SPARC: Support to Promote Advancement of Research and Creativity

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SPARC Frequently Asked Questions

This list of frequently asked questions will be updated as the year goes on and more application workshops are held. If your questions aren't answered here, please email Lauren Clark for assistance or give her a call at (803) 777-3929.

  1. When is the start date for Fellowship funds to be available?

    May 1, 2015.

  2. 2. Can the PI for the SPARC Fellowship be a USC Faculty Member who is not my primary Advisor?

    The Faculty Advisor on the proposal should be the student's primary Advisor for their dissertation or thesis. If a student wishes to have a USC faculty member other than their primary Advisor as the Faculty Advisor (and PI in USCeRA) for this Fellowship, then the student must submit a letter of support from their primary Advisor stating their approval for another faculty member to serve as the Faculty Advisor for the Fellowship. Alternatively, the student's dissertation or thesis committee may approve the appointment of a USC faculty member who is not the primary Advisor as the Faculty Advisor for this Fellowship. In this case, the student must produce a letter of support from the Chair of the Dissertation or Thesis Committee stating the committee's approval for a faculty member other than the primary Advisor to serve as Faculty Advisor (and PI in USCeRA) for this Fellowship. When submitting the SPARC Fellowship proposal, this letter of support should be appended to the proposal and should appear after the Faculty Letter of Recommendation.

  3. What is the project period?

    Work must be conducted in a 14 month period: May 1, 2015 through July 31, 2016.

  4. Can I request funds for travel to more than one conference?

    No. You may only request conference travel funds for ONE conference - EITHER one domestic conference OR one international conference. Students are encouraged to seek funds for conference travel through the Graduate School, your Department or Program, and/or the organization or society sponsoring the conference. Please note below that you may only request travel funds for EITHER a conference OR for travel to conduct research/project.

  5. Can I apply for travel funds which are essential to conduct my research AND travel funds to attend a conference in my discipline?

    No. You may request funds for EITHER travel to conduct research OR travel funds to attend a conference, but not both.

  6. I am requesting travel funds to attend a conference in my discipline. However, I do not know if my abstract will be accepted. If I receive a SPARC Fellowship which includes funds for travel to a conference, can I go to a different conference if the one I planned to attend does not accept my abstract?

    Yes, you may use the funds to attend a different conference in your discipline, if your advisor approves the change.

  7. I completed a MS at USC, and I am now pursuing a PhD in the same field. Can I apply for SPARC in the first year of my PhD program instead of waiting for my second year?

    ALL PhD students must be a second year PhD student to apply.

  8. Can two students write a joint proposal for SPARC?

    No, joint proposals are not allowed.

  9. Since we cannot write a joint proposal, can two students write individual proposals and request that the funding of one be contingent upon the other also being funded?


  10. I would like to attend a short course to learn a new technique, which will allow me to pursue a new research direction. Can I request funds to cover the course fees, as well as room and board for the duration of the course and travel to and from the course?

    Yes. You may request funds to cover the expenses related to the short course; HOWEVER, your Faculty Advisor must state in the Letter of Recommendation that the course is essential to your research and that the course will help advance the PhD dissertation.

  11. I am requesting funds cover expenses related to working in another lab, where I will to be able to use facilities or equipment not available at USC. Do I need any additional documentation for this situation?

    Yes. Your Faculty Advisor should state in the Letter of Recommendation that 1) such training is necessary for the development of your dissertation, and 2) the Faculty Advisor has spoken with the Facility Manager or Director, and that this Manager or Director has agreed to train the student and/or to allow the student to use the equipment/facility.

  12. Can I request less than the state rate for mileage reimbursement?

    Yes, as long as the amount reimbursed does not exceed the allowed state rate.

  13. I logged into VIP and I don't see this semester's courses listed. What do I need to do?
  14. Here’s the new description for obtaining unofficial transcripts:

    HOW to get this: Go to

    • under "Academics," select "View grades, transcripts, and holds."
    • This will bring you to the login page: Login.
    • Under "Student Records" select "Academic Transcript."
    • For Transcript Level: "All Levels"
    • For Transcript Type: "Advising"
    • Click on "Submit"
    • Copy and paste the entire document (all student info, classes, grades, etc) with GPA to the end of your proposal.

    Important notes for pasting transcripts:
    • Be sure your page margins are 0.5 inches
    • Keep source formatting when you paste (this means a direct paste, do not do anything special or it won't work right)
    • Once pasted, select the entire table and change font size to 11pt (this will help with the fit)

  15. I attended a SPARC Application Workshop last year. Do I have to attend another one this year?

    No, but you are still responsible for adhering to this year’s guidelines.


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