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URSA grants help fund student research

It has almost been 12 years since Murray State became Kentucky’s first public university started awarding Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Activity grants to undergraduates. Since then, every public university in the state has followed the lead.

Jody Cofer, URSA program coordinator, said this grant can open many doors for anyone attempting to build a standout resume and especially for those planning to attend graduate school. This highly competitive program gives students the chance to receive up to $500 in aid for scholarly projects, research and travel.

Cofer has been the program coordinator for seven years.

“We very rarely say no to ideas and proposals from our applicants,” Cofer said. “The process begins as soon as you walk through the door.”

These proposals are not taken lightly and must illuminate a passion for the field and desire for an educational experience outside of the classroom. If chosen to receive the grant, students will begin working in cooperation with a professor who serves as an URSA grant mentor.

The collaborative research required for this program can take months to complete. Cofer explained that this type of dedication to learning has allowed student research to be presented at conferences and published in scholarly journals.

There is no deadline to apply for an URSA grant and eligibility only applies to undergraduates, usually sophomores and juniors, from any college or department.

“The URSA grant can help anyone from chemistry to English majors,” Cofer said. “URSA grants can help students whether they need chemicals for scientific research, aid for research-related travel or help accessing books and journals.”

Cofer spoke of many students who have benefited from URSA grants.

“We had a student who wanted an URSA grant for his research on the origin of Transformers,” Cofer said.

Cofer admitted he had doubts, but the student revised his proposal and was rewarded the grant. The student’s work was recognized and eventually published.

“He went on to research the origin of the transformer concept, linking it to history and discussing how ancient samurai armor influenced the whole idea,” Cofer said.

Cofer also discussed how finding willing professors to work with is much easier than one many think.

“Google your faculty,” Cofer said. “Find out what they are interested in and what they study on their own time.”

A student who has received the grant does not have to work with an URSA grant mentor from their own college or department. Cofer mentioned how diverse the faculty is and how surprising their interests can be.

“There is a professor here at Murray State who is one of the world’s leading experts on salamanders,” Cofer said. “Who would have thought?”

Murray State also offers research scholar fellowships, travel support grants and presentation opportunities such as Posters at the Capitol and Scholars Week.

For more information on URSA, contact Cofer at jcofer@murraystate.edu.