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The Provost's Undergraduate Research Fellowship (PURF) FAQ

MISSION: The mission of the UMass Amherst Provost’s Undergraduate Research Fellows (PURFs) program is to ensure that selected students will graduate as accomplished scholars, regardless of their disciplines, with the academic, research, professional skills, and competencies that will guide their choices as they pursue graduate studies or join the workforce.

GOALS: PURFs will engage in relevant and independent disciplinary research and studies under the guidance of faculty mentors. They will have expert mentoring both from faculty and peers in their individual disciplines. They will be exposed to cutting-edge research activities conducted by renowned faculty on this campus. Students will have the opportunity to attend professional conferences and participate in discipline-related travel that are relevant and important to their work. Students will be expected to participate in co-curricular academic, social, and cultural events that will provide working knowledge to enhance their professional and interpersonal relationships.

The Provost’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship program gives up to 50 entering students a one-time award of $4,000 to apply to the cost of research or other academic projects under the close mentorship of a faculty. This fellowship is not part of a financial aid package; these funds support additional expenses associated with research, scholarly, and creative activities. The possibilities are endless but examples of covered expenses include: apprenticeships with researchers, artists, businesses or community groups; travel to study at museums or specialized libraries; fieldwork or field schools; art supplies; support for performances; travel to academic meetings; and specialized national or international summer courses. You may choose to save your funds until senior year (for instance to spend it all towards expenses for a Capstone Project, or Senior Thesis) or you may begin to spend the funds as early as sophomore year. See the ‘What can I use my fellowship funds for?’ for more detailed information about when and how it can be used.

Year 1 (Freshman)

  • You are expected to attend the “Connection Reception” hosted by PURF early in the Fall semester.
  • You are expected to attend all events and workshops hosted by the PURF program.
  • You are expected to schedule and attend two meetings with your college-based PURF advisor.

Year 2 (Sophomore)

  • You are expected to schedule and attend at least two meetings with your college-based PURF advisor. The first meeting should be early in the Fall so you can start developing goals for your PURF experiences and projects and a plan for implementing them. The second meeting with your advisor should be an end-of-the-year check-in.
  • Not all students would have progressed enough within their major field of study to propose expenditure of PURF funds on a project but in case you are already at that stage, you may at this point submit a “Project Proposal” (link to Project Proposal), which includes a signature from a faculty mentor.

Year 3 (Junior)

  • You are expected to schedule and attend at least two meetings with your college-based PURF advisor. The second meeting with your advisor should be an end-of-the-year check-in before you submit your “Project Proposal” (see below). 
  • You are encouraged to submit a “Project Proposal” (link to Project Proposal), which includes a signature from a faculty mentor.

Year 4 (Senior)

  • You are expected to schedule and attend a meeting with your college-based PURF advisor early in the Fall term and may submit a “Project Proposal” (link to Project Proposal), which includes a signature from a faculty mentor.
  • In the spring of senior year, there will be a poster session at which you are invited to present the outcomes of your PURF activities.

The purpose of the Provost’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship (PURF) fund is to support research, scholarly or creative activities carried out by Fellows under the mentorship of a UMass Amherst faculty member. Because “research, scholarly, and creative activity” covers a broad range of undertakings, there are many different ways that the funds can be used. Below are some possibilities but this is by no means an exhaustive list. If you have more detailed questions or want to do something that does not fall under one of the categories listed here, send your question to

  • Participation in an on-campus or off-campus REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduate programs, which are sponsored by the National Science Foundation or through other funding sources on many college campuses during the summer) provided that the activity is endorsed by the faculty mentor at UMass Amherst.
  • Travel to conferences, symposia, workshops, or field schools. This includes registration fees, airfare or mileage (current rate is $.54/mile), housing, and a per diem allowance for food and incidentals (Uber, subway, museum entry fees, etc.)
  • Production expenses for a film, play, dance performance, or art installation which includes but is not limited to:  space and equipment rental, modest remuneration for performers, light and camera personnel, etc.
  • Cost of living allowance during the summer or winter session while working full-time on campus on a faculty-supervised project. The living allowance calculated by Financial Aid is currently $1,460 per month. It includes room, board, travel, and miscellaneous expenses.
  • Purchase of specialized equipment, services, or software that is not available on campus (reagents, testing kits, art supplies, theatrical props, costumes and make-up, on-line survey support, etc.)

The Provost’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship cannot be used for the following:

  • Cost of living allowance during the Fall or Spring semesters.
  • Defraying the cost of UMass tuition.
  • Computers or other general-use personal electronics (smart phones, tablets, or accessories). 

You can access your PURF funds as soon as: (1) you have completed two semesters at UMass Amherst, (2) have developed a vision of your PURF research activities/projects, and (3) have identified a faculty mentor. This can be as early as the summer after the successful completion of your second full semester at UMass Amherst. However, we expect that the Junior and Senior years will be the most appropriate time for most students to use the bulk of their research funds.

No, in fact we strongly suggest that you pace your spending in a way that suits the vision you develop for your PURF activities. For instance, a student who plans to conduct laboratory research on campus as a senior may want to save the bulk of their money for costs associated with conducting research in the Fall of senior year. But another student may spend some PURF funds on a number of smaller projects throughout sophomore and junior years. Developing a long-term budget strategy is something that your faculty advisor and the Provost’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship Coordinator can help you with.

You can find an application to access PURF funds here (Application to use PURF funds). The application requires a description of the activity you propose, a detailed budget, and a signature from your faculty advisor. The completed application should be sent via email to We strongly encourage students to work with their faculty mentors and advisors to develop ideas and strategies for when and how to use the funds. If there are questions about a student’s application to use funds, the Provost’s office will contact the student and advisor for clarification. Once approved, the proposal will be forwarded to Financial Aid Services for processing.

When Financial Aid Services receives an approved application from the Provost’s office, it generally requires 1-2 days to post the award and to disburse the funds to the student’s University account in SPIRE. As long as you do not owe a balance to the University, and the award is for the current term, you will receive the funds in the form of an excess check. 

Refunds are processed by the Bursar’s Office via Excess Express, so students must sign up for Excess Express ( in SPIRE in order to receive any refunds from the University. You can designate any US bank checking or savings account for Excess Express deposits. If you cannot designate a US bank account for refunds, you will need to contact the Bursar’s to determine how to receive the funds.

Note that the Bursar’s office processes refunds once per week, typically on Friday mornings.  If funds are disbursed from Financial Aid to the Bursar’s office by Thursday evening, and you do not owe a balance and have an active Excess Express account, you should see a deposit in the designated bank account by Wednesday the following week.  You will receive an email from the Bursar’s Office when the deposit is made in the designated Excess Express account.

Yes. Although you will receive your fellowship funds before you make purchases, all receipts for purchases from Provost’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship funds must be submitted with post-activity report (see below). Failure to submit the report and receipts will place a hold on all remaining fellowship funds.

As is the case for almost all grant and fellowship programs, students must submit receipts and a report on activities paid for by the fellowship within 90 days of their completion. You can find the post-award report form here (link to Post-award Report).

No, the money can only be applied to cover expense incurred as part of your research as an undergraduate student.

The fellowship will supplement any other financial aid you may receive. In the semesters where you spend the money, your total cost of attendance will be adjusted to account for what you spent. That way, there will be no negative impact on the other financial aid you receive.