Funding Sources for Undergraduate Research

Viterbi Research Programs

Merit Research Program

Each year a select group of entering freshmen are invited to work with faculty on current research projects. The Merit Research Award is a four year award that funds students to work in a lab. Students must make satisfactory academic progress toward their engineering degree, maintains a B average overall, and complete apply to renew their scholarship each spring.

A limited number of Merit Research Awards are available to continuing students. Students who want to be considered for these awards must complete the Viterbi Scholarship Application by March 1st of each year in order to be considered.

Grand Challenges Scholars Program

Undergraduate students at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering have the unique opportunity to compete in the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Grand Challenge Scholars Program (GCSP).  Grand Challenge Scholars drive their educational experiences towards discovering, exploring, and potentially solving one of the NAE Grand Challenges and earn recognition at graduation from USC and the National Academy of Engineering.

USC Research Programs

The University has a variety of programs supporting undergraduate research efforts:

USC Research & Discovery Information
USC Discovery Scholars
Undergraduate Symposium for Scholarly and Creative Work 
USC Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program
USC Rose Hills Fellowships
USC Provosts Undergraduate Research Fellowships
USG Academic Research Fund

WiSE Research Grants

The Women in Science and Engineering Program offers two opportunities to undergraduate female science and engineering students: the WiSE Fellows and WiSE Researchers programs.

NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Supplement Grant

(The following information is drawn from NSF:

REU Supplements may be included as a component of proposals for new or renewal NSF grants or cooperative agreements or may be requested for ongoing NSF-funded research projects. REU Supplements must be U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, or permanent residents of the United States.  Approximately 1600 are awarded each year.  They are typically up to $8,000 in direct pay to undergraduate students; no indirect costs or tuition are allowed and the Viterbi School approaches such NS-required cot-share automatically.

An REU Supplement typically provides support for one or two undergraduate students to participate in research as part of a new or ongoing NSF-funded research project. However, centers or large research efforts may request support for a number of students commensurate with the size and nature of the project. REU Supplements are supported by the various research programs throughout the Foundation, including programs such as Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR).

High-quality mentoring is important in REU Supplements, just as it is in REU Sites, and investigators should give serious attention not only to developing students’ research skills but also to involving them in the culture of research in the discipline and connecting their research experience with their overall course of study.

Investigators are reminded that support for undergraduate students involved in carrying out research under NSF awards should be included as part of the research proposal itself instead of as a post-award supplement to the research proposal, unless such undergraduate participation was not foreseeable at the time of the original proposal.

A request for an REU Supplement may be submitted in either of two ways: (1) Proposers may include an REU Supplement activity as a component of a new (or renewal) research proposal to NSF. For guidance, contact the program officer who manages the research program to which the proposal would be submitted. (2) Investigators holding an existing NSF research award may submit a post-award request for supplemental funding. For guidance, contact the cognizant program officer for the NSF grant or cooperative agreement that would be supplemented.

Contacts: For guidance about preparing an REU Supplement request as a component of a new (or renewal) research proposal, contact the program officer who manages the relevant research program. For guidance about preparing an REU Supplement request for an existing NSF award, contact the program officer assigned to the NSF award that would be supplemented. Do not contact the list of disciplinary REU program officers at about REU Supplements.

Regardless of which mechanism is used to request an REU Supplement, the description of the REU activity should discuss the following: (1) the nature of each prospective student’s involvement in the research project; (2) the experience of the PI (or other prospective research mentors) in involving undergraduates in research, including any previous REU Supplement support and the outcomes from that support; (3) the nature of the mentoring that the student(s) will receive; and (4) the process and criteria for selecting the student(s). If the student has been pre-selected (as might be true in the case of a supplement for an ongoing award), then the grounds for selection and a brief biographical sketch of the student should be included.

Normally, funds may be requested for up to two students, but exceptions will be considered for training additional qualified students who are members of underrepresented groups (women, minorities, and persons with disabilities). Centers or large research efforts may request support for a number of students commensurate with the size and nature of the project.

Student stipends for summer projects are expected to be comparable to those of REU Site participants, approximately $500 per student per week. Other student costs include housing, meals, travel, and laboratory use fees and usually vary depending on location. Amounts for academic-year projects should be comparable on a pro rata basis.

Total costs for a summer–including all direct costs and indirect costs–are generally expected not to exceed $1,200 per student per week. However, projects that involve international activities, field work in remote locations, or other exceptional circumstances may exceed this limit.

Results from any REU Supplement activities must be included in the annual project report for the associated award. The term of an REU Supplement may not exceed that of the associated award.

A request for an REU Supplement as part of a proposal for a new or renewal grant or cooperative agreement should be embedded in the proposal as follows. Enter the description of the REU activity (namely, the information described above in the fourth paragraph under the subheading “REQUEST FOR REU SUPPLEMENT”) in the section for Supplementary Documentation. Limit this description to three pages. Include the budget for the REU activity in the yearly project budget. Enter all student costs under Participant Support Costs (Line F on the FastLane budget form and Field E on the budget form). (Indirect costs [F&A] are not allowed on Participant Support Costs in REU Site or REU Supplement budgets.) As part of the Budget Justification, provide a separate explanation of the REU Supplement request, with the proposed student costs itemized and justified and a total given for the items plus associated indirect costs. If the intent is to engage students as technicians, then an REU Supplement is not the appropriate support mechanism; instead, support  should be entered on the Undergraduate Students line of the proposal budget.

A request for an REU Supplement to an existing NSF award should be submitted if the need for the undergraduate student support was not foreseen at the time of the original proposal submission, and should be prepared by the PI in FastLane in accordance with the guidelines found in the PAPPG. The following instructions supplement those found in the PAPPG. After logging into FastLane, choose “Award and Reporting Functions,” and then “Supplemental Funding Request.” Next, choose the award to be supplemented. In the form entitled “Summary of Proposed Work,” state that this is a request for an REU Supplement. In the form entitled “Justification for Supplement,” include the information described above in the fourth paragraph under the subheading “REQUEST FOR REU SUPPLEMENT”; limit your response to three pages. If an REU student has been pre-selected, you may place a brief biographical sketch in Supplementary Documents. Prepare a budget, including a justification of the funds requested for student support and their proposed use. All student costs should be entered as Participant Support Costs (Line F) in the proposal budget. (Indirect costs [F&A] are not allowed on Participant Support Costs in REU Site or REU Supplement budgets.) After you have prepared the request for supplemental funding, forward it to your organization’s Sponsored Research Office (SRO), which will submit the request to NSF.

NSF REU Sites:  Please see the details about this NSF program on the NSF web site: