Apprenticeship Program

Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program (URAP)

The College of Liberal Arts Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program (COLA URAP) provides a structured opportunity for students to be exposed to and learn about research and exploration in the many different disciplines within Liberal Arts.  It involves both training and active involvement in research projects under the mentorship of faculty and is intended to prepare students for their own independent research activities prior to graduation. 

There are two main modes of COLA URAP, each of which is open to undergraduate students in all years of study, both upper- and lower-division, as long as they are COLA majors.

  • The Cohort URAP (offered every fall semester). Students are assigned to small clusters of apprentices within specific host units that organize collective training and research activities overseen by a faculty advisor and Ph.D. student mentor, and they also enroll in a biweekly seminar with students from all URAP clusters in which they learn about the diverse modes of inquiry employed by liberal arts scholars. For the Cohort URAP, students apply to the program and, if accepted, are assigned to one of the clusters being offered for the semester.
  • The Individual URAP (offered every spring semester). Students work in apprentice-faculty pairs on a faculty-led research project, providing students new experiences with research and providing faculty with assistance with research projects. Once a faculty member has agreed to work with an apprentice, the apprentice-faculty pair jointly applies to the program. Students need not complete the Cohort URAP to apply for the Individual URAP, but those who have completed the Cohort URAP will be prioritized for selection into the Individual URAP if funds are limited.

For both modes, apprentices receive both course credit and a small monetary stipend for participating in the program for the semester. See below for more on both modes and how to apply to each one.

Fall Cohort URAP

For each fall semester, COLA units (departments, centers, or initiatives) will offer an organized research experience for a cluster of students accepted to URAP. Developed and tailored to each unit’s respective disciplinary/interdisciplinary tradition, activities will be built around a key theme, research project, or set of projects and will involve cluster of apprentices regardless their level of research experience or training. Each unit’s semester-long Cohort URAP will be headed by a faculty advisor and a graduate student mentor.

Expectations of Participation

Over the course of the semester, apprentices will:

  1. Devote 3–4 hours per week to the activities organized by their assigned units, including a weekly one-hour meeting of all apprentices in the cluster with the graduate student mentor and/or faculty advisor.
  2. Attend biweekly seminar with all Cohort URAP participants across units, featuring presentations by COLA faculty and Ph.D. students highlighting the full breadth of methodological approaches to research and scholarship in the liberal arts.
  3. Completing a research project by the semester’s end (e.g., a submitted poster, paper, or media presentation), as assigned and evaluated by their assigned units.

Receive three-hours credit (LA 331R) and $500 upon satisfactory completion of the semester.


  1. Students apply directly to the program using the application portal.
  2. The portal will describe the various COLA units offering the Cohort URAP for the next fall semester, and students will rank-order their preferences for the unit to which they will be assigned. 
  3. Applications will be evaluated by a COLA committee, which will make the final assignment of each selected apprentice to a specific unit’s Cohort URAP.

The application portal will open on March 20, 2024. The application portal will close April 3, 2024, and decisions will be made shortly thereafter.

Fall 2024 Participating Units

  • Commemorating Student Activism: Past, Present, and Future


    Department of African and African Diaspora Studies

    Faculty Leads:

    Dr. Ashley Farmer is a historian of Black women's history, intellectual history, and radical politics. She is currently an Associate Professor in the Departments of History and African and African Diaspora Studies. Her book, Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era is the first comprehensive study of black women’s intellectual production and activism in the Black Power era. She is also the co-editor of New Perspectives on the Black Intellectual Tradition, an anthology that examines central themes within the black intellectual tradition. Her next book, Queen Mother Audley Moore: Mother of Black Nationalism (Pantheon Books) will be the first biography of one of the most influential yet understudied activists and thinkers of the 20th century.

    Dr. Ashanté M. Reese is an anthropologist who is an Associate Professor in the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies. Broadly speaking, she works at the intersection of critical food studies and Black geographies, examining the ways Black people produce and navigate food-related spaces. Her first book, Black Food Geographies: Race, Self-Reliance, and Food Access in Washington, D.C., takes up these themes through an ethnographic exploration of antiblackness and food access. Black Food Geographies won the 2020 Best Monograph Award from the Association for the Study of Food and Society and the 2020 Margaret Mead Award jointly awarded by the American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology. Her second book, Black Food Matters: Racial Justice in the Wake of Food Justice, is a collection co-edited with Hanna Garth that explores the geographic, social, and cultural dimensions of food in Black life across the U.S.

    Format and Overview:

    Although minority student activism shaped the racial geography of Austin and its educational institutions from The University of Texas at Austin and Huston-Tillotson (an HBCU) to K-12 schools, there is no central and accessible space on or offline where students, community members, or researchers can access this information. It is this gap in discoverable archival resources and literature that UT Austin co-investigators Ashley Farmer and Ashanté Reese seek to fill with the “Commemorating Student Activism: Past, Present, and Future” (CSA) project. Conceived as a digital humanities repository and scholarly resource, the goal of the proposed website is twofold: (1) to digitize, document, and contextualize Black and Brown student activism on and off Austin campuses; and (2) to map these protests and struggles to show how this activism has shaped the contours of this rapidly changing city. We will develop a pilot website to provide access to digitized primary sources alongside interpretive resources to support the study of minority student activism in Austin. The site will preserve, map, and contextualize young people’s activism from 1945 to the present and use maps, oral interviews, film, and other material culture to explain and preserve lesser-known aspects of protest history within UT Austin, other area educational institutions, the city, and Texas. 

    Undergraduate students will work with and support graduate student staff on archival research, collection, inventory, and contextualization of documents related to student activism at UT and across Austin. This will include—but is not limited to—materials from and communication with a wide range of sources and partners including cultural centers, City of Austin-based archives, grassroots advocacy groups, HBCUs, and UT libraries. They will also work with the team to perform research about and think through how to contextualize and design the document pages for the digital edition of the CSA.

    In addition to attending Humanities Institute trainings to learn more about best practices in digital humanities, students will also have the opportunity to attend trainings—in person or virtually—through the project’s grantor, the National Publications and Records Commission, a subdivision of the National Archives. Students will also receive guidance from the team leaders and other experts on conducting ethical oral histories.

    Currently, team meetings are held every other week for one hour via Zoom on Mondays from 11:15 to 12:15. However, team leaders review and revise this schedule every semester to account for graduate student and faculty class changes. Team leaders will work with undergraduate and graduate students to find the best time to meet in the fall semester.


    Students will have the opportunity to work with a well-established team that includes professors, graduate students, and community members. This will help them develop the skill of working collaboratively within a team across ranks and expertise. Relatedly, students will gain invaluable skills working with archivists, archival holdings, and digital processing.

    Planned Outcomes:

    There are two outcomes planned for this project. The first is a team-related one and the second one is for each student to complete. For the first, the students will complete an inventory of UT’s archival holdings at the Briscoe Center and the Black Diaspora Archives related to student activism in preparation for creating the CSA digital site. We will also ask each student to complete a short, public-facing project based on the documents they collect. The exact form of this project will be developed in consultation with the project leads.

  • Exploring Social Biases in Children’s Evaluations of Others

    Children’s Research Center, Language Development Lab 

    Faculty Lead:
    Catharine Echols is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology. She has a long-standing research program exploring children’s evaluations of the labels or statements provided by other individuals, including how social factors influence those judgements; she has published multiple journal articles in this area. Dr. Echols is deeply committed to increasing research opportunities for students, especially those who may have limited opportunities to engage in research and is the honors advisor for psychology and instructor for the course sequence taken by students conducting honors projects. In collaboration with her doctoral students, Dr. Echols supervises approximately 20 undergraduate students in her lab, in addition to the honors students that she mentors. She and her doctoral students also supervise high school interns from a Title I school in Austin. 

    Format and Overview:
    Students in the cohort will assist with a study assessing how variation in an individual’s skin tone and accent intersect to predict how readily 7- to 9-year-old children will accept statements from that individual. Children’s evaluations of the individual (such as nice, smart, reliable), their perceived skin tone, and their exposure to accented speech also will be recorded, enabling us to assess the influences of background and experience on any biases that are observed. 

    The apprentices would participate in multiple elements of the research project, including data collection from children, recruiting families for participation, recording and verifying data, and participating in meetings during which research goals, procedures, potential modifications, preliminary findings and other topics are discussed. 

    The first few weeks of the semester would be devoted to orientation and training, which would include training on human subjects ethics, participant recruitment, and the procedures for data collection and recording/verifying data. Once sufficiently trained, apprentices could begin data collection with children, working as a team with another apprentice under the supervision of a graduate mentor. Although apprentices would, after the initial training, team up with one or two other apprentices for data collection and other research activities, they would meet as a group once a week with the graduate mentors and faculty advisor. The specific time of these meetings can be arranged based on apprentice’s schedules but are likely to be on Fridays.

    This cohort program will enable apprentices to develop a variety of research skills, including not only the data collection, data management, and participant recruitment skills mentioned above, but also skills working as a team, interacting with families and children, and communicating about research. They also will learn about research design, methodological decisions, and analysis. Additionally, through their regular interactions with the graduate mentors, coupled with the group meetings with the faculty advisor, they will gain information and advice about graduate school and careers that involve research, as well as about opportunities at the undergraduate level. 

    Given that the project focuses on social biases and language, it could be of interest to students across a broad range of COLA departments, including the social sciences, languages and linguistics, and area studies. Additionally, students across the college may be attracted due to their observations of, or experiences with, accent- or skin-tone biases, or general interests in reducing social biases. 

    Planned Outcomes:
    Applicants will develop a poster-based presentation using data from the project and will have the opportunity to present it during the Developmental Area’s weekly seminar series, which is attended by faculty and graduate students in developmental psychology, along with interested undergraduate students.

  • The Forgotten War: World War Two in North Africa

    Center for Middle East Studies; coordinated with the Normandy Scholar Program on WWII, Department of History

    Faculty Lead and Graduate Student Mentor:
    Benjamin C. Brower, Associate Professor (Department of History, Center for Middle East Studies). Dr. Brower is a specialist in North African and French colonial history. 

    Erin C. Kelleher, Ph.D. Student (Department of Middle East Studies). Fourth-year student specializing in modern Tunisian and North African languages (Arabic and Turkish) and history.

    Format and Overview:
    This research project will organize three to four undergraduates who will investigate new sources on World War Two in North Africa. Apart from a few desert battles, the war here remains poorly understood; yet, North Africa stands as the first “second front” of the war, and it is essential to a fuller, global understanding of WWII. Students will conduct original research in published primary sources (newspapers, government and military documents, journals) and work in archival/special collections at UT (Harry Ransom Center, Briscoe Center, Benson Collection, LBJ Library). Students will also have access to unpublished, digitized archival documents. Students’ research will be organized under two rubrics. The first addresses the history of fascism, Middle Eastern Jews, the Holocaust, and civilians in war (aerial bombing, famine, and public health). The second rubric encompasses North Africa’s history, such as WWII’s impact on anti-colonial nationalism, the Islamic reform movement, and the early struggles of decolonization. Students can select one of these rubrics to structure their project, and they will be free to pursue new approaches of their own choosing as their research progresses. 

    Students will meet with their mentor, Ph.D. candidate Erin Kelleher weekly, either by videoconference or in person as a group (exact meeting time TBD). Professor Brower will meet with students in person once a week for the first three to four weeks of the semester, after which he will check in with them periodically (at least once a month) for the rest of the semester.

    North African sources exist in several languages, including English. Undergraduates studying in the departments of Middle East Studies (Arabic and Hebrew), French and Italian, and Spanish and Portuguese are encouraged to apply, as are any students with reading competency (i.e., with help of a dictionary) in these languages. Participation does not depend on specialized language skills, but the use of such languages in engaging with primary sources is desired. All students are welcome to apply. No prior research experience is necessary.

    This URAP project is open to any student with an interest in the history of WWII. Participants will learn more about the war itself, and they will receive specialized training and mentoring in the methods of professional historical research. They will develop skills needed to navigate libraries and archives, and they will learn good notetaking procedures and how to photograph documents.  Most importantly, undergraduates will get hands-on experience with historical documents, photographs, and films. This experience will help them identify those sources which best contribute to the professional study of history.

    Planned Outcomes:
    At the end of the semester, each student will submit a mock grant proposal based on their research. This proposal can serve as the basis to solicit funding for further work in the archives. Along with these individual proposals, students will collectively put together a poster to present at the end-of-semester URAP presentation and celebration.

  • The Syllabus Project

    Digital Writing and Rhetoric Laboratory (DWRL)

    Faculty Lead:
    Dr. Casey Boyle is an associate professor in the Department of Rhetoric & Writing and Director of the Digital Writing & Research Lab, with expertise in digital rhetorics and media studies.

    Format and Overview:
    Students will receive training and support in developing software for reading, analyzing, and visualizing a textual corpus (e.g., COLA course syllabi). Students will experience a project life cycle, including data collection, content analysis, code development, data analysis, and presentation of findings. The research experience will include an opportunity to implement computational methods to ask humanities-based questions. Specifically, students will assemble a corpus of COLA syllabi, identify classification schemes, develop code to read and analyze their features, and begin to develop techniques for visualizing relationships amongst the corpus and asking the corpus questions (e.g., Are there similar topics being covered across disparate courses? Can we determine assignment difficulty? If I like this course, which other courses would be good complements? Can we turn a syllabus into a ChatBot?). Through exploring this corpus, students will work with the graduate students and faculty lead to develop a workable application that will allow students to interrogate syllabi broadly (i.e., numerous courses across the college) but also individually (i.e., a Syllabus Chatbot). There will be weekly one-hour lab meetings on Fridays at 11 AM. The remaining student work hours will be on their own schedule.

    This cohort will give students hands-on experience with humanities and computational research methods and their use for the study of genre features of syllabi. The skills the students develop will be genre identification, data collection and preparation, coding development and refinement, presentation and reporting of findings.

    Planned Outcomes:
    The primary end-of-term deliverable will be a research poster and presentation of findings and progress on the application.  

  • Encountering the Dead: A Study of Emotional Responses to the Public Display of Human Remains

    Digital Writing and Rhetoric Laboratory (DWRL)

    Faculty Lead:
    S. Scott Graham. Dr. Graham is an associate professor in the Department of Rhetoric & Writing, with expertise in rhetoric of health and medicine and public science communication.

    Format and Overview:
    Students will receive structured training and mentored research experience in both qualitative and computational content analysis related to rhetoric of health and medicine and public science communication. Students will experience the full project life cycle, including data collection, code book design, content analysis, inter-rater reliability assessments, data analysis, and presentation of findings. The research experience will include a functional orientation to computational content analysis. Specifically, students will collect public postings on TripAdvisor and Google Reviews where visitors describe their experience of seeing human remains at medical and anatomical museums world-wide. Through exploring these posts, students will work with the graduate students and faculty lead to develop a taxonomy of observed emotional responses and then apply that taxonomy to the dataset both manually and computationally. There will be weekly one-hour lab meetings on Thursdays at 1:30 PM. The remaining student work hours will be on their own schedule.

    This cohort will give students hands-on experience with humanities, humanistic social science, and computational social science research methods and their use for the study of public science communication. The techniques learned can be applied in a broad range of future professional domains including science communication, museum studies, user experience design, public health communication, and similar.

    Planned Outcomes:
    The primary end-of-term deliverable will be a research poster and presentation of findings.

  • Digital Writing and Research Lab (Computational Methods for Analyzing Social Media)

    Cohort Topic

    Determining Expertise in and through Social Media: Using Computational Rhetorical Analytics to Verify Qualification

    Proposed Team

    • 2 faculty: Dr. Casey Boyle, Rhetoric and Writing, and Dr. Scott Graham, Rhetoric and Writing
    • 1 graduate student: TBD; 1 graduate student from the DWRL
    • 4-5 Undergraduate Apprentices


    Drs. Boyle and Graham are widely recognized for their contributions to the fields of computational rhetoric and digital humanities. They have extensive experience with teaching and using computational technologies in Python and R to study text, language, and discourse. Drs. Boyle and Graham have published extensively in rhetoric, social science, and biomedical journals. Moreover, they also have substantial experience in graduate and undergraduate research supervision. Dr. Boyle has served as the director of the DWRL since 2017, and in that role he has facilitated professional development, pedagogical, and research supervision for over 25 graduate students. Additionally, Dr. Graham routinely supervises apprentice researchers in his lab. He has facilitated undergraduate research internships for approximately a dozen students in the Bridging Disciplines program, Undergraduate research apprenticeship program, and major-specific capstones. Given these experiences, Drs. Boyle and Graham are ideal facilitators for this inaugural URAP.

    Proposed Format Overview

    3 topical sub-modules: expertise; public health communication; social media

    3 functional approaches: content analysis; data collection; computational text analytics

    Brief Motivation

    Our proposed apprenticeship will give students an introduction to and practice in using computational methods for collecting, analyzing, and visualizing how expertise is leveraged in social media. That is, students will collect and analyze hundreds of social media profiles (e.g. Twitter) for those profiles’ use of expertise to participate in public discussions of health matters.

    The DWRL apprenticeship will provide a structure for students to learn basic programming (primarily R), the use of application programming interfaces (APIs) to access and curate data, data science approaches to data cleaning and wrangling, and to conduct text analytics investigations using a variety of techniques and methods.

    Proposed Format Details

    The URAP experience will involve weekly student-directed meetings discussing hands-on tutorials and/or relevant readings. The URAP training experience will focus on a series of self-guided and supervisor-led tutorials devoted to data science techniques and use of the R programming environment. Specific tutorials focused on:

    • General orientations to the R programming environment.
    • General orientations to data management packages within the R programming environment.
    • Use of R to connect to the Twitter API.
    • Use of R to parse textual data.
    • Use of R to visualize data and results.


    Students will also receive a general orientation to research design, interpretation of results, presentation of findings, and ethical consideration for investigating social media.

  • Gender, Race, Indigeneity, Disability, and Sexuality Studies GRIDS Initiative (Examining Arguments about Gender and Ethnic Studies Content)

    Research Topic and Description

    Arguments for and against Ethnic and Gender Studies

    Questions related to critical race theory, gender identity, and other issues of significance to ethnic and gender studies scholars continue to make the pages of news reports, the drafting tables of legislators, and the material for legal cases. Students who join this project will collect and examine such sources including speeches, news reports, court cases, and legislation to understand the contours of the arguments offered in defense of or against gender and ethnic studies content. This research is important for those interested in the projects of ethnic and gender studies because such arguments shape students’ and professors’ academic freedom, not to mention the life chances for racial, gender, and sexual minorities outside the university context.

    Proposed Team

    Faculty: Dr. Karma Chávez, Mexican American and Latino/a Studies,

    Graduate Research Assistant: Anahí Ponce

    Dr. Chávez is the chair of the Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies, co-chair of the College of Liberal Arts Diversity Committee, and co-convener of the GRIDS Initiative. She has supervised numerous student research projects at the doctoral, master’s, and undergraduate levels and has served as her department’s graduate advisor.

    Proposed Apprenticeship Format

    The first part of the semester will involve readings and discussion on content and methodology. The second part of the semester will involve document collection and analysis. The following will be required for undergraduate apprentices on a weekly basis:

    • Attend a discussion of readings facilitated by the GRA (1 hour)
    • Attend a workshop with Dr. Chávez (1 hour)
    • Complete tasks related to the research project including source annotations, worksheets, source collection, or analysis. These tasks are designed to facilitate understanding of each aspect of the interpretive research process.
    • Enroll in LA 331R and attend a biweekly URAP seminar organized by CoLA

    Format Motivation

    This proposed format is designed to bring students to the table near the beginning of an interpretive research project so that they may get experience with many of the parts of that process such as reading existing scholarship and crafting a literature review, designing a research 2 project, and collecting and analyzing source materials. Moreover, the format is designed to encourage students to value collaboration and to learn to work and communicate effectively across lines of power difference (i.e., between themselves and the GRA and faculty mentor).

  • Humanities Institute (Mapping Violence)

    Project Team

    • Lead: Monica Martinez, Associate Professor, Department of History
    • Tanya Clement, Director, Initiative for Digital Humanities
    • 1 graduate student facilitator
    • 3 undergraduate research apprentices


    Dr. Monica Martinez works to diversify the academy by advising a new generation of scholars. This advising, in addition to her regular teaching responsibilities, is a crucial part of her contribution as a professor. As the curricular co-coordinator and faculty at the Institute for the Recruitment of Teachers (IRT) at Philips Academy, which helps prepare underrepresented minorities for graduate school, she mentored no less than 180 IRT students who matriculated into graduate programs. At Brown University, she mentored a broad group of underrepresented minorities by creating paid research opportunities and advising honors thesis projects. She served as a faculty mentor for four Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows. Leading a digital research lab required that she develop new pedagogical strategies to train what Tara McPherson calls “new hybrid practitioners.”

    At the University of Texas at Austin, where she has been an Associate Professor since August 2020, Martinez continues to create opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students to learn research methods and contribute to the Mapping Violence project. In the summer of 2021 Martinez hired four PhD students and two MA students to join the Mapping Violence Research Lab and in Spring 2022 she offered an undergraduate research methods class, “Mapping Violence”.

    Dr. Tanya Clement has over two decades of experience running, managing, and leading digital humanities (DH) projects. Clement will work with Martinez on developing the weekly workshops and integrating the students into the DH@UT ecosystem of DH projects, speakers, and activities as part of the Initiative for Digital Humanities (IDH).

    Project Overview

    During the twentieth century in the United States, untold thousands of people were victims of racially motivated lynchings, homicides, police shootings, bombings, physical assault, and banishment from communities. Much of this violence was state-sanctioned. As a result, assailants rarely faced arrest and grand juries regularly failed to issue indictments. Instead, victims were often criminalized. The suffering of racial and ethnic minorities was often disavowed by journalists, historians, and justice systems alike. But the full scope of this violence and the widespread historical trauma is still unknown.

    What would we learn if a record of racist violence existed? To answer that question, Mapping Violence is researching cases of racist violence in one state, Texas, during a relatively short period of time, between 1900 and 1930. Research findings will be made available to the public to help inform future research, policy, and public education. Mapping Violence will also develop methods to scale this project, geographically and temporally.

    The Undergraduate Apprentices

    The Undergraduate Apprentices will join a team of three COLA PhD students and and one MA student in the School of Information on the Mapping Violence research team. Our proposed format will enable students to get a sense of how collaborative projects are developed and carried out in Digital Humanities labs from the initial idea, to planning, to carrying out the project, to presenting it to the public, while offering a shepherding process–led by a graduate student facilitator–that allows the above can be achieved in the course of one semester.

    Every student on the team has a role in conducting archival research, writing narratives for the platform, collecting and organizing metadata, and wireframing interactive content. Humanities students develop a facility in designing a platform to satisfy a set of project goals, and the digital developers utilize humanities research methods to inform their programming.

    Proposed Format Details

    Each week, the undergraduate members of the cohort will participate in the following activities:

    1. Members will join a graduate student-facilitated group discussion of curated readings relevant to the sub-modules (1 hr).
    2. Members will attend the Mapping Violence project meetings (1 hr).
    3. Members will participate in hands-on workshop sessions on a weekly sub-module. At the end of each workshop, the students will be given homework (1-2 hrs of work) to be completed by the next session. The homework will promote student agency and engagement, and enable the participants to put their knowledge into practice.
    4. Members will enroll in LA 331R and attend a biweekly URAP seminar organized by CoLA
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  • Innovations for Peace and Development (Research in International Politics)

    Cohort Topic

    Research in International Politics - Applying advanced research approaches, ethics, and methods in a transnational research project.

    Proposed Team

    • 2 faculty: Dr. Mike Findley, Government, and Dr. Daniel Neilson, Government
    • 1 graduate student: TBD


    Drs. Nielson and Findley are directing the Innovations for Peace and Development (IPD) lab, which is a student-focused research lab that provides mentored opportunities for interdisciplinary, policy-relevant research on global conflict and peacebuilding, foreign aid, and poverty alleviation. Since 2013, IPD has brought together over 650 undergraduate and graduate students, and over 80 students were conducting research in Fall 2021. Our goals for the URAP Cohort pilot with IPD are to provide on-campus experiential learning, applied training, and professional opportunities to UT students to empower them to fulfill UT’s motto, “What Starts Here Changes the World.” Much like the traditional lab setting in the natural sciences, our team will work together with the URAP students to produce high quality research, investigate meaningful social phenomena, and train our next generation of social scientists.

    Proposed Format Overview

    3 topical sub-modules: research approaches in social science; research ethics; research methods
    3 functional approaches: curated readings; data collection; data analysis

    Brief Motivation

    Our proposed format is built specifically to nurture and challenge URAP undergraduates as they have their first experience with academic research. This format will ensure students gain foundational understanding of political science research, establish the importance of ethics in research, and provide hands-on experience in conducting research and analysis. We designed our approach to facilitate collaboration among the 3 URAP students while receiving individual mentorship and guidance from faculty and graduate students. 

    In the fall of 2022, URAP students assigned to IPD will be working specifically with our team conducting a transnational investigation of bias in local and national governments. The curated assignments will introduce them to the foundations of international research, provide them with a deeper understanding of project related research methods, equip them with skills to make meaningful contributions to the project, and enable them to propose their own collaborative research projects. In order to provide more comprehensive exposure to the various topics and methodologies used in political science, we have designed monthly workshops where all IPD teams will engage with each of the 9 current projects being worked on at IPD. We believe that our approach positions each of our undergraduate students to confidently pursue research in international politics and international development among other disciplines. 

    Proposed Format Details

    Undergraduate members of the cohort will participate in the following activities:

    1. Members will join a weekly graduate student-facilitated group discussion of curated readings relevant to the sub-modules (1 hr).
    2.  Members will attend our monthly IPD All Hands meeting (1 hr).
    3.  Members will participate in hands-on workshop sessions on a weekly basis. At the end of each workshop, the students will be given research tasks (2-3 hrs of work) to be completed by the next session. Each task will promote intellectual agency, student engagement, and enable the participants to put their knowledge into practice.
    4.  Members will enroll in LA 331R and attend a biweekly URAP seminar organized by CoLA.
  • Department of Psychology (Studying Brain-Behavior Interactions)

    Proposed Team

    • 3 faculty: Dr. Hongjoo (Joanne) Lee, Psychology; Dr. Juan Dominguez, Psychology; and Dr. Marie Monfils, Psychology
    • 3 graduate students: TBD; one graduate student from each PI lab


    Drs. Lee, Dominguez, and Monfils are widely recognized for their contributions to the field of behavioral neuroscience. They have an extensive and published track record in the approaches proposed for this URAP. Moreover, all three are well-known within the University community for their dedication to student training and pedagogical expertise, which have earned them repeated accolades from students and colleagues alike. Drs. Dominguez and Monfils have served as Graduate Advisors for the Department of Psychology and the Institute for Neuroscience, respectively, and Dr. Lee is the Chair of the Psychology Department’s Diversity Committee. Dr. Monfils is currently the Associate Chair for Research of the Psychology Department. Given all these factors, they are ideally suited for spearheading this inaugural URAP.

    Proposed Format Overview

    3 topical sub-modules: behavior; microscopy; stereology (unbiased cell counts)

    3 functional approaches: curated readings; data collection; data analysis

    Brief Motivation

    Our proposed format will enable students to get a sense of how projects are developed and carried out in Behavioral Neuroscience labs from the initial idea, to planning, to carrying out the project, and the data analysis, while offering a shepherding process in which the above can be achieved in the course of one semester.

    The area of behavioral neuroscience is vast, and can be best appreciated through the lens of multiple approaches operating in concert. This can prove challenging for one lab to offer to a cohort of undergraduate students in the course of a single semester. This is, in part, why we have decided to offer an approach in which 3 faculty members will each respectively lead one sub-module. Each sub-module offers a unique glimpse on the brain-behavior relationship, and all approaches come together into a coherent project. 

    In doing-so, we also inherently showcase an aspect of our research area that has historically led to some of the most interesting advances in the field—a spirit of collaboration.

    Proposed format details

    Each week, the Undergraduate member of the cohort will participate in the following activities:

    1. Members will join a graduate student-facilitated group discussion of curated readings relevant to the sub-modules (1 hr).
    2. Members will attend the Monfils-Lee joint lab meeting, or the Dominguez lab meeting (1 hr).
    3. Members will participate in hands-on workshop sessions on a weekly sub-module. At the end of each workshop, the students will be given homework (1-2 hrs of work) to be completed by the next session. The homework will promote agency and student engagement, and enable the participants to put their knowledge into practice.
    4. Members will enroll in LA 331R and attend a biweekly URAP seminar organized by CoLA.
  • Population Research Center (Biological x Sociological Approaches to Studying Heath Disparities)
    • Faculty Advisor: Jacob Cheadle, PhD, Professor, Department of Sociology
    • Co-Advisor: Bridget Goosby, Professor, Department of Sociology
    • Graduate Student Mentor: KJ Davidson-Turner

    Who We Are

    The Life in Frequencies Health Disparities (LifeHD) Research Lab focusses on the dynamics of social interaction, affect, and emotion. During the 2022-2023 academic year we will be developing and evaluating new techniques for real-time emotion tracking and comparing these metrics with dynamic new health biomarkers. Our goals are to capture the ebb and flow of positive and negative emotions more fully during daily life using wearable technologies, and to better capture the physiological processes contributing to long-term health trajectories. Understanding these dynamics is critical for characterizing how stress shapes health, including the ways that positive experiences aid recovery and support health. Central to our goals is the evaluation and assessment of new protocols and procedures that we are developing and will be implementing. Ultimately, these new procedures are being evaluated in order to better capture how racism and interpersonal discrimination both increase negative emotions and stress, and decrease opportunities for positive and restorative social experiences. 

    Apprentice Responsibilities and Activities

    • Apprentices will enroll in LA 331R.
    • Apprentices will spend approximately 10 hours per week contributing to research tasks identified and supervised by the Graduate Student Mentor. Examples of such tasks include the preprocessing of biomarker samples, participation in data collection activities including participant consent, survey delivery, electrophysiological recording, and biomarker data collection.
    • Apprentices will work closely with the Lab Manager and will attend a weekly one-hour lab meeting with the Graduate Student Mentor. This meeting will be attended at least monthly by Dr. Cheadle and/or Dr. Goosby.
    • Apprentices will attend a biweekly URAP seminar organized by CoLA.
    • Apprentices will complete a research project by the end of the semester. Examples include a manuscript description and evaluation of the novel biomarker data collection procedure, conference poster submissions, or other products as approved by the Faculty Advisor and Graduate Student Mentor.
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Preparing the Application

Proposals will be funded on a competitive basis and must include a brief description of the project as well as the benefit to the apprentice. Faculty must have a student apprentice in order to apply to the program. If you need assistance finding an apprentice, or if you are a student who would like to be considered, please contact Liz Clayton.

Successful applications:

  • Focus on the pedagogical value of the apprenticeship for the student rather than the importance of the research project itself.
  • Explain in detail the resources, archives, tools, and skills the student will acquire during the semester.
  • Make the goals of the apprenticeship clear (completion or start of a book, an article).

Clerical work, such as photocopying, correspondence, and securing permissions for publications should be minimal. Apprenticeships will not be awarded for the preparation of teaching materials or lectures. Apprenticeships are unlikely to be awarded for research already completed; therefore, manuscript preparation is not a sufficient project. If you have any questions about the program, please contact Liz Clayton.

Faculty Responsibilities

Faculty members are expected to assign tasks (such as those described below) to be performed on a weekly basis. The assigned workloads should be consistent across the semester. In other words, faculty should not assign few hours of work in one part of the semester and expect students to make it up with more hours later in the semester. Faculty are also expected to meet with students on a weekly basis to discuss assigned tasks, the scope of the research project, and its relation to the disciplinary field as a whole.

Student Responsibilities

Students' responsibilities must contain some research component. They are not required to write a paper to receive credit, though writing may be required as part of the workload. Students should not be assigned solely clerical tasks, such as photocopying or handling mailings (although these tasks may be assigned in conjunction with other more research-focused work). Some suggested tasks include:

  • Creating annotated bibliographies.
  • Transcribing focus group or interview data.
  • Cleaning or recoding survey data.
  • Performing basic statistical analyses.
  • Conducting literature searches and/or helping faculty to obtain literature.
  • Checking references/formatting manuscripts for publication.
  • Pulling and analyzing publicly accessible data.
  • Acting as note-taker or recorder in research meetings or data collection projects.
  • Helping to organize and maintain large projects.

Work, Credit Hours, and Grading

Students are expected to work 7-10 hours per week, including time spent with faculty discussing the work. For their research assistance, students will receive three hours of credit (for L A 331 R). These hours will not count towards the major, but will be graded; these hours may be taken during the summer semester for projects involving fieldwork. The work start date must lie between the first and twelfth class day.

Faculty and Student Requirements

Faculty must submit an application through the link above, and will be informed of their status prior to the beginning of the semester for which they have applied. Students must be undergraduates with a major in the College of Liberal Arts and no more than 60 credit hours at the start of the fall semester of the academic year in which they complete their apprenticeship.

Please note: CBE hours will not be counted toward the 60 hour maximum but transfer hours will be taken into account.

Faculty and Student Support

Faculty members will receive $1,000 of research support for their projects at the start of the semester in which they choose to have their apprentice. Funding may only be used to support the research project and must be used by the end of the fiscal year (the fiscal year ends in the August of the school year in which funding is received).

Upon successful completion of the course and meeting other criteria, students will receive a $500 scholarship in the semester following their apprenticeship.

  • Digital Archives in the Humanities and Open Source, Media-Rich Scholarly Publishing

    Initiative for Digital Humanities, Humanities Institute

    Faculty Leads:
    Amelia Acker, Associate Professor, School of Information. Leading the “AI and OCR Technology with SIM Cards” cohort.

    Andrea Gutierrez, Assistant Professor of Instruction, Department of Asian Studies. Leading “An Indian Elephant Care Manual: Understanding History through Digitized Texts” cohort.

    Dr. Peniel Joseph, Professor, LBJ School of Public Affairs & the History Department. LeadingThe Fire This Time: 1963 and America’s Civil Rights Revolution” cohort.

    Astrid Runggaldier, Associate Professor of Instruction, Art History. Leading “The Ancient Americas at UT” cohort.

    Format and Overview of Four Cohorts:
    AI and OCR Technology with SIM Cards (faculty lead: Amelia Acker)

    This apprenticeship will develop a proof-of-concept demonstration of a custom document model using OCR technology to convert scans of SIM cards to machine-readable text for further archival description and access in the SIM Card Omeka project. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) engines are AI technologies that incorporate machine learning and pattern recognition to extract structured information from images. OCR engines are used to convert digitized documents into machine-readable text. Extracted text from digitized documents can then be used in descriptive metadata records, subject cataloging, transcription and linked open data efforts. SIM cards are small artifacts that store data in flash memory. The surfaces of SIM cards contain a variety of different logos, identification strings, and handwritten labeling, among other kinds of textual information. Thus, a challenge for applying OCR document models for handwritten or printed paper textual information to artifacts like SIM cards is distinguishing between various layers and orientation of different kinds of text and identifying unique alphanumeric character strings prominent on the front and back of cards. Outcomes of this work have the potential to benefit transcription metadata workflows for archivists, data managers, and digitization professionals. By exploring the ethical and access implications of OCR on processing collections, this project will guide future AI applications to archival processing workflows for information institutions such as research libraries, archives, and museums. It will also contribute to methods of inquiry and cultural analytics for digital humanities researchers and critical data studies scholars. Project work will include validating the process and identifying challenges in custom model development for realia and comparing OCR engines. 

    An Indian Elephant Care Manual: Understanding History through Digitized Texts (faculty lead: Andrea Gutierrez)

    This project involves creating a digitally accessible version of a rare book in need of preservation: an elephant care manual from the beginning of the 20th century that belongs to a family of elephant caretakers once employed at the royal palace at Travancore, India. This Malayalam language book was handwritten in an obscure script that few can read today. The book—written on deteriorating paper and stored by the owner in a plastic bag as well as in my digital images—is a vestige of the skilled vocation of elephant caretaking, a tradition now dying due to long-needed protections for this endangered animal. Research on this rare book is one component of a broader project of writing captive elephant history in India. The work for this apprenticeship will include creating a digital edition of all or a portion of this book in the Scalar platform, preserving it, and helping readers visualize: (1) facsimile images of the original pages, alongside (2) a readable Malayalam script or transliterated version for modern readers, (3) a translation into English, (4) hot-links to passages derived from earlier texts (with English translations), and (5) relevant sections of information about those earlier historical elephant manuals retained in this handwritten book. Apprentices will learn the basic skills and possibilities of Scalar including developing layered pages with facsimile images, transcriptions, translation into English, and links to the paraphrased texts. One outcome of this project would be the creation of a teaching tool, illustrating to students how many historical Indian texts were composed by building on the earlier textual tradition. 

    The Fire This Time: 1963 and America’s Civil Rights Revolution (faculty lead: Dr. Peniel Joseph)

    This apprenticeship will build an interactive digital exhibit and archive that supports studying the civil rights movement and American democracy in 1963. This project will allow users to assume the historical identity of a cast of characters—James Baldwin, William F. Buckley, Gloria Richardson, John F. Kennedy—and experience 1963 through their eyes, providing digital resources for scholars and students of the era. The audience—including higher education scholars, university and college undergraduates, graduate students, the general public, and thought leaders—would engage through a Scalar website, which will house the exhibit and archive we are building. The Fire This Time: 1963 and America’s Civil Rights Revolution website will offer a polyphonic examination of 1963 through political debates, social protests, racial violence, coalition building, and the moral witness of Black sharecroppers and an initially reluctant American president, a rough consensus about citizenship, dignity, and democracy that would last over the next half century, before collapsing beneath the weight of the 2013 Shelby v. Holder voting rights decision. Students will become familiar with Scalar and build the website around 50 core images, interviews, speeches, and articles, ranging from National Review, Time, Look, and Illustrated News that offers a panoramic tour of 1963 which deeply resonates with contemporary political challenges and opportunities presently facing American democracy. The website’s creation promises to help increase students’ and researchers’ interest in the developing archives and offer new and innovative pedagogical exploration into the history of teaching, writing, thinking, debating, and analyzing the 1960s from various ideological and political perspectives. It will serve as a tool that helps build skills of historical inquiry by allowing users to view the year 1963 through multiple lenses and perspectives. 

    The Ancient Americas at UT (faculty lead: Astrid Runggaldier)

    This apprenticeship engages with the Art and Art History Collection (AAHC), which consists of historical artifacts and objects from the Indigenous Americas, primarily the US Southwest, Mexico, Central America, and South America. The collection comprises ceramics, archaeological artifacts, and fiber arts spanning works from pre-Columbian periods to modern twentieth-century textiles. Currently, the AAHC is housed in the storage units of the Art building at the University of Texas at Austin and, though some objects are often on loan to local museums and in temporary exhibitions throughout the university, the collection does not have a permanent accessible display. Apprenticeship work will include writing and organizing metadata to ensure the accessibility of this collection through digital databases and online exhibit spaces. Students contribute to the transfer of sets in DASe and workspaces in JStor to become staff-facing object collections and exhibition records in PastPerfect. The curation of objects in this specific exhibition and others currently at the development stage will then be slightly altered to account for more objects, which will reflect a physical exhibition space at the Fine Arts Library. Research materials assembled by students in Dr. Runggaldier’s courses, such as “Art and Archeology of Ancient Peru” or “Issues in Collections and Exhibitions: Textile Arts of the Ancient Americas”, will provide student apprentices with exhibition texts and rich descriptions of objects, which will be used to upload collections into Omeka and format Dublin Core metadata. Once these back-facing records are created, public-facing Omeka exhibitions will be created that combine earlier exhibits at the Blanton Museum of Art, the COFA Dean’s Office, and the Fine Arts Library, while a historical archive of earlier exhibitions in physical spaces will be created through digital archiving features in PastPerfect. Ultimately, the apprenticeship contributes to ongoing efforts to make the AAHC—a collection of several thousand objects in storage at UT—more discoverable and more widely accessible to the UT community and to the general public than it has ever been before.

    Format and Overview:
    Cohort meetings will be held on Tuesdays for one hour for the first part of the semester and will move to every other week as projects progress. These meetings will be used for training and for project development. Teams will meet with their graduate student supervisors weekly based on a mutually agreed-upon schedule. The frequency of meetings with faculty advisors will be based on project needs. 

    These projects are all part of the DHResearch program, a program supported by the Initiative for Digital Humanities and the Scholars Lab in the University of Texas Libraries to support digital humanities research. All the projects work with Scalar or Omeka. In each project, students will learn about a particular cultural topic and will learn about creating, curating, describing, managing, and indexing information about that topic for public consumption on a web-based platform.

    Planned Outcomes:
    Each project will contribute to an ongoing online scholarly publishing project in Scalar or Omeka. 

  • Investigating Crime, Law, and Justice in Texas

    Initiative for Law, Societies, and Justice

    Faculty Leads:
    Becky Pettit (Sociology). Pettit is the Barbara Pierce Bush Regents Professor of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin. She is a sociologist, trained in demographic methods, with an interest in social inequality. She is currently the Director of the Initiative for Law, Societies, and Justice and leads a research collaboration with Home2Texas which will involve 70+ undergraduate students in data collection over the summer of 2024.

    Michael Hames-Garcia (Mexican American and Latino Studies) studies inequalities of race, class, gender, sexuality, and disability in the criminal justice system from policing and criminal courts to incarceration and reentry. He serves on the faculty advisory board of the Initiative for Law, Societies, and Justice, where he contributes significant expertise related to critically engaged teaching. From 2019 until 2022, he served as a member of the City of Eugene's Civilian Review Board (which reviews investigations into allegations of misconduct and uses of force by the Eugene Police Department). He also served on the Eugene Police Commission in 2022.

    Format and Overview:
    This apprenticeship will offer students the opportunity to participate in collaborative research. They will be invited to conceptualize research questions; frame those questions in relation to literature; clean, code, and analyze qualitative and/or quantitative data; and communicate the findings of their research to diverse audiences. We will meet weekly for one hour, alternating training activities with research team meetings. On alternate weeks, students will spend time learning about and discussing issues including research design, methods, ethics, and communicating research insights. They will also be asked to read and discuss original research papers/chapters related to crime, law, and justice in Texas. Students will also be invited to participate in approximately monthly workshares and related working group meetings associated with the Initiative for Law, Societies, and Justice. These meetings are typically held on Fridays from 9–10 AM. We would like to schedule team meetings on Friday afternoons sometime between 2–5.

    Students will be invited to select to participate in one of three on-going research projects and/or develop an independent project of their choosing. One option is to work with Pettit and Brent Iverson (Chemistry) on a project investigating exposure to the judicial system and judicial decision making in communities across Texas. Data will be gathered in summer 2024 through a partnership with Home2Texas, and the fall semester will be spent analyzing those data and identifying future avenues of research. A second option is to work with staff at the Initiative for Law, Societies, and Justice on a research project emerging from a partnership with the City of Austin Office of Violence Prevention. Over the past 18 months, we have gathered and begun to analyze data on perceptions of safety in Austin. Students will be continuing to update data collection, analysis, and dissemination activities. A third option is for students to work with Hames-Garcia to continue a project cleaning, coding, and analyzing interviews with local stakeholders regarding policing and police oversight.

    This program allows students to engage in policy- and practice-oriented research on issues of contemporary relevance. Despite decades of reform, Texas continues to maintain the largest prison and jail system in the nation. Millions of Texans encounter the legal system each year through fine-only misdemeanors. The City of Austin has engaged in a series of reforms to “reimagine public safety”. All of these raise important research questions that students from the University of Texas at Austin are uniquely positioned to answer.

    Engaging with a cohort of students working on related projects on topics of shared interest enhances student learning while also developing students’ research skills and capacities. Students will participate in guided learning activities and directed research activities. They will also meet weekly as a cohort to define goals, articulate individual and collective objectives, share their learnings, and celebrate progress.

    Planned Outcomes:
    Over the semester, the cohort of students will prepare a paper or presentation resulting from their respective project(s). Students will be invited to submit the paper to an undergraduate-oriented research journal, such as the Berkeley Journal of Sociology. They will also be invited to share insights from their research with community partners including the Home2Texas team and/or community partners working with the Initiative on related issues. If relevant, students will be invited to communicate insights from their research and the research process through University-facing outlets such as the Daily Texan.

  • Race, Inequality, and Public Policy

    Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis (IUPRA)

    Faculty Leads:
    The program will be co-led by Dr. Yasmiyn Irizarry, Associate Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies, and Dr. Kevin Thomas, Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies. Dr. Irizarry’s research focuses on race, education, and justice using critical quantitative methodologies, while Dr. Thomas’s research examines issues related to immigration, race, and health.  Dr. Irizarry will have overall responsibility for the program and will supervise the work of two graduate student mentors and the undergraduate students admitted to the program. Dr. Thomas will assist by helping leaders of IUPRA working groups1 develop work tasks for students, planning student meetings with invited speakers, and conducting the biweekly meetings with students when Dr. Irizarry is unavailable.

    Format and Overview:
    This apprenticeship program will provide training to eight undergraduate students in the fall of 2024 on how to conduct critical social science research on race and inequality that has implications for policy.

    Each student accepted into the program will be assigned to one of seven IUPRA working groups. These groups are the principal research teams at IUPRA that conduct social science research. The seven working groups respectively focus on: (1) Resilience and Adversity in Children’s Ecology; (2) Black Politics in the Diaspora; (3) Education Policy; (4) Entrepreneurship in the Black Diaspora; (5) Reproductive Justice; (6) Migration, Health, and Inequality; and (7) Numbers 4 Justice—quantitative antiracist research advancing social justice. Collectively, these groups will offer students a diverse perspective on the program’s theme of Race, Inequality, and Public Policy, while giving them an opportunity to learn about various research traditions. The working group leaders are Dr. Danielle Cleland (Black Politics in the Diaspora), Dr. Kevin Foster (Education Policy), Dr. Nneka Ibekwe-Okafor (Resilience and Adversity in Children’s Ecology), Dr. Nessette Falu (Reproductive Justice), and Dr. Marcelo Paixao (Entrepreneurship in the Black Diaspora). Faculty leads Dr. Yasmiyn Irizarry (Numbers 4 Justice) and Dr. Kevin Thomas (Migration, Health, and Inequality) are also leaders of IUPRA working groups.

    Students participating in the research program will work as undergraduate research assistants in the specific working group to which they are assigned. In this role, they will have an opportunity to perform various tasks including conducting literature reviews, assisting with data collection and cleaning, contributing to presentations, and participating in working group meetings. Additionally, URAP students and their graduate mentors will be invited to attend IUPRA events—such as policy workshops—and have opportunities to meet with invited speakers. 

    Students will be required to attend biweekly group meetings with the lead faculty. The specific day/time of these meetings will be determined using an online scheduling program at the start of the program. Biweekly meetings will be used to discuss the activities that students have participated in and provide a forum for them to ask general questions about conducting research. During some of the biweekly meetings, scholars and practitioners will be invited to give short presentations to students on specific issues associated with the program's theme. These include presentations that will introduce them to what it means to conduct critical social science research, the policy making process in Texas, racial classification in the U.S. census, and writing policy briefs.

    IUPRA’s program on Race, Inequality, and Public Policy will provide undergraduate students with skills and resources needed for them to thrive in their current majors while preparing them for successful careers as leaders, creators, and change makers. They will develop key research skills that will be immediately useful for writing their research papers and theses. Moreover, because IUPRA’s working groups are led by scholars from various disciplines (e.g., Sociology, Political Science, Anthropology, and Economics), students will be exposed to multidisciplinary perspectives on research that will help them prepare for graduate school. The program will further expose students to real-world examples of how social science research can influence policy. In particular, they will learn from IUPRA scholars who have used their research to shape educational policy, advocate for effective methods of racial classification in the U.S. census, provide testimony at the Texas Legislature, and provide expert services to U.S. immigration courts. Students will also develop important soft skills as part of IUPRA working groups, such as critical and systems thinking, collaboration, communication, and mental flexibility.

    Planned Outcome:
    Each student will complete a capstone project with two parts. First, students will write a short memo on how their experiences in the program enhanced their understanding of a specific issue associated with race, inequality, and public policy. Second, students will write a one-page policy brief using evidence from existing research to provide policy solutions to real-world problems. Topic selection for capstone projects will be based on students’ working group assignment.

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  • Recovering Ancient and Underrepresented Words and Worlds with Digital Tools

    Linguistics Research Center

    Faculty Lead:
    Danny Law is the director of the Linguistics Research Center and Associate Professor of Linguistics. His research focus is on Mayan languages, historical linguistics, linguistic anthropology, and writing systems. He has overseen several large-scale projects, including a National Science Foundation language documentation project for Ixil Mayan, and is currently leading a National Endowment for the Humanities project producing public-facing online resources on early Mayan languages.

    Format and Overview:
    Students will learn critical skills involved in research in the Digital Humanities by contributing to projects studying ancient and underrepresented languages from regions such as Mesoamerica, the Middle East, and parts of Europe and Asia, and putting those languages in their rich historical and social context. Participation will provide students with a grounding in software design issues in the context of providing specialist and non-specialist users with online access to scholarly databases. They will contribute to the construction of language databases and learn how database and interface design impacts the types of questions researchers and enthusiasts can ask and answer with the data available. The projects are all large-scale and allow for numerous novice participants, so we can readily mentor larger cohorts of six to eight students with diverse backgrounds and experience levels.

    A mentor will lead weekly meetings (Thursdays 10:00–10:50 AM) that will focus on outlining and motivating successive steps in the process of creating and curating databases for online lexical resources in a number of languages, and tailoring those resources for a variety of public and academic audiences. This will include explanations of why the database architecture looks a certain way and the types of research its contents are intended to support. Introductory meetings and supporting readings will introduce students to relevant concepts from linguistics, including the production and textual representation of language sounds, as well as fundamental concepts in the study of language change and the development of historical writing systems. Subsequent meetings will transition to discussions of the computational tools used in creating such databases, moving from simple spreadsheet creation to data cleaning and uniformization with OpenRefine, and to more automated workflows with Python and GitHub. Students will put these tools to use in their own efforts to sort through language resources and extend current databases. Each week the mentor will review new contributions and provide feedback geared toward helping with error checking, simplifying workflows, and encouraging the exploration of novel ideas and contributions. At least once each month, the faculty lead will participate in the meetings and will also provide regular feedback and evaluation of progress through email.

    Students will be able to choose to participate in one of three projects, depending on their particular interests and background: IELEX, SemitiLEX, or MayaLEX. IELEX (currently online) supports the study of languages in the Indo-European family, the earliest language family to be studied via the perspective of historical linguistics and, consequently, the most thoroughly understood. The new SemitiLEX project remains under construction and, when released, will provide a similar but updated resource for studying languages in the Semitic family, such as Akkadian, Arabic, and Hebrew, among many others. Another new project, MayaLEX, will provide the first comparative online lexical database for the Mayan languages, starting with a focus on the languages Ch’olti’, Kaqchikel, K’iche’, and Yucatec as spoken in the Colonial period.

    Students will build their research skills along a range of axes. These include areas such as the following:

    Research skills developed:

    • Increased familiarity with a range of different scripts from world languages.
    • Ability to consult print and online lexical resources to extract salient information.
    • Honed ability to break large, nebulous problems into smaller, solvable problems.
    • Develop familiarity with computational tools like OpenRefine, Python, and GitHub.


    Develop technical understanding:

    • Incorporating User Experience considerations into online resources.
    • Model-View-Controller architecture of websites.


    Develop scholarly understanding:

    • Basics of sound structures of languages and their written representations.
    • Elements of historical linguistics, the study of how languages change over time.
    • Adapting materials to the needs and interests of varied non-specialist audiences.


    Planned Outcomes:
    Each student will make a meaningful contribution to these cumulative projects. They will add lexical data to existing online resources for Indo-European languages (via the IELEX), Mayan languages (MayaLEX), or for the Semitic languages (SemitiLEX), depending on the project selected. Dedicated pages in each resource will list the names of contributors. Moreover, individual entries within the underlying data will have author and date stamps, so that individual students’ contributions can be clearly discerned in any research stemming from use of the resources.

  • The Science of Language Learning

    Spanish & Portuguese

    Faculty Lead and Graduate Student Mentor:
    Dr. Charlie Nagle is an Associate Professor of Spanish and Applied Linguistics. His research focuses on how individuals learn additional languages as adults (for instance, Spanish). He is especially interested in how adults learn the sound system of their additional language(s) and the training techniques that can be used to help learners improve their perception and production of those languages. Dr. Nagle has worked with over a dozen undergraduate research assistants. At UT Austin, he directs the Speech Learning Lab, which is funded by a research grant from the National Science Foundation’s Program in Perception, Action, and Cognition.

    Shelby Bruun is a Linguistics Ph.D. student in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. She serves as Lab Manager in Dr. Nagle’s Speech Learning Lab and is the Graduate Student Coordinator for the campuswide Second Language Studies research group. Shelby’s work focuses on learner perception, production, and acquisition of speech sounds in secondary and unfamiliar languages. She is especially interested in the development of optimal training strategies for learners of all ages and cognitive skill sets.

    Format and Overview:
    Learning another language takes a lot of effort. Learning the pronunciation of another language can be a real challenge because the new language and the native language may not have the same sounds. Many learners may not hear the subtle sound differences that are used to distinguish words in the new language, which can lead to speech perception and production problems. For instance, individuals who learn English often struggle to hear the difference between the words “sheep” and “ship” because the vowels in those words do not occur in their native language. English-speaking learners of Spanish have similar problems perceiving and producing Spanish sounds. What can we do to help people learn the sounds of their new language?

    One technique that we know works is high variability pronunciation training. During this type of training, the learner hears words spoken by many different talkers and is asked to identify what they hear. As they progress through the training, they begin to encode the sounds more accurately, leading to better speech perception and word recognition and, in some cases, better production. We know that this technique works, but we still need to discover how we can make it most effective. In this URAP, we will discuss second language sound learning, high variability pronunciation training, and the factors that make training most effective. Another issue is making training accessible to and engaging for a diverse group of language learners. In this group, we will discuss important conceptual and methodological issues such as who has typically been included in training studies, how training is implemented and adapted to individual learner needs, and how effective training generally is. We will also design and implement a training study tailored to learners’ needs.

    This URAP involves weekly student-centered meetings. At these meetings, we will discuss relevant readings and complete hands-on research training activities designed to give participants the knowledge and skills they need to engage in the research project. Participants should expect to spend up to 10 hours per week on this URAP and to complete reading and homework assignments for each meeting.

    Participants will gain experience with the following research skills:

    • Critical reading and synthesis of academic sources
    • Experimental design and planning
    • Data collection and data processing
    • Acoustic analysis of speech
    • Data visualization and analysis in R


    Throughout the semester, participants will also complete professional development activities related to language learning so that they can reflect on their own language learning process and interests:

    • Attend a language learning talk on campus and discuss it with the group.
    • Connect with the language learning community in Austin through the Texas Language Center, Think Bilingual Austin, and other initiatives/organizations.


    One of the key strengths of this URAP is its focus on all aspects of the research process. Students will have the opportunity to reflect on current debates in social science related to sampling practices. They will critically appraise research methods, with a focus on creating more equitable and accessible training formats that respond to learners’ diverse needs. They will also gain hands-on experience with research methods, from designing the stimuli and experimental procedure to collecting, processing, and analyzing data.

    Planned Outcomes:
    We plan to deliver a research talk to a relevant unit on campus, such as the Second Langauge Studies group, the Department of Spanish & Portuguese, or the Texas Language Center. We will also begin developing a presentation to be delivered at a national conference such as the Pronunciation in Second Language Learning and Teaching conference or the annual conference of the American Association of Applied Linguistics. Participants may have the opportunity to participate in a workshop for language teachers, which Dr. Nagle will offer in AY24–25 with funding from his current NSF award.

  • Understanding Empathy and Self-Esteem

    Texas Behavioral Science and Policy Institute

    Faculty Lead and Graduate Student Mentor:
    Dr. David Yeager, Professor, Department of Psychology

    Mac Clapper, Ph.D. student, Department of Psychology

    Format and Overview:
    Students will be asked to lead a literature review spanning the topics of empathy and self-esteem, primarily focusing on the combination of the two. Students will be expected to read and present about the papers during weekly meetings with the graduate student mentor. Students will tentatively meet on Wednesdays at 3 PM, though this time is flexible based on student schedules. After literature review, students will be expected to help design a study examining the effects between self-esteem and empathic accuracy. Students will have the opportunity to work in the lab space in SEA and will be expected to meet in-person for the weekly check-in, but they may also perform many duties in their own time/space.

    This cohort will give students valuable experience regarding understanding and presenting scientific research. Students will have the opportunity to learn about literature reviews, study design, day-to-day lab activities, graduate education, and they will gain a deeper understanding of research as a whole.

    Planned Outcomes:
    By the end of the semester, students will be expected to have completed a full-length literature review. This includes a wide-spanning understanding of empathy and self-esteem literature, as well as context on “gaps” in the literature. Finally, students will be expected to present a study design plan.

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Spring Individual Cohort URAP

In each spring semester, COLA will support multiple students who secure faculty agreement for a mentored research experience.  If accepted, students will spend the semester working on that faculty member’s ongoing research project. Activities could include but are not limited to creating annotated bibliographies, transcribing focus group or interview data, cleaning or recoding survey data, performing basic statistical analyses, conducting literature searches and/or helping faculty to obtain literature, pulling and analyzing publicly accessible data, acting as note-taker or recorder in research meetings or data collection projects, and helping to organize and maintain large projects. The goal is to help students gain concrete research skills under the supervision of an experienced scholar so that they will develop a better understand of what research involves and be able to engage in their own independent research while still a student.

Expectations of Participation

Over the course of the semester, apprentices will:

  1. Devote 7-10 hours per week to the project’s activities, including a weekly face-to-face meeting between advisor and apprentice.
  2. Submit a discovery report by the semester’s end—describing the experience, key challenges and lessons learned, and future research plans—that will be evaluated by the faculty advisor.
  3. Receive three-hours credit (LA 331R) and $500 upon satisfactory completion of the semester. 

During the semester, faculty advisors will assign weekly tasks to be evenly distributed across the semester on a predictable schedule, meet with students on a weekly basis to discuss assigned tasks and other matters relevant to the research, work with apprentices to develop their own agenda for pursuing research, and evaluate the final discovery report. The faculty advisor will award $500 upon satisfactory completion of the semester.


  1. The Individual URAP involves an application for an apprentice-faculty pair. Apprentices may recruit a faculty advisor appropriate to what they want to do, and faculty advisors may recruit an interested or motivated apprentice. The only requirement for application is that the faculty advisor is from a COLA department and the apprentice is a COLA major.
  2. Applications will be evaluated by a COLA committee.

The application portal for the Spring 2024 semester is here