Mentor Awards


Dr. Elaine Drew (standing) Kevin Huo, Fiona Fadum and Jason Kells (L-R)

Faculty, research staff, staff, and graduate students from all UAF-affiliated campuses are invited to apply for URSA Mentor Awards. This award is an opportunity for mentors to receive funding to engage undergraduate students on their current research and creative projects. Awarded proposals will clearly describe a project with a distinguished mentoring plan for undergraduate students involved.

This year, URSA will offer a Spring 2025 and a Summer 2025 award.

  • Applicants are required to identify at least one eligible undergraduate student upon awarding. 
  • Funds may be used towards an undergraduate student fellowship, undergraduate student tuition (up to 4 credits for a course related to the project), travel to a fieldwork location, supplies, or services.
Mentor and student painting in the snow
Spring 2025 Award

  • Funding maximum: $3,000
  • Accepting applications September 30 - November 3, 2024.
  • Reflection due and funds must be spent by April 27, 2025.

Mentor with two students holding rocks in the lab
Summer 2025 Award

  • Funding maximum: $6,000
  • Funds will be assigned to FY25 and FY26.
  • Reflections will be due August 20, 2025.

Application Schedule

Mentor Award Flyer
CEM students work together on a project
Students, Jenni Klebesadel, Apryle Collison, and Heather McKenzie (L-R), workshop a solution for the incubation box. Photo by JR Ancheta.

Ben Barst, 2022 Mentor Awardee
Institute of Northern Engineering/ Water and Environmental Research Center

Dr. Barst worked with three undergraduate students to develop a field-deployable Pacific salmon embryo monitoring system, that records water temperature and takes and stores pictures of developing Pacific salmon embryos over the course of many months. The incubation box is currently being tested in the lab before being tested in the field under much harsher environmental conditions. The group is now working together to publish the description of this device so that other researchers may use it to help monitor early life stage development of Pacific salmon in a variety of contexts. 

"I  would recommend mentoring undergraduates. I think undergraduates have a lot to offer towards research at UAF. They are excited to transition from coursework and foundational knowledge to doing research. Tapping into that excitement is a great way to move a project forward, all while creating a positive experience for an early career researcher."


Mentor Courtney Skaggs meets with her undergraduate student, Ayden Harris, at the 2023 RCA Day.
Mentor Courtney Skaggs meets with her undergraduate student, Ayden Harris, at the 2023 RCA Day. Photo by Eric Marshall.

Courtney Skaggs, 2022 Mentor Awardee
Department of English

Under this proposal, Courtney established a mentorship program between undergraduate and graduate students within the Department of English. Through participation in this new mentorship program, undergraduates interested in pursuing a career in creative writing or literary publishing were invited to shadow the Editor-in-Chief of Permafrost, received guidance on graduate school applications and job searches, and attended the annual Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference. 

Dr. Sikes' undergraduates presenting a poster at RCA Day.
Students, Razan Yousif, Luke Lawson, and Lucy White (L-R), present a poster at the 2023 RCA Day. Photo by Eric Marshall.


Derek Sikes, 2022 Mentor Awardee
University of Alaska Museum of the North

Alaska is a high priority region for bioinventory because of its rapidly changing climate and unique biogeographic past. During the most recent glacial maximum much of Alaska remained an ice-free glacial refugium. This likely explains the hundreds of endemic arthropod species in Alaska (species known only from Alaska). Under this proposal, 3 students prepared a 96-well plate to ship tissues to the Canadian Centre for DNA Barcoding. Specimens were prepared and archived following UA Museum Insect Collection protocols and the resulting DNA sequences were analyzed to test the prediction that St. Paul will have a high proportion of unique DNA barcodes.

"The URSA mentor award experience was very helpful in connecting me to some bright undergrads to help accomplish some exciting research... I would definitely recommend URSA mentor awards to my peers for this reason. The students all learned new skills and I expect they are better equipped for their future career paths."