Summer research funds avoid cuts

Each summer, a large number of students remain on campus to conduct research within various departments, for which they receive compensation. Despite campus-wide budget cuts, there will be no significant changes in summer research funding across various academic programs this year.

According to Associate Dean of the Faculty John Gerry, most of the Division I and II research opportunities, managed by the Dean of the Faculty’s Office, are part of the Class of 1957 Summer Research Program. “This program typically provides stipends to about 20 students each summer, and we don’t anticipate any changes in that number this year,” Gerry said. He added that each summer the Office additionally funds a few faculty-student partnerships using endowment sources. The number of such partnerships funded depends on faculty demand. Last summer, 20 students were given support, but Gerry expects that the number this year will rise slightly to the mid-20s. “Because we feel that summer research experience is so valuable to students, and so helpful to faculty, we have done our best to preserve funding for these programs,” he said.

The SMALL Undergraduate Research Project is a nine-week program that allows undergraduates to investigate open research in mathematics. SMALL is the largest program of its kind in the country. Colin Adams, professor of mathematics and director of SMALL, said that while a total of 23 students from Williams and other schools participated in the program last summer, this number will rise to 29 this year. Adams explained that the reason for the change is that, this year, eight faculty members will participate in SMALL, as compared to last year’s five. The funding for SMALL comes from three sources: Division III funds, individual research grants and a National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates grant that is held by the mathematics department and supports 16 students each summer.

The Office of Special Academic Programs offers two types of fellowships: the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship and the Williams College Undergraduate Research Fellowship. “We will still be funding five new Mellon Mays fellows and five new Williams College Undergraduate Research fellows,” said Molly Magavern, coordinator of Special Academic Programs. “We’ve been lucky that both the Mellon Foundation and the College are continuing to fund us at a rate that allows us to maintain the current size of the fellowships.”

Other summer research opportunities that the College provides are the travel research fellowships, administered by the Fellowships Office. “Our budgets for summer 2010 fellowships were set over a year ago, and they are very similar to the 2009 budgets,” said Lynn Chick, fellowships coordinator. “There has been no change in how these awards are funded.” Chick explained that the awards are provided by funds that are endowed and restricted to support independent student research. The Lawrence Fellowship is expected to fund two to three students; the Wilmers Fellowship, 15 to 20 students; the World Fellowship, six to eight students; and the Bostert Fellowship, three to four students. The fellowships selection committee has not met yet, so it is not known exactly how many awards will be granted for this summer. According to Chick, based on recent years, the Office of Fellowships could sponsor up to 27 students. “Every applicant submits a proposed budget to support their fellowship; so until we see each budget request, it’s difficult to know how much money will be awarded and to how many students,” Chick said.

According to Charles Lovett, professor of chemistry, the funding for student summer research in Division III has yet to be determined. In recent years, approximately 150 students have participated in research in this division.