How to apply for the ASBMB UAN Undergraduate Research Award

By Weiyi Zhao

Each year, the society receives dozens of applications for the UAN Undergraduate Research Award.  This award has been made available to our student members for the past 3 years and the volume of applications has risen precipitously.  For those of you unfamiliar with this award, each award provides $1,000 to fund lab reagents, materials and other consumable needed to support an undergraduate doing research in an ASBMB member’s lab over the course of the summer.   The money cannot be used to pay a stipend.  The ASBMB UAN typically awards 12 research grants each year.  Applications come in from our UAN chapters across the country.  The 2013 undergraduate research award recipients are a group of bright and motivated students with a passion for research.  Their projects ranged from examining the molecular interactions between proteins to investigating the effects of chronic stress on the immune system of red-legged salamanders.

UANlogo1The ASBMB is committed to funding these research projects.  In this climate of dwindling funding, we expect to see an even sharper increase in applications in the coming year.  I’d like to take this time to clarify a couple of common problem areas that the UAN committee has encountered in reviewing the award applications.  We are in the process of updating our award application instructions.  Hopefully that, along with these tips, will help future applicants write winning proposals.

UAN Membership Requirement

Only UAN members qualify for the award.  However, some of the students conduct research in non-UAN faculty’s labs.  Given that many UAN chapters are based on PUI campuses, the committee understands that some students do seek out research opportunities at larger research institutions and we make accommodations for that fact when reviewing the applications.

Letters of Support

At least one letter should be written by the faculty with whom the student is going to be conducting his/her research.  The letter should contain information about the qualifications of the student researcher and any relevant past research experiences that he/she has gained.  In the past, we have often received letters of recommendation from the applicant’s academic advisor and not the research mentor, leaving us with very little information to judge whether or not the student will be successful in the lab.  Starting in 2014, up to two letters of support may be submitted.

Research Statement

The research statement should contain the following:

  1. Brief background about the research
  2. Specific research question(s) being addressed and a clear summary of the proposed project
  3. The specific role that the student is going to play in the research project
  4. What methods will be used to collect data and analyze results
  5. How the project will advance the professor’s research and a statement on broader impact
  6. Describe any relevant prior research that the student has been involved in
  7. A brief statement about the applicant’s career goals

It’s imperative that the research statement is NOT a cut-and-paste from the professor’s grant NIH proposal!  The committee wants to see that the student him/herself has put some thought into writing the research statement and that he/she has spent time thinking about the project and understands the scope of the work involved.

Multiple Applications from the Same Lab

One lab may submit multiple applications.  However, the projects that each student is doing must be substantively different enough in order for the proposals to be funded.  Having said that, starting in 2014, no more than two proposals will be funded per lab.

To learn more about the ASBMB UAN and other award opportunities, visit

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