Research Assistantships

Policies for Applications for Departmental Mentored Research Funding

  1. Number of hours. For Fall and Winter we have found that students generally work about 10 hours/week on RA funding. We do allow students to apply for up to 20 hours/week, but your request could be downgraded. For Spring/Summer terms we request that the students submit a single application for Sp/Su combined, specifying the number of hours for each term separately. (Put zero if there's a term in which you don't want to work.) For Sp/Su we find that 20 hours/week is normal, but a student is allowed to request up to 40 hours/week.
  2. Factors in decision. In making decisions we take into account factors such as previous track record of working in a research group (if need be, as a volunteer in the beginning), how close to graduation the student is, advisor recommendations, other advisor funding, etc.
  3. Obligations. Acceptance of funding obligates students to present at the Annual College Spring Research Conference, as well as to prepare reports as requested by the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences (typically a report after each semester).
  4. Advisor. Please discuss a specific research project with your advisor before you apply. Do not submit an application without your advisor's knowledge!
  5. Decisions. We will notify you regarding funding decisions within a week of the application deadline. If you are not funded, please check with your advisor on possible alternative funding resources.

If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Eric Hintz.

We also encourage students to consider working as a teaching assistant. This can prove very valuable as you prepare for the Physics GRE or as a resume item. In addition, many TA positions may have a higher pay rate than this funding.

Deadline

The deadline to apply for Winter 2023 funding is Dec. 6, 2022, midnight. If funds permit we will continue to consider applications after that point. Some students may be funded on a rolling basis before the deadline.

Pay Rate

There are two subdivisions within the mentored research funding. When students start we assume they will not have the skills to perform projects on their own and are dependent on faculty, graduate students, and more senior undergraduates to participate in the research.  Therefore the first three levels (1.0, 1.5, and 2.0) are considered training levels. At levels 2.5, 3.0, 3.5, and 4.0 the student is truly considered a research assistant. We anticipate the moving from the training levels to the research assistant levels will typically take between 2 semesters and a full year depending on student's ability, effort, and time commitment. For students who have already been doing research prior joining a specific group please discuss with your current advisor your potential pay level.

Here is the description of the tiers which is given to all advisors. While a student may not have fully fit a given description, the advisor has the freedom to interpret which level best describe the student's efforts.  Please note that we only move between tiers at semester breaks.

The definitions below are a work in progress.

Training Levels

Tier 1.0 - "True Beginner"
  • First exposure to field
  • Beginning, entry level student
  • Learning/being trained
  • Watching/helping other students on their projects
  • Probably not very productive until more experience is gained
Tier 1.5 - "Beginner"
  • Typically less than 100 total hours of experience
  • Still learning/being trained
  • Been consistent in participating in research
  • Productivity increasing
  • Can start making goals with their advisor for the participation
  • Still limited productivity
Tier 2.0 - "Contributor"
  • Probably at or exceeding 100-150 total hours
  • Has been consistently showing up to group meetings and fulfilling planned research hours
  • Finishing training relevant to the specific research group
  • Some independent work, able to follow established procedures
  • Has learned enough to be productive; is now making contributions to the research group
  • Has met the goals agreed upon with advisor to advance


Research Assistant Levels

Tier 2.5 - "Research Assistant"
  • Probably at or exceeding 150-200 total hours
  • Consistently showing up to group meetings, contributing to discussion, and fulfilling planned research hours
  • Training is finished
  • Beginning to be more independent, able to move a little beyond simply follow established procedures
  • Has learned enough to be productive; is now making specific contributions to the research group
  • Has met the goals agreed upon with advisor to advance
Tier 3 - "Independent Researcher"
  • Probably at or exceeding 200-300 total hours
  • Participates regularly in the group, making steady improvement in knowledge and abilities
  • Not only able to follow established procedures, but able to add to them
  • Able to be more independent and take ownership of a project
  • Making definite contributions to the research, working on things which may be publishable
  • Beginning to read scientific research literature, although might not always understand it without substantial help.
  • Has met the goals agreed upon with advisor to advance
Tier 3.5 - "Advanced Independent Researcher"
  • Probably at or exceeding 300 total hours
  • Participates regularly in the group, can lead discussions
  • Can provide at least some mentoring to new students
  • Able add to established procedures
  • Able to be more independent and take ownership of a project; doing things of own volition and not just because advisor asks
  • Making definite contributions to the research, working on things which may be publishable
  • Can productively read scientific research literature, but may still need a little help with understanding.
  • Has met the goals agreed upon with advisor to advance
Tier 4 (top tier) - "Leader"
  • Typically 4+ semesters of experience, probably exceeding 300 total hours
  • Has become a leader in the group, not just a participant
  • Going beyond mere independence, now fully able to be a mentor to the newer students
  • In addition to potentially adding to established procedures, now really the master of one or more techniques
  • Contributing significantly to the research; actively helping to prepare papers for presentation/publication
  • Can read and understand scientific literature to e.g. prepare helpful annotated bibliographies, find solutions to problems, and come up with relevant new ideas
  • Is like a graduate student in many ways; not many undergrad RAs reach this level
  • Has met the goals agreed upon with advisor to advance


For the Winter 2022 terms, the pay rates of the tiers will be as follows:

  • Tier 1.0: $11.85/hour
  • Tier 1.5: $12.20
  • Tier 2.0: $12.55
  • Tier 2.5: $13.00
  • Tier 3.0: $13.75
  • Tier 3.5: $14.50
  • Tier 4.0: $15.50

In some ways the half steps have been added to allow faculty to move students up even if they weren't quite to the next level. Therefore the definitions aren't as clear as the full steps.

Application Process

Make sure you understand the policies listed above. Prepare information describing the following, one paragraph each:

  • Skills possessed & wanted
  • Project summary

Then go to the college application page to complete the application:  //mentoring.byu.edu.

Also, if you have received previous funding through that website, make sure you fill out the required end-of-semester report(s). New funding cannot be granted if you haven't reported on your previous funding.