Living Earth Collaborative Summer Undergraduate Research Award

The Living Earth CollaborativeTM at Washington University in St. Louis is dedicated to advancing the knowledge of biodiversity and to ensuring the future of earth’s species in their many forms. Washington University, the Missouri Botanical Gardens, the St. Louis Zoo, and other St. Louis institutions offer a variety of research opportunities to undergraduate students that allow students to study and conserve biodiversity, regionally and around the world.

The Office of Undergraduate Research Living Earth Collaborative Summer Undergraduate Research Award (LEC SURA) Program provides financial support to WashU undergraduates to pursue 10 weeks of full-time biodiversity research during the summer under the mentorship of a WashU Faculty Living Earth Collaborative Biodiversity Fellow or Post-doc. The SURA Program provides the opportunity for students to gain a sophisticated and practical knowledge of the research enterprise. They experience the process of research as a creative intellectual activity and gain a more realistic view of the opportunities and demands of a professional research career.

Program Highlights

  • Student recipients receive an award of $4000.
  • For Summer 2022, the proposed research should be carried out full-time for ten weeks between: May 16 - August 26.  
  • Students work closely with a WashU Faculty Living Earth Collaborative Biodiversity Fellow or Post-doc who agrees to actively engage in conducting the research project.
  • Students build professional relationships with their mentor and the broader research community.
  • Students give an oral or poster presentation at the Fall Undergraduate Research Symposium patterned after a professional scientific meeting. Students also attend a required Research Ethics Workshop and submit an end-of-award report.

Submission Guidelines


  • Open to all continuing WashU undergraduate students
  • Recipients must be able to conduct research full-time for a minimum of 10 weeks between May 16 - August 26.
  • Students must be conducting research related to biodiversity, its study and conservation, regionally and/or around the world.
  • Applicants must be nominated by their research mentor, who must be a WashU Faculty Living Earth Collaborative Biodiversity Fellow or Living Earth Collaborative Post-Doc. If a student is working with a Biodiversity Fellow who is not a WashU Faculty member, a WashU Faculty member must co-nominate and co-mentor the student.
  • Priority is typically given to students pursuing their first summer research experience; however past recipients may seek funding for an additional summer research project and are welcome to submit a second nomination packet.

How to be Nominated

  • The SURA Program aims to recognize and support excellence in undergraduate research by funding research endeavors nominated by a WashU faculty mentor.  It is the student’s responsibility to work with their mentor to complete all the necessary forms and submit the required documents to complete their nomination. 
  • Students will submit an information form and 2-page, double-spaced proposal developed in collaboration with their research mentor. The Research Proposal should include the following components: 1) Introduction with Background and Hypothesis if applicable; 2) Project Description & Methods; 3) Expected Outcome, including Implications and Importance to the Field of Study
  • Mentors will submit a letter of nomination.
  • Second letter of recommendation. 
  • For research activities involving human subjects, nominees must seek and receive approval from the University's Human Research Protection Office prior to beginning their data collection; however, this step can take place after submitting nomination materials.

Awards are made on the basis of the faculty nomination, which should address the following points:

  • the importance of the research experience to the student’s development
  • the feasibility of the proposed project within the project period (all proposed research should be completed by the first day of classes in August) and its contribution to the discipline
  • approval of the proposed budget (if applicable)
  • comments related to the student’s ability to complete the research
  • any issues related to intellectual property rights and publication you foresee (if applicable).

Award Expectations

  • Awardees must participate in the Office of Undergraduate Research’s Research Ethics Workshop.
  • Awardees must present their work at the Fall Undergraduate Research Symposium.
  • Awardees must submit an end of summer award report following completion of their research experience—due first day of classes in August.
  • Awardees may not ENROLL in or TA any class during the time of their research and may not engage in any outside employment during that period.

Ready for the next step?

Applications are now open. Deadline is March 1.

Apply Here