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Can a student be paid a wage from a research grant?

  1. Jun 23, 2015 #1
    OK.. I guess I am going to get a lot of flak and suspicion for asking this as I have to bring up here an unusual situation. But opportunities have arisen unexpectedly for my stage of career, and I am getting a lot of contradicting advice/opinions. I am 2nd year undergraduate from the UK and published 2 papers in my first year (co-authored with a retired professor from Texas A& M University). We were each lead author on one and they were accepted in respected journal in the computational and natural sciences. I cannot be more specific for reasons soon to be clear.

    It was work on solution to an obscure neurocomputation problem, for me to practise publication skills and I like to have big sideline projects also to keep my creativity high. I received word from my co-author that two of the leading academics in this field (I will call “the pair”) have published a book (not a paper yet), outlining the exact some proposal/solution and even similar jargon to our paper. One of them is a minor celebrity for a scientist. TV shows, Ted talks and I dare not say more, but they are practically on tour with this solution as we speak.

    Because my co-author thinks we were plagarised, and so do others, he is setting up an independent research group to compete rather than get into who stole from who. The reason to compete is he thinks we have way more depth/ideas and correct approaches than the plagiarized version. The group will be composed of the five scientists who specialize in this area (none who were referenced by “the pair”). As lead author of the paper with the actual worked solution I have been asked to play a major role and step up with my ideas for some finely tuned aspects of the problem solutions. However my family are not so keen. One of them is a scientist and says she never heard of a student being paid a wage of a research grant. The grant is awarded and qualified researchers are employed. That’s standard procedure and there is no way around that she thinks. She informed me there is one exception to this. That would be if my own university wanted to include me in a research project, then I could be paid as a student with a lower wage than a qualified researcher.

    So I guess that is my question. I do need paid some type of living expense if I get involved here for various practical reasons. Does anybody have knowledge or experience of this type of specific and probably very unusual scenario ? Does it have to by my own university? Is it possible for a student to be paid of a research grant ?
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2015
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 23, 2015 #2
  4. Jun 23, 2015 #3


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    I think a lot can depend on the details of the grant. Generally speaking, wages for researchers are commonly included in grant proposals. Usually they are reserved for post-doctoral researchers or to support graduate students, but there's no over-arching reason why the wages could not go to an undergraduate who happens to be an expert in the area. And you may be specifically named as a collaborator on the grant, in which case you'll be required to provide some kind of letter stating that you're willing and able to do what is required of you.
  5. Jun 24, 2015 #4


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    We pay undergraduate students all the time for research work here in the US, be it for summer internships or during the regular school year. So I am not sure where your family got the idea that this isn't done.

    Secondly, if this is going to occupy a substantial portion of your time, talk to whoever is in charge (your co-author professor) and ask if you can get some sort of research grant support for doing the work. This will all depends if your professor, or the group that is being set up, has grant money. Typically, research grant money from DOE or NSF will often include funding to support students. If they got one of these, then they need to use it. Maybe they don't have it now, but they are applying for one, so by asking, they might be reminded (if they haven't already included it) to include support money for you.

    Bottom line: It is NOT unheard of for some form of research money being given to undergraduates.

  6. Jun 24, 2015 #5


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    I'm an undergraduate and I'm currently being paid a wage for my summer research. I'm in a program that's sponsored by the US Department of Energy, and it's grant funded. Things may be different in the UK, however.
  7. Jun 24, 2015 #6
    What do you research as an undergraduate though?
  8. Jun 24, 2015 #7
    It does not matter. I am also in an NSF-funded summer program. During the school year, I am also paid through an NSF grant given to my professors.
  9. Jun 24, 2015 #8


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    Most undergraduate research is heavily guided. There's typically a mentor or supervisor that you're working closely with, and they're monitoring what you're doing throughout the process. The actual subject matter could potentially be anything in the field of physics, and will depend on the researcher that you end up working with.
  10. Jun 25, 2015 #9
    Thanks.. I thought there has to be a way. it didnt sound 100 percent advice.. I guess those around me are concerned the research will go nowhere and I will be left highly sidetracked from the studies.
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