details!

Students in the Transfer Scholars Program participate in the typical activities of the regular Emerging Scholars Program, including:

  • Work 4-7 hours per week as a research assistant for a faculty member.
  • Join a community of student scholars and peer mentors.
  • Get support as they transition to their first year at KU.

To be eligible to apply for a position in the Transfer Scholars program, you must be a degree-seeking, transfer student at KU who will have their first semester at KU in the Fall 2023 semester. Transfer students are defined as those who are admitted to KU through the Transfer application. Students apply for this program the summer before they start at KU. Current KU students are not eligible.


Students must be enrolled full-time (12 credit hours) at KU for the Fall 2024 semester and must accept a $2,000 Federal Work-Study (FWS) Award for the upcoming academic year at KU: Transfer students will need to inquire if they are eligible for a Federal Work-Study award. They should contact their financial aid counselor or submit a Federal Work-Study Request. More information about the Federal Work-Study award can be found here: Please email Zach Puckett ( of Financial Aid & Scholarships if you have any questions or to determine if you are eligible.

Review the Transfer Scholar job description here

If you are selected as a Transfer Scholar, you will work with a professor as a research assistant. Please review the job descriptions. The Transfer Scholars Program takes place in several labs across campus.

  • The molecular biosciences positions will be coordinated by Prof. Rob Unckless (
  • Engineering research positions will be coordinated by Prof. Justin Hutchison (
  • Currently, the program can accommodate up to 6 Transfer Scholars.

Apply to the Transfer Scholars Program here.

August 15th is the priority application deadline for the Transfer Scholars Program. Review of applications will be ongoing until positions are filled. 


The Building Emerging STEM Scholars of Tomorrow (BESST) Mentorship program is a 2-year program for STEM students interested in gaining authentic research experience.

This program is supported by

  • faculty members from environmental studies, ecology & evolutionary biology and geology,
  • three environmentally focused research centers (Kansas Geological Survey, Kansas Biological Survey & Center for Ecological Research and the Biodiversity Institute) and
  • two key support offices (Center for Undergraduate Research and the Office for Diversity in Science Training).

The program is open to underrepresented STEM students in their third and fourth year and provides research experience and professional development. Students are paid an hourly wage to work as a research assistant with a faculty or staff mentor, complete a monthly professional development activity and attend the monthly professional development workshops.

Visit the BESST website for more information. Here is an article about the BESST Program