Undergraduate Research



Northwestern undergraduates win an array of national and international fellowships. Such awards fund study, research, and service opportunities in the United States and around the globe. The Office of Fellowships works with students in group and individual advising sessions to identify fellowships that fit their educational, professional, and personal goals. The office offers guidance on the preparation of written applications and conducts practice interviews.

Independent Study (399)

Many departments offer seminars and independent studies for qualified undergraduates. An independent study, typically numbered 399, in any department enables a student to engage in individual special study and research, which may involve work in a laboratory or library, fieldwork outside the University, or the creation of a work of art. The maximum credit a student may receive for 399 (or equivalent independent study) during any quarter is 2 units.

Support for Undergraduate Research Endeavors


The Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) awards more than $1.3 million annually to students pursuing research and creative projects across all fields of study.  OUR uses an advising-centric model that focuses on helping students learn how to get started and how to write successful grant proposals; OUR advisors meet one-on-one with more than 500 students a year, totaling over 1,200 advising appointments.

OUR has three core programs. The Undergraduate Research Assistant Program (URAP) allows faculty to apply for funding to hire students to help with their own projects in a formal mentoring environment designed to foster rapid development. The program focuses on assisting students just getting started in research and prefers disciplines where funding for undergraduates is hard to get, such as in the humanities or creative arts.  The Undergraduate Research Grant (URG) program funds independent research and creative projects across all disciplines.  The 35+ member faculty review committee is currently charged with offering a strictly merit-based review of grant proposals.  This process means that the committee can fund any and all projects that they feel are worthy.  If a student has a solid idea, works with faculty mentors, and uses the Office’s advising to learn how to write a successful grant proposal, then the competition is not between students, but rather challenges the individual student to discover what is needed in a field and create a project to potentially address this need to gain funding.  These grants regularly transform a student's experience of college and beyond.  Finally, OUR runs the Undergraduate Research and Arts Exposition, an annual showcase of student work through oral presentations, posters, and a Creative Arts Festival.  For all participants, OUR runs workshops designed to help students develop strong and effective communication skills, specifically for an audience that isn’t already familiar with their field of interest. 

Other OUR grants provide support for intensive language study or for conference travel. An annual $9,500 award—the Circumnavigators Travel-Study Grant, jointly funded by Northwestern University and the Circumnavigators Club ­Foundation—enables one undergraduate researcher to undertake around-the-world travel during the summer before their senior year.  OUR recently launched the Emerging Scholars Program, a 15-month funded program specifically for students who identify as first generation, lower income, people of color, and/or marginalized.  This grant focuses on providing opportunities for students to get started in research and/or creative activities in the arts, humanities, journalism, and social sciences, and this program is focused on supporting research and creative art that speaks to issues of social justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion. In addition, OUR manages the Global and Research Opportunities website, allowing students easy, searchable access to opportunities within and beyond Northwestern, and OUR collaborates to other schools, departments, and units who also provide funds to support undergraduate research experiences.

The Office of Undergraduate Research also collaborates with a variety of student organizations committed to supporting research, including the Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal (NURJ), the Chicago Area Undergraduate Research Symposium (CAURS), and TEDx Northwestern