Sussex Undergraduate Research Office

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. We are currently updating these FAQs for the 2023 intake.

You may also find it helpful to watch the recording of the information session for the 2023 JRA scheme that was held on 13 February, to hear from previous JRA students and supervisors on the benefits of taking part.

Can my project be online, or in person?

Virtual JRA projects conducted online will be considered for the JRA scheme in 2023. If you'd like to undertake a JRA virtually this must be discussed with your potential supervisor and agreed before your application is submitted.

Due to the pandemic, it is possible that projects will have to be undertaken remotely if the situation changes before the summer. It's important that you consider how this will work for your project; your application must include a plan for switching to an online approach should that be required.

All research projects must abide by any University coronavirus health and safety regulations in place at the time.

Details of 2023 training and social events will follow. In 2022, training workshops took place online, with several in-person get-togethers on campus across the summer to meet and connect with other JRAs in the cohort.

Who can apply to the JRA programme?

The JRA scheme is open to undergraduate students interested in research from all Schools and subjects, including BSMS. It is open to both UK and international students at the University of Sussex.

Applicants must be in the middle year(s) of study on an undergraduate or integrated Masters course - first and final year students are not eligible.

If your degree includes a year abroad or industrial placement in the middle of your studies, it is for you to decide whether undertaking a JRA project before or after your time away would work best for you.

Can I undertake a JRA research project overseas?

It's unlikely that a JRA project would include work overseas, given the administration involved, for what is an intensive, short-term project. The IJRA scheme sends researchers to overseas partner institutions. See the IJRA webpage for more details.

Can I share a JRA research project with another student?

No, a joint research project with other students is not possible. A JRA is about individual research, giving you a feel for what postgraduate study would be like.

Can I get support with writing the research proposal or application?

The research proposal is a collaboration between the student and the supervisor. In some disciplines the supervisor may write the proposal, for example where the project is lab-based, but you will need to write an additional section on the context and impact of the proposed research (this is explained in more detail on the application form). For more help ask your School office or your potential supervisor. 

Examples of previous JRA applications can be found here, under Prepare a research proposal. If you have any further questions on the application having read through this website, please contact

How do I apply for the JRA programme?

A detailed breakdown of the JRA application process can be found on our Interested in Applying? page. We recommend that you take the time to read this fully and email with any further questions you might have. 

The application process is the same regardless of whether you are creating a new research project or joining an existing one. If you are joining an existing project your research proposal must include a new take that you will bring to the project. That is something to discuss with your proposed supervisor.

A JRA application includes four documents: an application form, a supervisor statement, an academic reference, and your CV. For more details and an application checklist see the JRA Application Pack webpage.

Can I come up with my own research project, or join an existing project?

You can propose your own research project or join an existing project that has been proposed by the potential supervisor - ask the School office, approach an academic, or see our webpage for a partial list

Some past JRAs have found it useful to approach a potential supervisor with a clearly developed and refined research proposal. This allows you to 'pitch' your idea to the academic. Alternatively, other past JRAs have approached potential supervisors with a looser idea of what they would like to study - a certain subject or key themes - and have asked for their advice. This allows the academic to ensure that the research also interests them and is something they feel comfortable supervising. 

How do I find a supervisor? How do I identify an existing research project?

See our Interested in Applying? page for advice on finding a supervisor and deciding on a research project. Our Guidelines for approaching a supervisor [PDF 154.32KB] will help. We don't take into account whether your proposed supervisor had a JRA student last year, and they don't need to have previous JRA experience. There is a Supervisors FAQs section on the website for JRA supervisors, which you could share with them. 

Some School offices may keep a list of research projects associated with specific academic staff who are open to supervising a JRA. You could contact them as well as approaching individual academics directly. A partial list of potential JRA projects will be available on this site once applications open and will be added to as Schools provide information.

What is a JRA mentor? How does a mentor differ from a supervisor?

A mentor is a PhD researcher who supports you during your JRA project. They will usually be based in the same School as your JRA supervisor, and may work in the same research area. 

They are not intended to replace your JRA supervisor, or to take on some of the supervisor's work in supporting you. 

Typically JRAs find a supervisor first then work together to identify a mentor. A mentor is optional but can be beneficial in providing additional support during your JRA project and in introducing you to the doctoral community, enriching your JRA experience.

Karolina Szpyrko, a doctoral researcher who mentored a JRA in 2021, wrote about her experiences for the Research Hive blog.

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. See our webpage for some examples by subject. Your proposed project can be focused in an area that is different to your current degree course, or be supervised by an academic in a different School.

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?

We are looking for students who are able to complete a research project successfully and with merit. JRA applications will be assessed on the following criteria:

  • The applicant's preparedness for research; 
  • The quality and impact of the research proposal;
  • The applicant's academic record, acknowledging any challenges they have had to overcome (as outlined in the optional Widening Participation Statement).

Download the JRA Selection Criteria 2023 [XLSX 13.49KB] in full.

We want to see high-quality, original research which will have significant benefits for the student and for the department within which the research is undertaken.

After the deadline, all applications are independently assessed by members of University faculty in the proposed supervisor's School. JRAs will be awarded by Schools in a process overseen by the Doctoral School.

What is the Widening Participation Statement?

We want the JRA scheme to benefit all students who are enthusiastic about a future in research, and who will carry out a successful research project with merit. We particularly want to make it accessible to students who might not otherwise be exposed to research or consider a research career. Inclusivity is important to us.

If you are from an underrepresented student group or have faced barriers to a positive student experience, the new optional Widening Participation Statement on the application form is a space for you to detail any challenges you have overcome and provide additional information in support of your application. 

This may include, but is not limited to, specific ethnic minority groups, students with a disability, mature students, care experienced students, estranged students and those with caring responsibilities (including student parents), forced migrant students, students from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, students from military service families, First Generation Scholars, LGBTQ+ students, and commuter students.

The Widening Participation Statement is entirely optional, but if you feel it applies to you then please fill it in. It will be considered by assessors when your application is reviewed.

How many students become JRAs each year?

This is hard to answer, as it changes each year and there isn't a fixed number of awards. Our 2022 cohort was 96 Sussex undergraduate Junior Research Associates, and it is likely that this year's cohort will be about the same.

Allocations of places will happen at School level. There is no restriction on the number of JRAs by department, and the size of your department has no bearing on the selection process. Contact your School office regarding specific allocations this year. 

How long does the scheme last?

Projects take place during the summer, for eight weeks, at any point between 5 June and 1 September 2023. The dates of your project are to be decided between you and your supervisor. You must commit to eight weeks and it can't be condensed into a shorter period. You can however take a break midway through the eight weeks, for example if your supervisor takes annual leave.

Once your project has ended there are still extra duties that need to be fulfilled. You will be required to make an academic poster summarising your research project, and to attend an exhibition at which this poster will be displayed. The poster must be submitted by 1 September 2023.

What is the JRA workload like?

JRA students are expected to work on their research full time for the entirety of their eight-week research project. We recognise that many JRAs will need to fit their research around a part-time job, but we expect you to treat the JRA as a full-time role.

What support is available for developing the research skills I need to do the project?

The training programme is part of the JRA scheme, with weekly sessions you are expected to attend online. This covers everything from planning and structuring your JRA project, critical thinking, note taking, academic writing and producing an academic poster.  Your supervisor is also there to support you and ensure you can conduct the research successfully - discuss with them while you're developing your proposal. If you feel that the pandemic has stopped you from gaining necessary skills e.g. working in a lab, talk to your proposed supervisor, a tutor or academic advisor about that as well.

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, and make a time commitment equivalent to a normal University working week. While 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 role.
  • act at all times in a responsible and professional manner.

Our JRA Terms and Conditions 2023 [DOCX 182.99KB] will give you a clear idea of how the scheme works and what is expected of you.

How much is the bursary, and when will I be paid?

Each JRA will receive a bursary of £1,800, paid in two installments of £900, to allow them to work full-time on their research. As a JRA, 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.

Alongside the £1,800 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 (i.e. a visit to an archive)
  • 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 As we need to see receipts for all items claimed, we can only reimburse you once the purchase has been made. See our webpage on claiming your expenses for more information.

For JRAs within the sciences, we will sometimes transfer the whole £200 to the supervisor at the beginning of the scheme. If your supervisor would like us to do this for your JRA project, they should email

Do I have to submit a poster, and why?

All JRAs are required to submit an A1 academic poster, portrait not landscape, 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. By 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 in October, 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. The 2022 ehxibition took place in October in Mandela Hall, Falmer House.

As many JRAs have never designed an academic poster before, we will organise workshops on producing research posters. You will be emailed with dates for the workshops and you could also keep an eye on this site for a list of events once they're scheduled. You are required to 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 project 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. The 2022 ehxibition took place in October 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) or the Dean of the Doctoral School who will select the best posters to compete in the final. The finalists will then be interviewed by the panel about their research, and the winners announced on the day of the exhibition.

Additionally, the first place and runner-up prize winners will be invited to represent the University of Sussex at 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; although Covid meant it was cancelled in 2021 and 2022.  Posters in Parliament will take place this year on Wednesday 24 May 2023.

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 keep an eye on this site for upcoming events. You are required to 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 Centre 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. 71% of 2021 JRA students intend to take their JRA research further.

Our aim is to encourage our JRAs to develop a body of ideas and interests which they can then develop throughout their future career. See our webpage on the JRA journey for more information.