Academic Year Undergraduate Research Award (AYURA)

The Office of Undergraduate Research offers the Academic Year Undergraduate Research Award (AYURA) to support project expenses of student-initiated, faculty-mentored independent scholarly research or creative endeavors in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Arts. Awards are budget-based, up to a maximum amount of $2500.

Historically, the AYURA has only been available during term-time, but the AYURA will be available during summer 2024 to facilitate rising seniors' initiation of thesis research.


  • WashU senior working towards thesis, capstone, or culminating project
  • Research project must be in humanities, social sciences, or arts 
  • Research must not conflict with student’s academic year studies
  • Nomination from a WashU faculty mentor in the field of inquiry who agrees to actively engage in overseeing the project. 
    • NOTE: the nomination form comprises several short answer questions rather than a traditional letter of recommendation. 
    • If the project is co-mentored, a second nomination will be required.

Application Timeline

Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis up to 11:59PM on the deadlines below, which vary depending on when the project expenses will be incurred. For example, if your project expenses will begin sometime during fall semester, then the fall-start deadline applies (note: it is permissible for expenses to begin in fall and continue into spring). All application components, including the faculty nomination, are due by the relevant deadline.

  • Fall-start projects: October 11, 2024
  • Spring-start projects: March 16, 2025
  • Summer-start projects: June 1, 2025

Awards will be made until funds are exhausted. Therefore, the OUR recommends that students apply as early as possible and at least one month before expected expenditures. Award payments require approvals from several university offices, meaning funds can take up to one month from the award decision to be received. Note that we cannot fund expenses incurred before award approval (i.e., before the official award decision).

Selection Criteria

Applications for AYURA funds will be evaluated based on the feasibility and necessity of the proposed research or creative activities, as well as the disciplinary and personal impact of the project. Student application materials and faculty nomination forms should address the students' preparation for independent scholarly work in the proposed field, the underlying rationale for their methodological approach or creative process, anticipated findings and implications, and the importance of the proposed project for the field and the student. Priority is given to first-time OUR award applicants, and students may receive only one AYURA award.

Payment Logistics

Funds will be disbursed directly to the student as an award, typically via direct deposit (though mailed checks are also possible), and they are considered taxable income. For international students, the tax burden can be substantial (up to 30%), and taxes are automatically withdrawn by the WashU Tax Department upfront; this effectively means that international students will only be able to use part of the award towards their project. Taxes are not an allowable budget item.

Application Requirements

An AYURA application is envisioned as a collaborative effort between the WashU faculty mentor and the undergraduate student, with the student completing the majority of the work and the faculty mentor providing input and final approval.

Overview of Required Application Components

  1. A basic eligibiliy check (e.g., are you a senior?) and a student information form (e.g., major, field of research, whether the project involves human subjects or travel)
  2. A nomination from your primary WashU faculty mentor (a second nomination is expected only for applicants who have two co-mentors involved with their research project)
  3. A research proposal (4-5 pages, double-spaced)
  4. A project timeline
  5. An itemized budget and budget justification
  6. A brief description of your alternate research plans in the event of pandemic-related disruptions or other unforseeable circumstances

Detailed Descriptions of Application Components

Primary WashU Faculty Mentor Nomination

Awards are made on the basis of the faculty nomination, which involves short answers (NOT a traditional letter of recommendation) regarding the following criteria:

  1. Importance: Describe the importance of the proposed research or creative activities to the student’s academic and professional development and progression. 
  2. Feasibility: Address the feasibility of the scope and timeline of the project given the student's academic and other obligations. What potential barriers or constraints could interfere with timely completion of the project, and how might the student circumvent them? 
  3. Disciplinary Contribution: Discuss the potential contribution of the proposed project to the relevant field of inquiry. What new knowledge, insights, tools, community impact, etc. might be generated through this project? 
  4. Student Preparation: Describe the student's ability and preparedness to undertake the proposed project. What experiences or indicators demonstrate the student's readiness to complete this culminating work? 
  5. Mentoring: Briefly outline your role in the project and how you hope to support the student in reaching project objectives.  

Students with a second faculty mentor (WashU or external) engaging with their research project should also request a nomination from their co-mentor. Nominations are due by the same deadlines as student materials (fall-start: 10/11/24; spring-start: 3/16/25; summer-start: 6/1/25).

Research Proposal

Please upload a 4-5 page double-spaced proposal. The proposal should be developed in collaboration with your mentor and receive their final approval. 

Applications for AYURA funds will be evaluated based on the feasibility of and necessity of the proposed activities, as well as the disciplinary and personal impact of the project. Below we outline the OUR's expectations for a successful AYURA research or creative proposal, which should address all of the following: 

  • Goal: State your research question(s) or creative objective(s) 
  • Background and significance: Situate the research question(s) or creative objective(s) within the broader disciplinary context. Explain previous studies, concepts, or theoretical or critical frameworks relevant to your research or the development of your performance or creation. Given this disciplinary context, explain why this project is novel and informative. This section should highlight the disciplinary gap or community need the project addresses and what new knowledge it will contribute.   
  • Methods: Explain to a non-expert, academic audience (e.g., scholars from a completely different discipline) the overarching methodological approach or creative process and the specific responsibilities of the undergraduate student. This section should outline the rationale and individual steps required to identify, examine and analyze the data/information collected or generate the performance or creation. 
  • Prior experience: Describe your prior exposure to or experience with the methodological approach and techniques required for execution of the proposed project (e.g., preliminary research, coursework, etc.) or how you will gain these skills. This section should convey the student's readiness to independently implement the proposed research or creative activities. 
  • Findings and implications: Describe what research results, products, or creative output the student expects to generate through the proposed activities, and discuss the anticipated consequences of those outcomes. This section could outline potential applications of the results, next steps for this line of inquiry, community impact of the project, etc.  
  • Importance for the student: Identify the academic, personal, and/or professional goals that the proposed project will advance. This section should specify how the faculty-mentored project will uniquely contribute to the students’ development of specific academic, personal, and professional competencies.   

Project Timeline

Provide a detailed timeline that outlines the work you will execute to achieve project outcomes and when it will be carried out. This document should help demonstrate the feasibility of the project and the student’s ability to complete their research within an appropriate and reasonable time frame. Relevant elements of this timeline include: 

  • Key preparatory, training and methodological steps of the project 
  • Milestones and deliverables (i.e., what you will achieve or produce, such as a thesis draft) 
  • Critical communication points with your mentor (e.g., to obtain feedback) 

The timeline may outline activities on a week-to-week basis, or it may be less fine-grained for projects spanning many months.

Itemized Budget and Budget Justification

Provide an itemized (e.g., specific items and quantity) budget of the resources needed to execute the project. A justification must accompany each proposed cost that discusses how the items/resources are essential to the methodology and goals of the work. Describe how each cost was estimated, addressing these additional considerations when applicable:  

  • Any other sources of funding, such as mentor matches, fellowships, etc. 
  • How items/resources are otherwise unavailable through WashU (mentor, department, library, etc.) or other avenues at no/lower cost (e.g. renting equipment)
  • For projects involving compensation of research subjects, a rationale for the number of paid subjects required 

Overall, the student must convey that the proposed costs are reasonable and necessary to carry out the project. Insufficient budget justification may result in no or partial funding. Please note that the AYURA program generally does not fund the following:

  • The costs of non-consumable goods (i.e., reusable equipment like laptops or suitcases); however, we will consider such items under $100 with strong justification.
  • Expenses incurred before award approval
  • Student wages/stipends. Room and board will only be funded as part of a travel-based research proposals.

Funds will be disbursed directly to the student as an award and is considered taxable income. For international students, the tax burden can be substantial (up to 30%) and taken upfront; effectively, you’ll only be able to use part of the award towards your project. Taxes are not an allowable budget item. 


Award Recipient Expectations

  1. Awardees should proactively communicate with their faculty mentor(s) and the OUR about any changes or disruptions to their project plans. If circumstances prevent the awardee from executing the proposed project or comparable work in keeping with the spirit of the project proposal, they must make arrangements to remit the award payment.
  2. Awardees must present their work at the OUR's Spring Undergraduate Research Symposium. 
  3. Awardees must submit an end of award report, which will comprise several short answer questions, following completion of their research experience.
  4. For research activities involving human subjects, nominees must seek and receive approval from the University's Human Research Protection Office (HRPO). If the project involves human interaction but is not considered human subjects research or is otherwise exempt from Institutional Review Board oversight, awardees are still expected to provide a description or documentation of any conversations (e.g., with their faculty mentor or HRPO's SWAT service) or resources used to verify the project's exempt status.
  5. All awards are considered taxable income by federal, state, and local government and must be reported as such. Domestic students should declare their awards when filing annual taxes; the WashU Tax Department will mail a document listing the taxable award amount in late January. For international students, the tax burden can be substantial (up to 30%), and taxes are automatically withdrawn by the WashU Tax Department upfront.
  6. Awardees should keep itemized receipts and a record of expenditures, as they may be asked for documentation as to how funds were used.

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