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Undergraduate Research

Engineering & Computing Research Award

The McNAIR Junior Fellows (MJF) program is designed to enhance the career growth and development of undergraduate students through hands-on experiential learning, innovation, and research. The skills and knowledge that you gain by working closely with a faculty mentor is the type of experience that is highly desirable for employers and increases competitiveness for your future career.

The McNAIR Junior Fellows Program

  • Up to $3000 per recipient towards summer salary (awards may vary $2000-$3000; dependent on the application, student qualifications/experience, hours anticipated, etc.)
  • For College of Engineering & Computing (CEC) students in research with a CEC faculty mentor
  • Any academic year (up to non-graduating seniors)
  • Must have previous research experience


Deadline to apply: Friday, April 26, 2024


Program Details

To instill the concepts of in-depth pursuit of knowledge and kindle curiosity in the engineers of tomorrow.

To create a unique environment where undergraduate students can learn and excel by engaging in cutting edge research.

We firmly believe in the untapped potential of undergraduate students in performing and delivering research. This belief enables us to create opportunities integrating undergraduate students in the daily research activities performed in the College of Engineering and Computing at the University of South Carolina.

Research, or in-depth investigations concentrating on a specific topic, requires focus, persistence, and discipline.  As mentors:

  • we seek to prepare future minds by challenging them to become lifelong learners,
  • we believe it is our duty to provide the guidance and skills for students to travel their own discovery path, and  
  • we aim to transform students from ‘material receivers’ to ‘material seekers.’

Please direct questions to Dr. Austin Downey at

Program committee:

  • Dr. Austin Downey, McNAIR Junior Fellows Program director and Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering
  • Dr. Dezhi Wu, Associate Professor, Integrated Information Technology
  • Dr. Lucy Yu, Professor, Mechanical Engineering
  • College of Engineering & Computing (CEC) students
  • Any academic year including non-graduating seniors (this award cannot be used after graduation)
  • Must be proposing work with a CEC faculty researcher
  • Previous research experience (minimum 100 hours; previous work does not need to be with a UofSC faculty mentor)
  • Must be in good standing with the University (no academic or judicial probation)
  • Must be able to commit a minimum of 20 hours per week throughout the summer to this project. The required hours per week, weekly schedule, and start and end dates will be set between you and your mentor.
Application Process

This program provides summer salary for research with a CEC faculty researcher. Previous experience is required of ~100 hours.

  • Finalize a project with a CEC faculty research mentor
  • Review the budget process and award requirements below to ensure you will be compliant, if awarded.
  • Complete McNAIR Junior Fellows application form. Note: When you submit the application form, it will send an automated email to your mentor requesting that they complete the Mentor Application Form. 
  • Applicants may be contacted for an application interview
Mentor Eligibility
  • College of Engineering & Computing (CEC) tenure or non-tenure track faculty
  • Postdoctoral fellows and graduate students may not be primary mentors but are encouraged to participate in supervising awardees
Application Process
  • Students must complete and submit the McNAIR Junior Fellows Program Application Form to initiate the Mentor Application Process.
  • Once the student has submitted the form, it will automatically send an email to their identified mentor, requesting that they complete the Mentor Application Form.

College of Engineering & Computing (CEC) tenure or non-tenure track faculty

Applications are accepted once per year. 

If funds remain after the initial funding period, applications may be accepted on a rolling basis. 

Yes, but to be considered, please address your commitment and motivation to academics and how research will contribute to this in your personal statement.

No; Only CEC students (majors or minors) are eligible for funding through MJF. However, we firmly believe in the benefits and opportunities created by research. There are many options for non-CEC students to get involved in CEC research. We encourage you to contact faculty who are involved in projects that interest you to learn more. The Office of Undergraduate Research can also help, email

Once awarded, find out who processes student hires in your mentor's department. This is likely the department business manager. You will need to be hired by your mentor's department. Be sure to complete all paperwork and ask this person what else you need to do to in order to be paid or receive the award. This may include submitting hours through UofSC's Time/Leave system (see below).

IF you are hired hourly:
  • Hours need to be submitted every week through the Time/Leave system, UofSC's electronic timecard system.
  • Find out from your mentor, who hired you in the department and that person should be able to show you the time entry process.
  • You will only be paid for the hours worked.
  • Be sure to SUBMIT hours for approval every week to get paid in a timely manner.

Ask your mentor FIRST! Many projects must be kept confidential. Ask your mentor what you can and cannot say.

Research is tough and sometimes things don't go as expected. The first step is to meet with your mentor and try to work it out. Check out our page on working with a mentor for some helpful hints. There is also a document on this page regarding your Rights, Responsibilities and Resources as a researcher that may be useful. 

If you need help or want to talk at any point, email for an appointment.

Contact Dr. Austin Downey at




  • Maximum award is $3000 but may range from $2000-3000
    • summer salary only
    • salary rate minimum of $10/hour
    • full award covers maximum of 300 hours of work 
    • only paid for hours worked
    • minimum of 20 hours/week (mentor will set your weekly schedule and required hours per week)
    • typically, hours will be submitted and approved through the Time/Leave system (UofSC's electronic timecard system)
  • The mentor is responsible for ensuring the student is hired and approves hours
  • Funds are for student salary only and poster printing; may not be used for supplies/travel
  • Funds may NOT be transferred to a different student
  • If student fails to meet mentor expectations or hours of work, remaining funds are to be returned to the program (please contact with questions)
  • Up to 300 hours of work over the summer. NOTE: awardees must record and submit hours worked through UofSC's Time/Leave system, every week. Ask your mentor who to talk with about this process.
  • Attend orientation and other MJF Community of Scholar activities, including program graduation.
  • Complete the on-line CITI Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) / Ethics Modules
  • Additional oversight is required for projects involving human subjects, vertebrate animals, or travel outside the US. 
  • Maintain consistent effort towards the completion of the project throughout the grant period. This is evaluated by the research mentor through the Research Registry system, based on this rubric OR upon a set of guidelines/requirements established by the mentor for a successful semester of research.
  • Poster presentation at the Summer Poster Symposium held at the end of July/first of August *NOTE a pdf/jpg of poster must be provided through Blackboard and may be posted on-line.
  • Awardees are strongly encouraged to:


 The McNAIR Junior Fellows program has been invaluable in helping me begin my career in research, particularly in coauthoring my first article for a scientific publication.

Alex Zuloaga

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.