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Summer Research Scholars (SRS), Student Experiential Learning Fellowship (SELF), and Signature Work Research Grants (SWRG) Frequently Asked Questions

December 2021

Table of Contents

What is the difference between SRS, SELF, and SWRG programs?

The quick answer is:


SRS:  SRS funds summer research stipends for UG students working as research assistants on a collaborative research project with a faculty mentor. SRS provides the funding for the student’s labor, and the SW mentor generally covers the costs of research materials and supplies. 

SELF:  SELF covers costs associated with doing an off-campus Experiential Learning (EL) activity related to a student’s SW. Most funding will be used to cover the cost of travel and accommodation, as well as visa/work permit expenses.

SWRG:  Provides funding to help defray research expenses for DKU student signature work projects The research may be the student’s independent research idea, or it may be related to a DKU faculty member’s research. For the latter, the grant application should explain why the additional funds from the SWRG program are needed. In most cases, for collaborative research, faculty are expected to cover the student’s research costs.


The long answer is:


The Summer Research Scholars program funds faculty-student collaborative research projects.  These projects are generally part of faculty’s research program. The program aids faculty in their research activities by providing undergraduate student researchers for whom the projects must be meaningful as well as educationally valuable. The student should be intellectually contributing to the project, playing a role similar to that of a graduate student. The SRS can count toward the student’s Experiential Learning requirement for SW and the research will generally contribute to the student’s SW project. The application is initiated by the faculty. Faculty apply for the funding, and the students then apply directly to the faculty. Some faculty may already have research students working with them.


The goal of SRS is to provide students and faculty mentors with a mutually beneficial research experience.


The Student Experiential Learning Fellowships program supports Experiential Learning (EL) for SW that is NOT directly connected to faculty’s research program. SELF generally covers the costs of participating in such activities as housing, travel, and visa/work permits. The projects are student-designed or student-arranged and generally take place off campus. Activities might include:


  • Research with faculty at another university, including Duke, Wuhan, Westlake, or government, private, or industrial facility
  • Internship, field work, volunteer work, any other experiential activity.


The student applies for SELF, with support from their SW mentor.


The goal of SELF is to provide students with funding to do an EL they would not otherwise be able to afford to do. Note that the SELF EL activity might be an EXPERIENCE rather than a research project.   That is fine, as long as it relates to the overall SW project. Coursework and credit-bearing activities are generally not covered. 


The Signature Work Research Grants (SWRG) are provided to help defray research expenses for DKU student signature work projects. The SW research grant makes funds available to purchase approved supplies and equipment (nondurable goods) for SW-related research projects. It may also be used to pay research participants in IRB-approved studies when appropriate. The research may be the student’s independent research idea, or it may be related to a DKU faculty member’s research. For the latter, the grant should explain why the additional funds from the SWRG program are needed. DKU will generally not provide research expenses for a student doing experiential learning with a non-DKU faculty. 


All three programs are competitive.


What does SRS fund?

SRS provides students with a summer stipend of up to 12,800 RMB (based on 40 RMB/hour, up to a maximum of 40 hours/week). It also provides housing in DKU accommodations (double occupancy room) if needed.* 

* We are still confirming whether DKU accommodation will be available in Summer 2022.

What doesn’t SRS fund?

SRS does NOT provide funding for research equipment and supplies. As the program provides the faculty with a research student free of charge to them, they are expected to use their own funding (external, research center, discretionary, start-up, etc.) to support the student’s research. If additional funding is necessary, the student may apply for a SWRG.

What does SELF fund?

SELF funds participation in EL activities related to a student’s SW. Generally, the student identifies and makes arrangements to do an EL activity off campus. The EL activity is not necessarily a whole research project or the full SW project itself; it can be a complementary experience that enhances or informs the greater SW project. The program can provide expenses up to 12,800 RMB to cover travel to the EL site (if not DKU or student’s home), local accommodation (if not DKU or student’s home), visa/work permit if needed. In some cases, the cost of commuting to the EL site might be provided with appropriate justification. In most cases, the EL supervisor is not DKU-affiliated. An affiliation letter from the host organization and/or EL supervisor should be provided as supporting documentation. Such a letter must confirm that the student will be allowed to carry out the project if it is funded. The EL supervisor should provide oversight of your work. Note that the SELF EL activity might be an EXPERIENCE rather than a research project. 

For students doing an EL activity within convenient commuting distance from Kunshan, SELF projects can provide housing in DKU accommodations (double occupancy room) if needed.*    

* We are still confirming whether DKU accommodation will be available in Summer 2022.

What doesn’t SELF fund?

SELF does not provide stipends, and it no longer funds equipment, supplies, cost of research participants, etc. Such costs are now covered under the SWRG program.   


SELF does not cover the cost of food or personal living expenses (such as laundry). The cost of daily commuting is generally not considered, but might be covered for appropriate situations (such as a case in which a student saves accommodation expenses by living at home/DKU but needs to commute longer distances (such as into Shanghai) as a result.)


SELF does not cover the costs of training programs or summer courses, nor does it cover the cost of housing in two locations at the same time.

How might I find a sponsor for an off-campus EL activity?

The second half of this SW presentation offers advice:  Planning for your SW Research Project – Video (Download) – Presentation PPT (Download) – Contact Letter Examples for Critique PDF (Download). You are also encouraged to reach out to Career Services.

How do I write a competitive SELF proposal?

We will be offering a Fellowships Workshop on writing a project proposal, most likely during session 4. Keep your eyes open for an announcement. In the meantime, the first half of this SW presentation offers advice on what to consider:  Planning for your SW Research Project – Video (Download) – Presentation PPT (Download) – Contact Letter Examples for Critique PDF (Download). A previous workshop on writing a project proposal is available for viewing here (Download) along with the PPT (Download).


You are also strongly encouraged to review the folder on Project Proposals in the Grad&Fellowships Sakai site, which contains a lot of useful materials on writing project proposals.



  1. Read the SELF call for proposals carefully. Pay particular attention to what it says about the description of the EL activity, the considerations that should be addressed in the application, and the review criteria.
  2. Consider your audience: The proposals will be reviewed by a team of faculty representing all 3 divisions, but they are not necessarily experts in your field.
  3. You have 2 pages, single spaced for your proposal. You should use this space to sufficiently explain your project and address everything requested. If your proposal is less than a page, it probably does not cover everything that is needed in sufficient detail.
  4. Clarify:
    • General description of the proposed EL and its relationship to your SW. Include the how, what, why, where, and when.
    • You should clearly state where you will be doing the activity and the dates, as well as who will be supervising you and their role.
    • What exactly will you be doing? Be as specific as possible. For an off-campus internship or EL activity, you might not know exactly what you will be doing, but you should describe how the experience fits in with your SW plan.
    • If you are doing a group SW project, you must explain your role.

Does my SW mentor need to review my SELF proposal?

Absolutely. Your SW EL activity must fit in with your SW plan, and it must be approved by your SW mentor. That is why a letter of recommendation from your SW mentor is required as part of your SELF application. Your SW mentor should read the proposal and provide you feedback to strengthen both your proposal and your project idea. This is part of the process and helps ensure that you are developing plans that both fit with your SW project and that have the appropriate level of academic rigor (But your mentor should ABSOLUTELY NOT write the proposal for you, nor should the EL supervisor.). In their letter, your SW mentor should be commenting on the feasibility of your proposal and your ability to carry it out.

Do I need to include citations in my SELF proposal?

While not strictly required, the majority of proposals will need to include citations. Just like any other form of writing, you must acknowledge original sources as well as ideas that are not your own. The background information – including conversations or materials provided by your SW mentor or EL supervisor – will require appropriate acknowledgement. If you are not sure how to appropriately cite sources in your discipline, please consult your SW mentor or the WLS. SELF proposals are held to the same academic integrity standards and policies as any other written work at DKU.

The SELF and SWRG applications ask me to justify my budget. What does that mean?

Your justification should include an explanation of what is needed (and how you came up with the amounts, if available).  For example:

  • Travel: airfare or train fare, based on CTrip
  • Accommodation costs: Please indicate city; estimated rent per day, week, or month; and time period. 
  • Equipment and supplies: Please include a breakdown of items. For example, rather than just stating “2,500 rmb for supplies,” you should include something like “1000 rmb for chemicals, reagents, and solvents, 750 rmb for specialized glassware not currently available at DKU, 500 rmb for chromatography supplies, 250 rmb for disposable items (syringes, pipets, etc.)”. If available, please include additional breakdown of the glassware and chemicals, reagents, and solvents. 

What if I am part of a group SW project? Do we all need to apply for SELF or SWRG?

The different participants in a group SW may or may not each need SELF or SWRG funding. For example, if more than one student is participating in an off-campus EL activity, they might each need money for travel. If they can share an apartment, they should each put in for 50% of the accommodation costs – which should be clearly indicated in the budget explanation. On the other hand, if they are not doing the same EL activity, they might not each need funding. 


For SWRG, the cost of any communal supplies and materials may be split amongst the team members’ applications or requested on one application, but the total amount requested by all team members may not exceed the total amount needed for the project and the same items cannot be requested in more than one application. The budget explanation should clearly indicate how funding is broken down across the group. 


The proposal should clearly indicate that the SW project is a group project, the role of each student in the SW project and the role of each student in the EL activity or research, if applicable.

What if I only need DKU housing in order to do my SW EL, but no other funding?*

That is great! You do not need to apply for SELF, but you will need to apply for DKU housing. Be on the lookout for information about a room assignment application from Residence Life ( that will open in mid-April and close at 5 pm on April 30, 2021.*

Will all SRS, SELF, and SWRG proposals be funded?

No. DKU has limited funding and all three programs are competitive. Please make sure to follow all directions here and on the SRS, SELF, and SWRG calls for proposals carefully. Your SW mentor and your EL supervisor (if applicable) should review your proposal before you submit it.

Can I still do my proposed activity if my SELF proposal is not funded?

Yes, absolutely! If your SW mentor has approved the EL for your SW project (which would have been required for SELF as well), then you may do the project or activity. The SELF program provides funding for the activity, but it is not an approval process for the actual EL activity itself  (It is up to your SW mentor to approve the activity.).  If you can do the project without SELF funding, then you are encouraged to do so. For example, other options to support EL activities include:

  • Self-funded
  • Other internal or external funding sources (research centers, etc.)
  • Funded by EL host
  • No funding required (e.g., commute from home)
  • If no funding is required other than DKU housing*, see question 12 above.

What is the difference between the SELF proposal and the SW proposal?

The SW project refers to the overall signature work process, encompassing the three thematic courses, experiential learning activity, two senior capstone courses, e-portfolio, planning and discussion with the signature work project Mentor, and creation of the Signature Work Product. The SW proposal will focus on the overall project, including the separate components. See the Signature Work Student Guide


The SELF program specifically provides funding for the experiential learning part of your SW project. While the overall SW project is relevant to the EL activity and the connection should be addressed, the SELF proposal should focus primarily on the EL activity itself, which is what is funded through the program. 



  • EL activity connects directly to SW product: For example, a student doing research off campus at Westlake University that is anticipated to lead to a senior thesis as the SW product. In this case, the SW proposal and the SELF might be more similar, as the research is an essential part of the SW. The SELF proposal should focus on the work to be done at Westlake, how it leads to the SW project, and the arrangements the student has made with Westlake to do the work there. It will likely have a lot of overlap with an explanation of the SW project itself.
  • EL activity complements SW project: For example, a global health/public policy student doing EL at the Kunshan CDC, to complement a research-based global health-related policy proposal as the SW product. In this case, the SW proposal and the SELF proposals will differ more. The SELF proposal should focus on the work to be done at the CDC, the nature of the arrangements, the plans for supervision, etc.  The proposal should describe the SW project and clearly state how the EL will contribute to or inform the SW project/product, but the focus should remain on the EL experience that will be supported by the SELF funding.