What is UROP?
UROP is Imperial College’s highly active Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme for students (from within & outside Imperial) who wish to develop an appreciation of research and the environment within which it takes place.
Since 1980 UROP has furthered the ambitions of over 7000 students through the management of research experiences within Imperial College.
In 2016 over 400 students participated, with over 200 from Imperial College.
Students and academic staff are encouraged to consider the possibilities which the UROP system offers.
Without the engagement of academic staff UROP would not happen, so the College extends a huge thank you to all staff who participate (academic staff plus day-to-day supervisors such as technical staff, post-docs and PhD students)
What is UROP?
What is undergraduate research?
Undergraduate research is often considered to be the exploration of a specific topic within a field by a student that attempts to make an original contribution to the discipline (Wikipedia).
Undergraduate research when pursued through Imperial College's UROP scheme has this general aim in mind but our UROPs can take many formats depending on what a student and their supervisor agree to pursue. Read the next TAB for more information.
What all UROPs should provide is a structured undergraduate research experience, with clear preparation, supervision and outcomes.
Undergraduate Research is often a student’s first non-classroom experience of the academic research environment and attracts students for a variety of reasons. It is a particularly attractive proposition to students who already have a keen interest in a specific research topic, and perhaps have already experienced the research environment through high school level research programmes. Since some students arrive at university with "experience" there is a desire to get involved in undergraduate research as soon as possible, although for most students it is something they will connect with a little later in their degree.
It can be the first stepping stone to a future career in academic and commercial environments and is why many academic staff get involved because for many, especially younger researchers, it was their own first experience of research. However, for some students it will perhaps inform them that academic research is not for them (a good outcome nonetheless).
Broadly speaking it is a great opportunity for any student to gain an understanding of the research environment and to obtain new skills or develop current ones. Perhaps for some students, when external internships in their discipline are few and very competitive, pursuing a UROP can be an alternative way of building their CV.
For credit or not?
- Undergraduate Research in the form of a UROP is extra-curricula for Imperial College undergraduates (although, in some departments, extra ECTS credit can be accrued separate to their degree programme for participating). Very occasionally a student will be allowed to undertake an internal UROP as their required work placement as part of their degree but this is very rare.
- For students who attend from outside Imperial College to undertake a UROP, participation may be extra-curricula or it may form part of a student's degree programme (e.g. a credit-based training placement).
What is a research experience?
A UROP is an internally based (internal to Imperial College) research experience undertaken by an eligible student, supervised by a member of academic staff.
By internal, this means that all UROP research experiences are based internal to Imperial College in one of its many research groups or areas. They may or may not involve off-site activity.
The application process is direct to a member of academic staff as there is no centralised application system for UROP research experiences. UROPs are sometimes advertised by research groups, although for the most part academic staff are receptive to individual approaches from students who have identified their particular research area. When a research group advertises a specific opportunity but receive more than one enquiry before a decision has been made then the UROP scheme would expect there to be a fair and transparent process for making a selection.
A UROP can take many formats depending on what the student and their supervisor agree to pursue. It will depend on the interests of the student (we’ll take it for granted that the student is enthusiastic and motivated), the opportunities that exist at the time in the particular research group/area and the professional guidance of the academic supervisor. The vast majority of UROPs will be led by the academic, although for some students it provides an opportunity to lead on an idea with support and guidance from the academic.
Please take an opportunity to read about the experiences of students who have undertaken recent UROPs.
While a UROP will naturally contain some element of training, they are not explicitly training placements and a student should remember this when considering whether to pursue a UROP.
Many UROP research experiences are project based but not all, with some students finding a more comfortable platform in supporting other members of a research group with a variety of research tasks.
UROP is mainly a summer vacation activity, although students might seek opportunities at other times. A typical placement for an Imperial undergraduate lasts between 6 -10 weeks during the summer vacation. For students from outside the UK (who fit the eligibility criteria) the placement may be as long as 12 months (often 3-6 months).
Imperial College undergraduates can also pursue UROP during term-time, and prior to engaging with academic staff they should discuss participation with their personal tutor to ensure that they have considered any impact on their coursework.
A framework of bursaries provides assistance with a student’s living costs although a student is free to pursue a UROP without financial support. A UROP research experience is not paid employment.
A registered UROP research experience ensures that participants from within and outside Imperial College are hosted appropriately. Specifically, Imperial College students normally undertake a UROP on an extra-curricula basis (i.e. the research experience does not constitute part of their degree programme) and therefore UROP provides the host academic department with the means to administer the research experience, including ensuring that the period the student spends in the research group is insured appropriately. For students from outside the College a UROP registered research experience also provides access to student-type services, including an ID card and library access.
Please note that UROP has been developed to be first and foremost on offer to students of Imperial College and as such some supervisors might give priority to their applications over those from students from outside the College.
Why do academics get involved?
"Our main reason for having UROP students in the laboratory is to begin the process of fostering the next generation of research scientists. As a bonus, because they are willing to explore new territory, they often make novel and unexpected findings that lead us in new research directions." Dept of Life Sciences, Faculty of Natural Sciences.
"Hosting undergraduate students in my lab during the summers has been extremely beneficial for everyone. The students have a chance to get involved in research projects, which often opens the door to further graduate studies. PhD students and post-docs in my group benefit from the extra help and the chance to supervise students. I enjoy introducing students to research, which is very different from classroom learning. Understanding how to tackle questions when there is no known answer is a new experience for many UROP students. But, once they catch the excitement of doing something that has never been done before, they are hooked." Dept of Bioengineering, Faculty of Engineering.
"For a sharply defined research project that involves training in one or two techniques, the brief 8-week UROP project is immensely useful. On such a project, the student immediately feels the buzz of research. Not merely an extra pair of hands, the student is encouraged to think through the meaning of the work. In the end the student has experienced research and the supervisor has had important work done on his/her hypothesis." National Heart and Lung Institute, Faculty of Medicine
"The UROP scheme allows undergraduate students to get a very close contact with research being carried out at our university. In addition to how useful this is for the training they receive at Imperial, it is often the case that interesting ideas and results are generated directly as a consequence of UROP research experiences." Dept of Aeronautics, Faculty of Engineering
Who can participate in the UROP scheme?
UROP has been established at Imperial College London for 38 years and naturally seeks to be of greatest assistance to our own undergraduate students. Therefore while other eligible students are welcome to try and find a supervisor, academic staff are free to prioritise Imperial College undergraduates.
1. Undergraduate students of Imperial College are, of course, eligible to undertake UROP during a vacation, and also during term-time.
Additional guidance: International students of Imperial College who hold a TIER 4 Student Visa for studying in the UK are able to pursue a UROP research experience during the summer vacation. This would also extend to the summer upon completion of their degree where a UROP should not go beyond 30 September.
Students of Imperial College can participate in UROP during the summer following the end of their final term of undergraduate study:
- Please note that in such cases the UROP registration itself must end no later than 30 September. If the College provides such a student with a bursary it is on the expectation that the student will be re-entering higher education the following autumn.
- International students who hold a TIER 4 Student Visa for studying in the UK are able to pursue a UROP research experience during the summer vacation. This would also extend to the summer upon completion of their degree where such UROPs should not go beyond 30 September.
2. Undergraduate students at other UK universities (institutions of higher education) are eligible
- International students of other UK universities who hold a TIER 4 Student Visa for studying in the UK are able to pursue a UROP research experience during the summer vacation.
- This would also extend to all students wishing to undertake a UROP during the summer upon completion of their degree (where such UROPs should not go beyond 30 September).
- If you are a non-degree student (e.g. an exchange student) at another UK institution then you need to ensure that any visa you hold for studying in the UK also allows you to undertake a research experience for the period in question.
3. Master students at other UK universities (institutions of higher education) are eligible
Imperial College operates undergraduate masters degree programmes and therefore UROP at Imperial has traditionally been also open to taught programme masters level students at other UK universities who may be seeking a research environment to undertake their master thesis/dissertation/project. This includes where they might happen to be pursuing a postgraduate masters course. However, this does not extend to MRes and MPhil students where it is a formal prelude/preliminary studies to a doctoral degree.
4. Students of overseas institutions of higher education, who:
Have yet to graduate from either a bachelor or masters cycle of study (not including MPhil studies, i.e. formal prelude/preliminary studies to a doctoral degree) and who would remain registered at their home university/college for the whole duration of any UROP research experience at Imperial College. Students who are not currently undertaking their degree studies in English should aim to have the equivalent of Level B2 (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) in English before approaching a member of staff (and to be able to provide the proposed supervisor with English language proficiency evidence if requested).
DO NOT require a visa to enter the UK for the purpose of undertaking a UROP research experience.
If you are a student currently registered as a student at a non-UK university/institution and would like to undertake a research experience at Imperial College BUT you know you would require a visa to enter the UK for the purpose of undertaking said research experience* then you can still search for a supervisor, BUT in your case a UROP registration would be inappropriate. In your case, after you have obtained the provisional approval of a member of faculty at Imperial College to host you for a research experience you would need to apply as a visiting student (non-degree) . However, please note that visiting students can expect to pay tuition fees, unless the College decides otherwise, and other conditions of entry may apply.
*Imperial College would expect a national/citizen of a country other than the countries of the EU/wider-EEA and Switzerland to obtain either a Short-Term Study Visa (research experiences of up to 6 months in duration) or a TIER 4 Student Visa (research experiences of longer than 6 months in duration)
Finally: Academic staff at Imperial College London are able to read guidance on what actions to take when wishing to host a student here. This weblink (information) is not accessible to students.
Erasmus+ is the European Union's Lifelong Education Programme. The programme incorporates longstanding mobility schemes for university students, including the ability to undertake a work-type placement.
A student who has been awarded an Erasmus "placement/traineeship" grant (by their home university/college) AND does not require a visa to enter the UK for purpose of undertaking their research experience can be hosted within the UROP scheme should they find a supervisor. The host supervisor is responsible for completing and signing (under guidance from their department where appropriate) the Erasmus+ Learning Agreement for a Traineeship/Work Placement (which is issued by the student's home university), while the UROP scheme can provide the required statement of attendance at the end of the UROP. Students mobile under Erasmus+ should aim to have the equivalent of (minimum) Level B2 (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) in English before approaching a member of staff (and to be able to provide evidence of this if requested by the supervisor).
However (important), a student who has been awarded an Erasmus "placement/traineeship" grant (by their home university/college) BUT requires a visa to enter the UK for purpose of undertaking their research experience AND have located an member of staff at Imperial to supervise their placement should apply as a visiting student (non-degree). Please note that if the supervisor’s academic department agrees to host you then, as a participant in Erasmus+, they will be obliged to waive the tuition fee which would normally be applicable to a visiting student (no-degree). If a department wants to charge a tuition fee then you would NOT be able to be hosted at Imperial College London with Erasmus status.
Academic staff at Imperial College London are able to read guidance on what actions to take when wishing to host a student here, including guidance on how to complete a Learning Agreement for a Traineeship. This weblink (information) is not accessible to students.