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Viterbi, WiSE Researcher, Student Application Guidelines


The WiSE Undergraduate Research Experience was established to familiarize students with laboratory research and to link them with a mentor early on.


  • Students must have declared a major in one of the degree programs in the Viterbi School of Engineering.
  • Students must have earned at least 16 units at USC with a GPA of at least 3.3 (although it is expected that successful applicants will frequently have a GPA of 3.5 or higher). Students with GPAs between 3.0 and 3.3 will be considered if the faculty mentor makes a compelling case in their support letter. including the student’s research potential and a commitment to mentoring to improve the student’s competitiveness for graduate school.  Transfer units recognized by the University may be counted towards the minimum unit requirement.
  • Students receiving a Viterbi School of Engineering Merit Research Award are not eligible for a WiSE award during the same period (semester or summer).
  • The faculty sponsor must have a primary appointment in the Viterbi School of Engineering. In the event that the proposed advisor has only a secondary or courtesy appointment in the Viterbi School, co-advisement is permissible. In a co-advising circumstance, one of the faculty sponsors must have a primary appointment in a Viterbi department and both advisors must submit separate statements of support; both statements must outline how the proposed co-advising arrangement will work.
  • Students are limited to receiving a maximum of two WiSE Fellowship awards, unless the case for extenuating circumstances is successfully made by a student’s faculty mentor.
  • Students who have already received a bachelor’s degree are not eligible.


Application Process:

Applications must be completed and submitted via the online system of the WiSE website. The deadline for application submission is April 1. In the event that these dates fall upon a weekend or a University Holiday the deadline will move to the first workday following the posted date.

Students must collaborate with their faculty sponsors in preparing their applications. A completed application must contain:

  • Personal Statements: Statements must be typed, double spaced, in 12-point font, and no longer than 3 pages. Label each page with your name. Before submission, your statement must be reviewed by your faculty mentor. Upload as MS Word document to the online application system. In the statement: (1) Briefly describe the project, its significance, and relevance to your chosen major, (2) Explain your motivation for participating in research and how this project will enhance your education and career plans, (3) Explain how your research will increase the representation of women in engineering, (4) Provide a statement committing to attending one event per month during the Fall and Spring semesters and one event per week during the Summer term as part of the WiSE Programming Series.
  • Recommendation letter from the student’s faculty mentor,
  • Unofficial transcript (or STARS report)submitted as either a pdf or Word Document,
  • Faculty mentor must send an e-mail message to stating that he or she has reviewed the student’s application and personal statement, read the section “Faculty Mentor Guidelines”, and agrees to serve as a faculty mentor under these terms if an award is made.


Students who are prior recipients of a the WiSE Undergraduate Research Experience Research Track and are applying for continued WiSE support are asked to provide two items in addition to those outlined above:

  • A brief statement (no more than 500 words) describing the research results that have been obtained or have contributed to while being supported by the WiSE Fellowship. The Progress Report should describe their research results to date and a briefly explain why further funding would be beneficial in addition to the personal statement.)
  • A statement from the faculty advisor attesting that they are satisfied with the progress the student has made while being supported by the WiSE Fellowship. The advisor’s statement may be included within the recommendation letter and need not be a separate document.


Selection Process and Criteria:

The WiSE Viterbi School Committee composed of faculty will review all applications and make funding decisions based primarily on the overall quality of the proposal.  Key considerations of Researchers include the student’s potential to conduct outstanding research, the student’s understanding of the project and its goals, the extent of direct involvement of the student in the project, the contribution of the experience to the student’s education, and the faculty member’s plans for direction and mentorship. Previous student recipients are welcome to re-apply for additional funding, but in the interest of facilitating entry into research, preference is given to new applicants if other factors are equivalent. Equal consideration will be given to faculty who have or have not previously sponsored student recipients.

Responsibilities of Student Participants:

Researchers are expected to complete about 300 hours of work (or the equivalent of 8 weeks of full-time work) during the summer semester. While the majority of Researcher Awards will be made for the summer semester, alternatives arrangements can be made for students to conduct research during the Fall or Spring terms when disciplinary demands intercede. These situations will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Student Researchers must confer regularly with their faculty sponsors and, upon the sponsor’s recommendation, participate in safety training, meetings, seminars, journal clubs, discussion groups, and other scholarly activities of the host laboratory, department or research group. At the end of the Fellowship period, students must, under the guidance of their faculty mentor, prepare and submit a science poster. For more information, Click Here. Students must also present the results of their research at the Undergraduate Symposium for Scholarly & Creative Work held in April each year.

Finding a Sponsor and Research Topics:

The best sources of information about the research areas of Viterbi School of Engineering faculty are their departmental or laboratory web pages. Additional information and assistance are available by contacting the Viterbi School of Engineering Undergraduate Student Affairs Office in RTH 110. Please see Faculty Mentor Guidelines to confirm WiSE-eligibility of proposed mentors.

Students are responsible for finding an eligible mentor that will help them with the application process and will provide a strong recommendation. Eligibility requirements for faculty sponsors are outlined in the Viterbi School of Engineering WiSE Undergraduate Research Faculty Application Guidelines. The faculty sponsor’s responsibility is to facilitate the student’s exposure to various aspects of the research process and to meet regularly with the student providing guidance and feedback on their progress. Please contact Professor Ellis Meng, the WiSE Viterbi School Committee Chair with additional questions.


WiSE Researchers will receive $3,000 during the semester in which they conduct their research, and $500 during each of the Fall and Spring semesters for participating in the WiSE Research Programming Series, and $500 in advisor for support. Receipt of a WiSE Undergraduate Research Experience Researcher subsidy should not negatively impact a student’s eligibility for financial aid. As with any income, however, the award will be considered as taxable income by federal and state agencies. For questions regarding financial aid, please contact the Financial Aid Office at 213-740-1111. Please see your own tax advisor for information about reporting Fellowship income and paying income taxes.

**Students may not receive additional funding, fellowships or grants to complete research during the semester in which they receive a WiSE Undergraduate Research Grant. If a student is selected to receive other grants, such as Viterbi Research Grants, Rose Hills Awards, Provost’s Fellowships, or Departmental Grants, the student will be asked to choose one award. During the summer semester, WiSE will coordinate with recipients of the Rose Hills Awards by topping off this award with an additional $500 to the student and $500 for research related expenses to the faculty mentor.**

Contact: Contact: For more information please contact the WiSE Program Office at 213-740-0996 or