Rice Undergraduate Scholars Program (RUSP)

  • Are you interested in pursuing a research career?
  • Do you think a Ph.D. might be the next step for you?
  • Will you be conducting a year-long research project as a senior?
  • Would you like $1000 to fund your senior research project?

Program Summary: The Rice Undergraduate Scholars Program (RUSP) is a two-semester, for-credit program aimed at senior Rice students in all disciplines who are interested in pursuing a research career and planning a one-year senior research project through an honors thesis or independent study. Students attend weekly seminars on topics related to graduate school and research careers across sectors. The program is focused on developing research and presentation skills, an understanding of a research career, and how to apply to graduate school and nationally competitive fellowships. In addition, all students in the program receive funding that may be used for research materials or conference attendance.

Benefits: Students will receive one credit per semester, access to research funds, an understanding of academic life, feedback on essays for graduate applications and fellowships, and an appreciation of the broader impact of their research.

Course: Participation in RUSP requires enrollment in the accompanying one-credit courses HONS 470 and 471, offered in Fall 2024 and Spring 2025. The 2024-2025 course is on Thursdays from 5-6:15 pm in both the fall and spring semesters. Registration and attendance are required during both semesters in order to be eligible for funding. The graded course components per semester include research presentations, application essays, project proposals, and class participation.

Questions? Contact:

Dr. Mary Purugganan, Senior Lecturer: maryp@rice.edu

Pauline Goodson, Teaching Assistant: pg35@rice.edu

August Staubus, Teaching Assistant: aos2@rice.edu

Abby Schuh, Associate Director of Office of Undergraduate Research & Inquiry: as60@rice.edu

APPLICATIONS DUE Monday, March 25th, 2024

Applying to RUSP

Applications are taken in the spring preceding the academic year. Before you apply, you will need to identify a research mentor, outline a project, and draft a short description of the project (ca. 500 words) in consultation with the mentor.

How to Apply:

Application Form

Application Process: Students will apply through the Office of Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (OURI). The application includes a resume, a project proposal, a personal statement of interest, and a letter of support from the faculty member overseeing the project. The faculty letter must describe the research project, its viability, and express agreement to oversee the student in his or her work on the project during the academic year. The application is due by 11:59pm Monday, March, 25th 2024. The faculty letter of support is due by Friday, March 29th 2024. Students will input their faculty advisor’s name and contact information in the application system, which will send an automated email that includes a link to upload the letter.

For more information contact OURI, ouri@rice.edu

Application Steps:

  • Click the following link to access the application: Apply here!
  • Create an application by answering every question on the first page, including a project proposal and a personal statement. On the second page, upload your resume.
  • Enter the name and email of your recommender, who will automatically receive a link.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is RUSP?

A: RUSP is the Rice Undergraduate Scholars Program, which is Rice’s university-wide honors program for seniors who are considering graduate school and research careers. All students who participate in RUSP are required to be working concurrently on a faculty-mentored one-year research project. RUSP is a weekly class that complements the research experience by providing students with information about research careers in a variety of sectors and the graduate school and fellowship application processes, feedback on graduate school and fellowship applications, and communication and publishing instruction. The course also allows students to reflect on their senior-year research experiences and future plans with a peer cohort. In addition to the course instructor and TAs, Rice faculty and researchers from area institutions speak to students about careers in research and teaching. Each student participating in RUSP receives a stipend for research-related expenses.

Q: Is RUSP only for certain majors?

A: No, RUSP is intended for everyone. We aim to make RUSP a valuable experience for students contemplating research in every discipline offered at Rice.

Q: How does one go about finding a faculty adviser?

A: Begin by narrowing down your interests to a department, subject area, or faculty member with whom you would like to work. It helps to pick a subject area in which you have taken courses and a professor from whom you've taken at least one course. Most Rice professors enjoy sponsoring undergraduate research, whether in the form of independent study or reading projects, departmental honors projects, or RUSP projects. You could check with other students, including current or past RUSP students, to see if the professor you have in mind has sponsored projects in the past.

Before visiting the professor you have in mind, think a bit about the kind of project you might want to do. No elaborate plan is needed at this early point, however. Learn a bit too about the professor's ongoing research, to see if any of it interests you and could form the basis of your particular project. Then visit the professor during his or her office hours, or phone or email for an appointment. Bring with you a copy of the RUSP application and informational materials for the professor to review. When you meet, try to be flexible about the nature of your proposed project; virtually all research is the product of extended discussion and sometimes compromise. Finally, note that there are some professors who will decline to serve as your adviser, perhaps because they already have a number of other students or other obligations and so lack the time, or because your research idea falls outside their area of expertise. In this case, move on to another professor, check with one of the RUSP coordinators, or consider revising your project topic to create a better fit.

Q: Who coordinates RUSP?

A: RUSP is taught by one faculty member and two graduate student TAs. OURI provides financial and administrative support for research expenses. Currently the instructor is Dr. Mary Purugganan.

Q: How much time is spent in class for HONS 470/471?

A: 75 minutes per week in the fall and spring semesters

Q: What are the writing assignments for RUSP?

A: In the Fall, you will write a draft and final version of a graduate school or fellowship application. In the Spring, you will write a draft and final version of the research project itself, in the form of a scholarly article in the relevant discipline (you would be writing this in any case if you were to carry out a departmental thesis project). Each semester, during the last weeks, you will give an oral presentation on your research to the class, much like a conference paper although geared to a broader audience. Past RUSP students have presented papers at national conferences and published their research in scholarly journals. All of these assignments help students keep on track with their projects.

Q: Do RUSP students receive any research funding, and if so, what sorts of expenses can the funding cover?

A: Students receive up to $1000 to support research expenses. Part of the Fall grant proposal assignment is a budget request. RUSP students receive funding allocated from the RUSP budget after the grant proposal is reviewed by the instructors. Any legitimate expense associated with your scholarly project is eligible, such as the acquisition of materials needed for research or travel (to research collections or to a conference).

Q: How many students take RUSP each year?

A: 25

Q: How do I get into RUSP?

A: Application forms are online. The RUSP participants for the coming year are selected by the course instructors on the basis of the information in the applications and the desire to have a well-balanced program in terms of areas of specialization. The course coordinators would be happy to discuss the process with you, including how you might go about finding an adviser and a topic for your project. We welcome your inquiries and your applications.

Q: Can I take just HONS 470 or just 471?

A: No, the two are part of a single package. Naturally, should problems arise during 470 that prevent a student from moving forward into 471, we can work out an accommodation, but the expectation is that all students will complete the full year’s program in order to be eligible for the funding.

Q: Is RUSP only for students intending to pursue a career in academia?

A: No. RUSP is intended for students who intend to pursue a research career, whether that is in academia, medicine, law, policy, industry, etc.

Stipend Policy 2024-2025


OURI is responsible for the administration of the RUSP stipend. The office will either reimburse or pay directly all approved purchase requests that meet the criteria below. The office reserves the right to decline fund requests that do not meet the objectives of the program.

Stipend Amount and Approved Uses

Please consult the course instructors for your stipend amount. OURI will not reimburse you for expenses incurred beyond that amount. Your stipend is approved for the following uses only:

(1) Participation in a conference related to the research you are doing during the Rice Undergraduate Scholars Program; it may include conference registration, transportation expenses, poster printing, hotel, and meals.

(2) Books related to the research you are conducting during the Rice Undergraduate Scholars Program.

(3) Lab supplies that are necessary for the successful completion of your project.

Note: Your stipend cannot be used to purchase a computer, tablets, peripherals, cameras, recorders, and similar equipment that can be loaned from the DMC or other offices on campus.

Time Parameters

The Rice Undergraduate Scholars Program stipend is available from the start of classes until May 1, 2025.


All expenses must be pre-approved by Dr. Puragganan. No reimbursement is guaranteed without pre-approval first. Deadlines for pre-approval:

(1) Conferences: two months prior to the conference start date

(2) Books and lab supplies: two weeks prior to purchase

Payment and Reimbursement Process

To keep reimbursement to a minimum, our Department Coordinator will make purchases for you on the following: airline tickets, hotel, conference registration, books, and lab supplies. For travel we will reimburse ground transportation, off-site airport parking, and reasonable meal expenses for you only. In order to be reimbursed, you must complete a Concur report within one week of the conclusion of travel.