JRA 2018 - Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the answers to some of the common questions we get asked by potential JRAs, along with links to further information, guidance and resources. If you have a question that we haven't answered below, email us on undergraduate-research@sussex.ac.uk.

How do I apply for the JRA program?

A detailed breakdown of the JRA application process can be found on our 'Undergraduate research' homepage. We recommend that you take the time to read this fully and email undergraduate-research@sussex.ac.uk with any further questions you might have. 

What sort of subject can I study as a JRA?

Over the last few years JRAs have undertaken research into an incredibly diverse array of topics. Some JRAs join pre-existing research projects, whilst some propose their own ideas. Remember, however, that you will need to find an academic supervisor with an interest in, and knowledge of, your area of study. This often means that designing a project can be a little bit of a balancing act: you need to be original and true to your own interests, while also formulating an idea that will appeal to others.

What are the selection criteria for the JRA scheme?

Once received, all applications are judged by a panel drawn from each of Sussex’s academic schools. All applications are graded based on research excellence and research benefit, i.e. we want to see high-quality, original research which will have significant benefits for the student and department within which the research is undertaken.

How many students become JRAs each year?

This is hard to answer, as it changes each year. Last year’s cohort was our biggest yet – 64 Sussex undergraduates become Junior Research Associates in 2017. We are hoping to fund a similar amount of JRAs this year. 

How long does the scheme last?

In 2018, projects should take place any time between 2 July and 10 September. Once your projects have ended, there are still some extra duties that need to be fulfilled. For example, you will be required to make an academic poster summarising your research project, and to subsequently attend an exhibition at which this poster will be displayed. 

What will be expected of me as a JRA?

The JRA scheme is an opportunity to experience the life of a full-time researcher, and you are expected to act as a full-time researcher would. We expect you to:

  • attend all relevant training sessions and JRA events (you will be informed of these at the start of the scheme)
  • work on your research full-time, making a time commitment equivalent to a normal University working week. Whilst we recognise that many JRAs will have a part-time job around which they fit their research, and appreciate that for many this is necessary, we do expect you, while undertaking your research project, to treat it as a full-time project
  • maintain proper punctuality and attendance – i.e. be on campus when you need to be
  • Act at all times in a responsible and professional manner.
How much is the bursary, and when will I be paid?

In 2017, each JRA received a bursary of £1600, paid in two installments of £800, to allow them to work full-time on their research. As a JRAs, you will receive your first payment in the first week of the scheme. The second payment will be processed in the fifth week, once the Doctoral School has received a short report from your supervisor confirming that you are fulfilling your obligations and that your research project is progressing accordingly.

As well as the £1600 bursary, each JRA will receive a £200 expenses allowance. This money can be used to cover any costs directly supporting your research. Here are some examples of things that JRAs commonly claim for:

  • travel and subsistence whilst undertaking fieldwork
  • ordering books not available from the library
  • buying specific software required for research (i.e. data analysis software)
  • money used to pay participants to engage in research.

To make a claim, JRAs must send a scan of a completed Student Expense Claim Form, along with original receipts for all items being claimed for, to Dean Brooks (undergraduate-research@sussex.ac.uk). 

Do I have to submit a poster, and why?

All JRAs are required to submit an A1 academic poster, in PDF format. This is a condition of the scheme, and will be stated in the contract which you and your supervisor sign when accepting the bursary. Academic posters are commonly used in the research community to communicate key findings in a quick and accessible way. Be designing a poster, you will gain valuable experience of presenting your findings to a wider audience. All posters will be displayed at the annual Undergraduate Research Poster Exhibition, attended by students, faculty, and staff. All JRAs need to do is design the poster – the Doctoral School will then have them professionally printed in time for the exhibition.

In 2018, the deadline for JRAs to submit their academic posters is 16.00pm on 20 September 2018.

As many JRAs have never designed an academic poster before, Sussexwill organise workshops on producing research posters. You will be e-mailed with dates for the workshops but you can also look at this site for a list of events. We strongly recommend that you attend these sessions.

What is the poster exhibition?

Every year the Doctoral School organises the annual Undergraduate Research Poster Exhibition in the autumn term where JRAs display their academic posters. It is a chance to celebrate the completion of your projects and to talk about your research to a wider audience. The exhibition is often a very busy event, attended by students, faculty and members of staff. In 2018, the Undergraduate Research Poster Exhibition will take place on 3 October 2018 in Mandela Hall, Falmer House.

There is also a competition element to the exhibition. A judging panel comprised of faculty members and led by the Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research) Michael Davies will select the best posters to compete in the final. The finalists will then be interviewed by the panel about their research. The winners will be announced on the day of the exhibition. Additionally, the JRA poster competition first and runner-up prize winners will be invited to represent the University of Sussex at the Posters in Parliament - an event that brings together the best undergraduate research from across the country. Posters in Parliament is traditionally held in Westminster around March.

As many JRAs have never designed an academic poster before, The Doctoral School organises workshops on how to create a research poster. You will be contacted with dates for the workshops, and you can also look at this site for a list of events. We strongly recommend that you attend this training.

What happens if my research doesn't go to plan?

Your research might not turn out the way you had hoped or planned, but that does not necessarily mean your project is a failure. Rather, this is part of the process of doing research, and it is important that you recognise this and learn how to deal with it. Acknowledging the limitations of your design and critically reflecting on them is a crucial skill for a professional researcher; often your reflections on what did not work so well can form a very valuable part of your final reports and summaries. That being said, we understand that other unforeseen problems may arise that might affect your ability to carry out your research. If something happens, don’t worry – there is a network of support at Sussex ready to help you. The SURO team, your JRA supervisor and the Student Life Centre will all have experience of handling these matters and will do their best to help you in any way they can.

What happens when my research is over?

Although this largely depends on the nature of your research project, as a JRA you are expected to seek out opportunities to further your research. The most common way of doing this is to continue your body of work into postgraduate study, but JRAs often undertake other activities designed to disseminate their findings. These could include joint publications, writing blogs or podcasts, and attending conferences and other University events.