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F.I.R.E. Starters

Program Description

F.I.R.E. (Forging Interest in Research and Engagement) Starters is a new undergraduate research program that aims to increase access to and training for research opportunities for underrepresented minority students. Students will participate in cohort learning that introduces them to transdisciplinary research methods and prepares them to pursue further research opportunities in the future. In this inaugural year, students will be selected via an application process and will each receive a stipend of $4,000 for full participation in the program ($2,000 in Fall semester, $2,000 in Spring semester). The selected students will undertake an independent research project the following summer with support from a research mentor, in which further work may be supported by up to $4,000 of additional funding.  

This program is a partnership between Student Opportunities and Achievement Resources Program (SOAR), Office of Undergraduate Research, Multicultural Academic Opportunities Program, the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, the Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment, and the Fralin Life Sciences Institute.  

The F.I.R.E. Starters program will be administered by the following group of Faculty Fellows:

  • Anne M. Brown, University Libraries and Department of Biochemistry
  • Ralph Hall, School of Public and International Affairs and Urban Affairs and Planning
  • Liesel Ritchie, Department of Sociology and Center for Coastal Studies

Program Mission

The mission of the F.I.R.E. Starters program is to forge interest, knowledge, and skill development in transdisciplinary research and engagement among underrepresented and underserved undergraduate students in the social sciences, humanities, and life sciences at Virginia Tech. The primary objective of the program is to increase access to fundamental as well as applied research opportunities. Through the program, students are connected with experienced research mentors who guide and support them through the process of learning about research methods, as well as research proposal development. The ultimate goal of F.I.R.E. Starters is to prepare students to pursue future research opportunities both at the undergraduate and graduate levels at Virginia Tech and beyond.

Program Vision

The vision of the F.I.R.E. Starters program is to empower and enable a diverse cohort of undergraduate students to pursue research careers both within and external to academia that spans disciplinary fields to address the world’s most pressing issues.  

Program Details

As a global land-grant institution, Virginia Tech is committed to serving individuals and society and improving the quality of life for all. The realization of this vision rests on our ability to advance transdisciplinary research that is informed by a diverse array of lived experiences.

The purpose of the F.I.R.E. Starters program is to:

  1. increase underrepresented minority students’ access to research and foundational training,
  2. connect students with faculty research mentors, and
  3. prepare students to be competitive for summer and other research opportunities.

The theme for the inaugural year of the F.I.R.E. Starters program is Environment and Society. Students in all disciplines – especially in the humanities and social sciences – are encouraged to think broadly about how their interests intersect with this theme and how they could advance a research project that builds on their interests.  

During the Fall semester, students will participate in biweekly (twice a month) workshops and community building with their cohort and faculty fellows. Networking, professional skill development, introduction to research foundations, and science communication will be discussed. Students will be exposed to and practice research methodology and techniques, including literature reviews, research design, learning about research methods and ethics, data management, as well as research proposal development. In the Spring semester, students will identify faculty mentors and develop a research proposal on the theme of the cohort year, Environment and Society. Students will create a formal proposal document and present it at the Annual Spring Dennis Dean Research Symposium or similar forum.

Students interested in applying to the program must submit an application, including a short statement about their potential research interests. While not required, students are encouraged to identify a faculty mentor who can help them develop a suitable research question that would be explored during the program.  

Successful applicants will receive a $4,000 stipend for the 2022-2023 academic year and will be given an opportunity to apply for up to $4,000 of additional funding to support a proposed research project. Following an applicant’s selection into the program, they will be asked to develop a research proposal with support from a faculty mentor, which will be evaluated through a blind review process prior to any funds being disbursed.

Students from underrepresented and underserved groups (including, but not limited to, racial/ethnic minorities, first generation college students, students from low income areas, students with disabilities, LGBTQ, etc.) are strongly encouraged to apply.

Application Deadline: April 1, 2022

Eligibility Requirements

  • GPA: 2.5 or higher
  • Rising sophomore and/or junior standing