Proposal Tips

What follows is meant to guide your thinking about what you might include. We have not provided an exhaustive list that necessarily described every person’s situation. Instead, we hope to prompt ideas from you that will help you convince us that your proposal should be funded.

In the personal statement, some items we look for are:

  • How would a CURM mini-grant benefit your students? Every student will benefit from successfully doing undergraduate research. That is a given. However, some distinguishing aspects could be:
    1. Many of your students have jobs while attending school. A CURM mini-grant would allow them to earn money working on an academic math-related project instead of a non-academic job;
    2. Many of your students are first-generation college students and are unaware of career opportunities and benefits of studying math and the CURM workshops would help expose them to these items;
    3. The recruiting and retention of math majors are a difficulty at your institution. Can you explain how a CURM mini-grant would help you in these areas?
    4. For various reasons, it is difficult to have students do undergraduate research projects during the academic year. Because of this, it is difficult for them to get into a summer REU.  A CURM mini-grant would therefore give them an initial experience in doing undergraduate research. This initial experience would then help excite them about math research while also giving them some substantial experience to help prepare them for either a summer REU or for attending graduate school.
    5. Your institution awarded you an internal grant last year to work with some students, but that was only good for one year. Now you are looking for other sources of funding. A CURM mini-grant would be an appropriate next step.
  • How would a CURM mini-grant benefit you? Every professor who applies would benefit from the fact that they would get to do more undergraduate research. However, some distinguishing aspects could be:
    1. If you got the mini-grant then your department chair would agree to let you teach a special seminar in the fall related to your research topic as one of your regular teaching courses;
    2. You will be on sabbatical during one of the semesters and you plan to use part of this time to work more than usual with your undergraduate research group;
    3. Your department chair or dean is very supportive of you doing undergraduate research and so in addition to the standard recommended ideas for the $5000 professorial stipend, they have offered you the following other items .  Describe how these items will support your goals for the research group.
    4. Last year you applied for a grant related to promoting undergraduate research and was denied because the reviewers felt that you did not have enough experience. A CURM mini-grant would help you gain more experience and make a stronger proposal when you apply for that same grant next year.
    5. You have been increasingly isolated from an active mathematical community and are looking for ways to connect through research with students.
  • What evidence did you provide about the strength of your and your institution’s commitment to undergraduate research? There does not have to be evidence that you have already done a lot, but we are looking more for what you had done given the resources available to you. What new activities have you initiated at your institution? Convince us that you are someone who makes the most of your opportunities.

In the research component, some items we look for are:

  • A balance among math topics in a given year. Funded proposals have included such topics as: statistics, group theory, computational abstract algebra, combinatorics, mathematical biology, number theory, differential equations, dynamical systems, matrix analysis, image analysis, difference equations, game theory, and math modeling.
  • Problems that are challenging enough to keep 2+ students engaged for 10 hours a week for an entire academic year.
  • Problems that do not require a lot of background in math yet the problems can lead to deeper understanding of mathematics. We feel that it is a good thing if the problems put students in the position to learn more mathematics and mathematical techniques that would be useful to them later on (i.e., next year or in graduate school).
  • Problems that students can dive into quickly, at the same time that they learn the background material.