Guidelines for proposal review


Goals of the Program:

Since 1992, we have received funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in support of our Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program.The goals of our program are to:

  • Support the research activities of talented undergraduates under the direct supervision of a faculty mentor, and 
  • Allow students to experience the investigative process and demonstrate their aptitude for research, to develop a close collaboration with a faculty mentor, and to strengthen the conviction of the student's career choice.

Instructions for Evaluators: 

The HHMI Undergraduate Research Fellowship program description provides details on the scope of the award, qualifications expected of applicants and required application materials. Please familiarize yourself with these before reviewing the proposals.

In the email containing the link to this website, you should have also received a link to the wiki where the files are located and a list of names of the students whose proposals you are to evaluate. Each applicant has a separate section of the site containing all their application materials (application forms, proposal narratives, letters of support, etc.) in Portable Document Format (.pdf). You will need to log in to the wiki using the username and password found in the email.

After reviewing the materials for a given student, fill out an online evaluation form.

  • From the first dropdown menu, choose the applicant you wish to evaluate. The proposals are listed by student name. 
  • Type your name in the Reviewer box. 
  • Evaluate the applicant by assigning a score to each of several categories. The scores range from "poor" to "outstanding." I recognize that these are all very qualified, motivated students, but please try to use the full range of scores rather than marking everyone outstanding. If you do not feel comfortable assigning a score for a particular category, you can leave it blank. General guidelines and considerations for each category are provided below. 
    1. Quality of the Proposal
      1. Significance of proposed research
        Is the project likely to make a significant contribution to the particular area of science and to the research program(s) of the faculty mentor? (You may wish to weight the benefit to the student more heavily than the benefit to the mentor's program. Some mentors have commented that many of the students are well prepared to carry out independent research, but for others this project may be their first opportunity to conduct independent research.) Projects that involve replicating previously conducted work, are primarily descriptive rather than being hypothesis driven, or where the student's role is ambiguous are not encouraged.
      2. Feasibility of proposed research
        Is the project feasible using the methods described in the proposal? Are the data being collected capable of answering the research question posed? Can the research proposed be completed within the time frame of the fellowship? Does the student have the necessary technical skills to carry out the project (or have sufficient mentoring to learn those technical skills)?
      3. Clarity and organization of proposal
        Is the proposal clearly written and logically organized? Is it clear that the student understands the conceptual basis for the research problem and the techniques being used? Are there clearly articulated goals/hypotheses? The proposal should be authored by the student. Ideally, the mentor will have provided guidance regarding theoretical and experimental background, and have made editorial suggestions. 
      4. Adequacy of mentor support
        Is there strong support of the student from the faculty mentor? Is there evidence of an ongoing (or potential) positive interaction between the faculty member and the student? All other things being equal, we generally favor students who have had a semester or two of experience in the lab where they propose to conduct their fellowship research.
    2. Benefits to Student
      1. Impact of the research on the student's professional development
        Will the project help fulfill the goals of the student, especially by providing an opportunity to prepare for graduate studies, careers in biomedical research and education, or medical practice? How important is receiving the fellowship to the successful completion of the project? Is the project of sufficient duration to allow the student to experience the full scope of the research process? In this regard, proposals from seniors entering their final semester are a lower funding priority than those from students who will have two or more semesters to devote to their fellowship research. 
      2. Demonstrated academic achievement
        Evidence of superior academic achievement based on the student's GPA, curriculum completed, rigor of completed coursework and previous research experience (especially that under the guidance of the proposed mentor).  
    3. Overall Evaluation

      After considering the project, the student's academic credentials and the student's long-term goals, indicate whether the proposal is (1) outstanding (highest priority for HHMI support), (2) good (next highest priority for HHMI support), (3) not ready (in need of revision and resubmission for the next funding cycle) or (4) not fundable. To help you in rating the proposals, it may be helpful to know that based upon our current level of funding we expect to fund about 40% of the applicants. Those that don't receive HHMI funding will have high priority  for Maryland Summer Scholars awards.


      Please provide feedback to the student, especially if you felt the application had areas of weakness.The names of reviewers will not be disclosed to the applicant, but applicants whose proposals are not funded may request a summary of these comments to assist them in preparing resubmissions.

      We would also appreciate your assessment of the appropriateness of the budget. Funds may be requested for a student stipend ($1,500 per semester and $3,000 for summer, up to $6,000 for the fellowship year) and research expenses (up to $1,000). When evaluating the budget, please consider whether the request for reimbursement of research expenses is reasonable and adequately justified. Research funds cannot be used as reimbursement for travel to scientific meetings or as reimbursement for research that was completed prior to the award. Travel to scientific meetings is accommodated under a separate program (Capstone Research Presentations), for which all HHMI fellows are eligible.
  • Finally, don't forget to click on the "Submit" button at the bottom of the page. To submit another review, return to the online evaluation form.


    Need Help?

    If you have any questions about the use of thisform or accessing the application information, please contact Dr. KaciThompson (; X52160).