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CUSP Independent Research & Creative Projects Grant

Summer 2018 

The CUSP Independent Research and Creative Project provides partial financial support for Scholars who wish to conduct their own independent research or creative project under the guidance of a professor or creative professional.

The independent project affords scholars the opportunity to engage with the methodological framework of independent academic research and/or the creative process. A branch of the summer enhancement fellowship, the independent program differs from the practicum in that it aims to familiarize students with the skill set specific to formal academic writing and researching, which include preparing a research statement, developing an appropriate research question, working with an academic mentor, and utilizing academic resources like archives. The fellowship thus serves as an invaluable foundation for students who might be interested in writing an undergraduate thesis, pursuing a graduate degree or producing a portfolio.

Students considering the independent project should be aware that the process requires sustained and serious commitment. In order to qualify for the fellowship, students must attend a series of preparatory workshops run by the graduate student mentors, find a faculty mentor, prepare drafts of their work for feedback ahead of the submission deadline, and present their work the following fall.

Application Deadline = Thursday April 12, 2018 (applications will be available in mid-May)



* SEF Independent Projects Panel (MANDATORY ATTENDANCE)

Tuesday, November 28, 2017
6:30-8:00 p.m.
401 Lerner Hall


* SEF Information Session & Independent Projects Workshop #1 (MANDATORY ATTENDANCE)

Thursday, December 07, 2017
6:00-8:00 p.m.
401 Lerner Hall

What does a proposal entail? What is the difference between an independent research project and a creative project? Graduate Student Mentors will introduce the components of the research proposal beginning with the title and ending with the budget. This workshop will address how to formulate appropriate problem statements, research questions, bibliography, finding a mentor, etc. GSM's will introduce students to resources on campus such as the writing center, Columbia library info services, etc. 

The workshop will cover the following items: 

  • What is expected of students who receive the grant

  • Overview of deadlines, requirements, budget guidelines, codes of behavior

  • Identifying and developing a research question or topic

  • Writing the research proposal and thesis

  • Finding a mentor

  • On-campus resources

* DEADLINE Wednesday, January 25, 2018 (11pm): DRAFT PROPOSAL DUE

  • The proposal should explain a plan or suggestion for the CUSP Independent Project Summer Fellowship
  • Identify possible faculty adviser
  • Prepare a 5 minute "elevator speech" for feedback
  • Please send proposals to CUSP (
  • Any draft submitted after January 25th will not be considered.
* Secure faculty sponshorship by Wednesday, January 31st, 2018.
* Independent Projects: Workshop #2
   Thurssday, February 1, 2018 
   6:00-8:00 p.m.
   401 Lerner Hall
   Working with their draft proposals, students break into small groups to discuss their proposals with the GSM's and their peers. Fellow students wil provide constructive feedback. 
* A to Z Workshop #3: for all Scholars applying for Summer Funding (MANDATORY ATTENDANCE)


* APPLICATION DUE: Thursday, APRIL 12, 2018.  Applications will be available in mid-March 2018 and can be submitted via webform.  Soon you will be able to CLICK HERE to be directed to the application form. 

Applications will be evaluated by a selection committee on the basis of their overall fulfillment of the selection criteria. Incomplete applications and candidates who do not meet the criteria will not be considered. Interviews for selected applicants, and notification of the final decision, will take place in May.

  • All Scholars receiving the CUSP Summer Enhancement Fellowship will be expected to update a Pod blog on a weekly basis during the summer, beginning in June.  The final blog entry will consist of the abstract.

  • Recipients of the SEF Independent Project award are expected to submit a paper (20-25 pages, with at least one visual representing the project) by Friday, September 14, 2018.

  • Budget reconciliation report listing your CUSP-related expenses and appropriate original receipts will be due during the Welcome Back Dinner & SEF Showcase in September 2018.

  • Recipients will present the results of their research at the SEF Independent Project Panel in October/November 2018.


* Criteria for Selection

To be considered for the grant, applicants must: (1) have a GPA of at least 3.0; (2) be in good academic standing with Columbia College and the School of Engineering; (3) be in good standing with CUSP; and (4) have attended at least EIGHT CUSP events in an academic year.

Applications will be evaluated on: (1) the basis of the originality and scholarly promise of the project; (2) the feasibility, clarity, and coherence of the proposal; (3) the ability of the applicant to undertake the research; and (4) the commitment of a faculty sponsor.

* Human Subjects Research: Many applicants wish to undertake “human subjects research” in which they interview or survey people.  Because of the importance of treating human subjects ethically and ensuring that no harm comes to someone who participates in research, all universities are federally mandated to oversee approval of all human subject research through an Institutional Review Board (IRB). Given the short duration of SEF Independent Projects, CUSP will not support projects by Scholars requiring IRB approval unless they are listed as an approved researcher by the faculty sponsor.  For applicants wishing to undertake such research, the letter from the faculty sponsor must include a statement confirming that the IRB process has been fulfilled.  For questions regarding IRB permits, please contact Ariella Lang in the Office of Academic Affairs. 


In accordance with the new Undergraduate International Travel Policyall students traveling overseas with CUSP SEF funding or through other Columbia led, Columbia facilitated and/or recognized program  must submit a school sponsorship application 4-weeks prior to departure.  We recommend that you complete this application during the time you apply for the CUSP SEF funding.

Once you have received confirmation of your school sponsorship, log in to the Undergraduate Travel Web App to complete:

  • Online Pre-Departure Orientation
  • Sign the Assumption of Risk, Waiver, and Release form

Additionally, all students must:

  • Register their travel (including side trips) through International SOS.
  • Confirm that, while abroad, you will be covered by a health insurance policy that also provides coverage outside the United States for routine, urgent and emergency care.

It is critical that you thoroughly familiarize yourself with the Undergraduate International Travel Policy and complete all steps outlined above. For related questions, contact

Students applying to CUSP SEF for funding with overseas opportunities who plan to travel in June must apply for school sponsorship by May 15th.  Submitting a school sponsorship application does not guarantee that you will receive funding.  Similarly, receiving CUSP SEF funding does not guarantee approval of your school sponsorship application.  Please note that students who submit a school sponsorship application and do not receive a CUSP SEF funding award must withdraw their school sponsorship application.   

Learn the difference between the Independent Project and Internship Grants requirements:  SEF_ComparisonChart_2017-18.pdf

* IMPORTANT: CUSP does not vet the safety or security of the setting in which Scholars intend to pursue their projects.  It is the individual students’ responsibility to take the appropriate precautions follwing the approval and recommendations of the Undergraduate Travel Committee.  The nature of this fellowship is solely for financial support.   

Columbia Undergraduate Scholars Program


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