UROP: a few words

Are you seriously thinking about a research career? If so, there are many opportunities to try out leading-edge research as an Imperial undergraduate student. Some time ago, I wrote a post about IROP, a programme that allows you to have a research internship at prestigious institutions abroad. Today, I would like to write a few words about UROP, which gives you equally-good placements at Imperial itself.

What is UROP?

UROP is the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme and it is designed mainly for Imperial undergraduate students to get a taste of research during summer. Many departments and members of staff take part, so there is a really good variety of topics you can spend time on, being supervised by an expert in the field. For example, in the Department of Computing, you can work on everything from accelerating programs with FPGAs to artificial intelligence.

The scheme is open to all years and in most cases, you can get a tax-free bursary. The bursary is either paid by the university or your department / research group and its usual amount is approximately £300 per week.

You can also participate if you’re not an Imperial student, but you may have more limited financial support from the university in that case.

How to apply?

There’s no centralised application system for UROP. If you’re eager to have a research internship at Imperial, you should do the following:

  1. Decide what research topic interests you most. A cure for cancer? Artificial intelligence? Astrophysics? The list is endless.
  2. Once you know what you want to work on, look for your potential supervisor amongst staff (ideally in your department). Start with people you’re most likely to already know, e.g. your personal tutor and lecturers.
  3. Talk to your potential supervisor, expressing your interest in UROP. You might want to prepare a CV beforehand, so it would be easier to sell yourself.
  4. If your chosen member of staff agrees to supervise you, well done! Now, the only thing left will be some paperwork. You will be guided by the supervisor here.
  5. If possible, apply for the university-wide UROP bursary scheme.

You must consider the fact that not everyone will be able to offer an internship and that not everyone has UROP placements at all. From my experience, this is especially true with supervisors from a department other than yours. However, it doesn’t mean that you cannot have a supervisor from a different department!

If you fail to get a placement with your first-choice member of staff, don’t give up! Try with another person. When I reached out to 4 academics, 1 never answered, 1 said he couldn’t offer me an internship and 2 offered me a placement.

Eventually, I have secured a remote UROP internship in software optimisation and compilers this summer, after the MIT research exchange through IROP has been cancelled (see the addition to my earlier post). I hope this will be as enriching experience as I expected the MIT internship to be. As always, stay safe!

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