Research Assistantships

Policies for Applications for Departmental RA 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, some TA positions may have a higher pay rate than this RA funding.


The deadline to apply for Winter 2021 funding is Dec. 6, 2020, 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

Starting Winter 2020, the department is moving to a tiered system for RA pay, rather than the "same rate for all RAs" policy which was previously the case. Beginning students will start at Tier 1. Then, each semester students should meet with their advisor to establish goals for advancing to the next tier, which is anticipated will typically take 1-2 semesters depending on student's ability, effort, and time commitment. For students who have already been doing research prior to the implementation of this tiered system, please talk to your advisor to see which tier you will fall into.

Here is the description of the tiers which is given to all advisors.

Tier 1 - "Beginner"

  • Beginning, entry level student; typically less than 100 total hours of experience
  • Still learning/being trained
  • Watching/helping other students on their projects
  • Probably not very productive until more experience is gained

Tier 2 - "Contributor"

  • Typically about 1-2 semesters of experience, probably at or exceeding 100-150 total hours
  • Has been consistently showing up to group meetings and fulfilling planned research hours
  • Finished with the training relevant to the specific research group
  • Beginning to be more independent, able to 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 from tier 1 to tier 2

Tier 3 - "Independent Researcher"

  • Typically about 2-4 semesters of experience, 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; doing things of own volition and not just because advisor asks
  • 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 from tier 2 to tier 3

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 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 all undergrad RAs reach this level
  • Has met the goals agreed upon with advisor to advance from tier 3 to tier 4

For the Winter 2021 terms, the pay rates of the tiers will be as follows:

  • Tier 1: $10.50/hour
  • Tier 2: $11.40
  • Tier 3: $12.30
  • Tier 4: $13.20

We are also allowing faculty to use half steps between tiers if a student doesn't fully fit one of the categories.

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:

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.