• Distinguished Undergraduate Student researcher Kata Larsen works alongside Assistant Professor Andrea Etter to study the presence of Salmonella in backyard chickens.

The Distinguished Undergraduate Research (DUR) Award recognizes students who have demonstrated superior achievement in original research and as such, is one of the highest honors conveyed by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). Students receiving DUR awards are recognized in the UVM Commencement program.

Students interested in conducting significant, independent and scholarly research under the supervision of a faculty mentor are encouraged to consider applying to the DUR program. To be eligible for the award, students must complete the process outlined below. Awards are granted to students who have had their project-related work, written submissions and oral presentations evaluated and endorsed by both departmental faculty and the CALS Academic Awards Committee

It is important that students and faculty project advisors contemplating submission of projects for the DUR award become familiar with the following procedures and requirements before subimtting an application. Careful planning and attention to deadlines are essential.

DUR Timeline

DUR Timeline

  • Attend a DUR information session (Spring or Fall of junior year)
  • Identify a mentor (by Spring of junior year)
  • Identify project 
  • Identify a review committee
  • Develop a well-written proposal with aid of mentor and review committee
  • Submit DUR application:
    • Application form
    • Proposal
    • Mentor letter of support
  • Proposal will be reviewed by CALS Academic Award Committee
  • Defend Proposal (if required)
  • Resubmit the revised proposal (if required)
  • Conduct Research
  • Submit progress report
  • Submit thesis to reviewers
  • Give oral presentation to reviewers
  • Revise thesis as needed
  • Submit final DUR documents:
    • Final thesis
    • Signed DUR Thesis Cover Page
    • Student Reflection
    • Mentor letter of support

Each element of this timeline is explained further in the DUR Process section below.

The DUR Process

Step 1: Attend information session

Individual who wish to be participate in the DUR process are required to attend an information session that will describe the DUR process as well as address any questions or concerns the student may have.

DUR Process Powerpoint 

Step 2: Identify a mentor (by Spring of junior year)

Candidates must identify a willing mentor/advisor. The mentor is not required to be appointed within CALS. However, if the  mentor directly supervising the project work is neither CALS faculty nor CALS adjunct faculty, the student must also identify a CALS faculty member who will serve on the students Review Committee. (See Step 2 below for review Committee information) NOTE: UVM associated faculty in the LCOM are eligible to be mentor/advisors for DUR projects.

Step 3: Identify project

Outline an appropriate project with guidance from the identified mentor. The project should be significant and challenging, yet doable within the allotted timeframe. The student must take ownership of the project and demonstrate a significant level of independence.

Step 4: Identify your Review Committee

Together with guidance from the project mentor, the student must identify, contact and confirm, a total of three individuals who will serve as the Review Committee for the DUR project. The student’s project mentor will be one member of the Review Committee.

Of the three members of the Review Committee, 2 must be UVM (includes LCOM) faculty and one of those two must be a CALS faculty and/or CALS adjunct faculty member. The third member of the Review Committee may be another UVM (includes LCOM) faculty member, a community member who has been involved with mentoring the student during completion of the project or an individual from another college/university who has expertise in the area of the project materials. In the event that a community member or non UVM expert is the third member of the Review Committee the student will be asked to supply a brief statement (2-3 sentences) as to the individual’s qualifications/expertise to be on the committee.

Reviewers must review both the written DUR thesis (outlined below) and the oral presentation by the student (outlined below). Students should confirm with reviewers the expectations for timeline 1) of submission of the written document to the individual reviewers as well as 2) that reviewers will submit comments back to students (see Step 13).

Step 5: Develop a well-written proposal with aid of mentor and review committee

The proposal is to be no more than 6 pages (excluding references and figures or tables), double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font, with 1-inch margins on all sides. Please include page numbers. Submit as a Word document. A formal project proposal must describe the research or creative/design project being considered for DUR honors. Research project proposals will include:

  • A title,
  • A clearly identified hypothesis or central research question,
  • A short (no more than 2-page) background section with key literature references (at least 8 references and no more than 15 references),
  • A succinct statement or list of objectives,
  • A detailed description of the methods to be used for data collection (i.e., laboratory methods, interviews, focus groups, participant observations, etc., as appropriate) and analysis (including statistical and bioinformatics methods),
  • A statement outlining expected results or outcomes,
  • A statement outlining some potential pitfalls or weaknesses of the proposed methods or approaches, and
  • The anticipated timeline for completion.

Step 6: Complete DUR Application

The application form requests the student’s contact information, mentor’s contact information, project title, evidence that the project is active, the target journal or outlet for the work, and signatures of the student and mentor(s).

If IRB review or exemption is required prior to conducting the work, this should be noted as well. It is very important for candidates to understand that there is a significant amount of time required in the process of obtaining IRB approval. In some cases approval can take weeks or even months with more complex projects.

The journal or outlet selected as the target for publication should reflect the scope and aims of the work. The mentor or mentors must sign the application.

Download DUR application

Step 6a: Contact your mentor for a letter of support

Contact your faculty mentor/advisor to request that they write a letter of support for your DUR proposal. The mentor’s letter must indicate that the proposal has been reviewed and is ready for submission and explain (1) the level of independence the student will have conducting the project, (2) the contribution of the proposed project to the field of study, (3) why the project has the potential to earn DUR honors, and (4) the probability the project will result in (or contribute to) a peer-reviewed publication. If your mentor/advisor is not a CALS faculty or CALS adjunct faculty member you must also supply a letter of support from your CALS mentor/advisor.

Step 6b: Submit DUR application

Prepare your DUR application as a single PDF file entitled: 

YOURNAME_DURproposal (replace YOURNAME with your last name) which you will email directly to the CALS Dean’s Office (calsstudentservices@uvm.edu).

Your complete DUR application must include the following items:

  1. DUR Application document (Outlined in Step 6 above)
  2. DUR proposal (Outlined in Step 5 above)
  3. Mentors letter of support (Outlined in Step 6a above)

Step 7: Proposal will be reviewed by CALS Academic Award Committee

Proposals will be reviewed thoroughly by the CALS Academic Awards Committee. Someone will reach out to you if a defense of the proposal is needed. 

Step 7a: Defend proposal (If needed)

Following the submission of your application, you may be asked to defend your research proposal orally with CALS Academics Awards Committee. If this defense is needed students will be contacted within one month of their DUR proposal submission to set up a time to talk with members of the CALS Academic Awards Committee for 15 minutes. Students should be prepared to give an overview of their project and answer questions about their objectives, methods or approaches, timeline for completion and any problems encountered or anticipated.

It is strongly recommended that IRB approval has been received (or is pending) at the time of the proposal defense.

The Committee determines whether the proposed project should continue to be considered for DUR honors and may ask for clarifications to be submitted. Students will be notified of the Committee’s decision within two weeks of the student’s oral proposal defense.

Step 7b: Resubmitting Revised Proposal (If needed)

In the decision email sent by the Committee (outlined in Step 7a), any revisions required by the Committee will be outlined, as well as the deadline for DUR proposal resubmission (this resubmission deadline is also posted on in the sidebar of this webpage).

In most instances, students may be asked to supply short answers to questions/clarifications. If a student is asked to submit a revised DUR proposal, the application form and mentor letter do not need to be included in the resubmission. Revised proposals should be submitted as a PDF document. Please name this file as:

YOURNAME_DURresubmission (replace YOURNAME with your last name)

If the revised DUR proposal is deemed acceptable by the Committee, the student may continue with the DUR process. If additional clarifications are needed, the student must submit these by a date specified by the Committee or the student will be disqualified from consideration for DUR honors.

Step 8: Conduct research

This is the part of the process where you conduct or complete the proposed work. Students should be assured that the research/creative process is not without unexpected bumps, twists and turns. What is important is how these challenges are handled. The student should take the lead on finding or suggesting possible solutions to problems. Sometimes a new approach will succeed. Sometimes success will continue to be elusive within the available time frame. See “What if I don’t complete the research I proposed” in the FAQ below for further discussion of how unforeseen situations may be handled.

Step 9: Provide update of research progress

Provide an update of your research progress the next semester. This is due early in the semester you intend to complete your DUR project and should be submitted to the CALS Dean’s Office (calsstudentservices@uvm.edu). Refer to the deadlines in the sidebar of this webpage.

Students shall supply the following information at the time of submitting their update:

  • Confirmation of the student’s name and email address,
  • The title of the project,
  • 1-2 paragraph update that indicate progress in meeting objectives and if any problems have been encountered,
  • Names of your Review Committee (See Step 4 above for details of Review Committee),
  • Proposed date of your DUR presentation (See Step 12 below).

Step 10: Draft a thesis or complete the creative work

Draft a thesis or complete the creative work for publication. Students are required to adhere to the “guidelines for authors” of the target journal for submission format, including length limits and inclusion of tables and figures. For a creative work, it should be appropriate for the target outlet. Completion of this thesis should be done in accordance with the timeline that the student and mentor have agreed on, and any deviations from the timeline should be done in consultation with the faculty mentor.

Step 11: Submit final draft of DUR thesis to reviewers

Reviewers should receive a copy of the student’s DUR thesis at least one week before the scheduled presentation, and reviewers may request additional time (this should be agreed upon when confirming reviewers in Step 4). Reviewers may choose to provide their review of the student’s written work to the student before his/her oral presentation, or may choose to submit their review at the time of the oral presentation (see Step 4 regarding setting up timelines).

Step 12: Schedule and present an oral presentation

Students must work with their faculty mentors to set up a day/time to present their DUR work to a public audience. This presentation should be scheduled to be completed at least one week before the DUR final submission deadline (final submission deadline is posted in the sidebar of this webpage).

The faculty mentor, as well as the two confirmed reviewers, will judge the presentation for quality and professionalism. Students must video-tape the oral presentation (can be done via smart device or by video recording software available in the department) and email this presentation to any mentors/reviewers that are unable to attend the seminar. Content, organization, delivery, and handling of questions and answers will factor into their evaluation.

The student presentation should be at least a 12-minute presentation with time for questions after the presentation. Note that many departments already have a system in place to schedule a department-wide “DUR presentation” session, while some do not have a department-wide system in place and students/mentors must organize a presentation.

Students are encouraged, but not required, to present their work at the campus-wide Student Research Conference in April.

Step 13: Revise DUR thesis as needed

Students must discuss revisions that the reviewers suggest with their faculty mentor, and make any required changes to their written DUR thesis. Once the edited thesis is approved by the mentor and reviewers, the mentor and reviewers must sign the DUR Thesis Cover page.

Step 14: Final Submittal

Congratulations! You are almost there.... Students shall submit the following materials to the CALS Dean’s Office (calsstudentservices@uvm.edu) by the final project deadline:

  1. A copy of the final draft of the thesis that has incorporated all changes suggested by the Review Committee,
  2. A properly signed DUR Thesis Cover Page,
  3. A 1-2 page Student Reflection  (See below for details),
  4. A letter of support from the project mentor/adviser (See below for details).

Student reflection paper should be 1-2 pages in length (double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font, with 1-inch margins on all sides) and should describe the degree of independence in designing and carrying out the project and in preparing the final paper or product. If challenges were encountered, how were these addressed? The student should also indicate what was personally gained from the project – in terms of knowledge, skills, self-awareness, personal development, or future goals. Please submit all documents as one PDF file, and name the file as YOURNAME_DURfinal (replace YOURNAME with your last name).

Letter of support from mentor/adviser for the project should describe the overall performance of the student, the degree of independence exercised by the student and the nature of the supervision provided during the course of the project and in preparing the final paper or product.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the timeline for the DUR process?

Refer to the schedule posted in the sidebar of this webpage. You should follow the schedule based on the semester when your final project will be submitted.

Who is the Chair of the Academic Awards Committee?

Refer to the chairperson listed for the CALS Academic Awards Committee on the CALS Committees webpage.

Where do I submit my proposal, update, paper and letters of endorsement?

To the CALS Dean’s Office (calsstudentservices@uvm.edu) by 4 PM of the deadline date. All communications should go through CALS Dean’s Office.

How independent is independent?

Research is never done in a vacuum. A student research project will rely on the work of past researchers and collaboration with current researchers. The idea for your project does not have to be original (although it could be). The project idea could come from your faculty mentor, and be a project she or he has had in mind for some time. You should develop the ideas for your project by working with your faculty mentor and other faculty and interested persons. Use these people as resources for figuring out how you will approach your project (how to hone hypotheses, develop experimental or qualitative tests, decide on data to collect and statistical procedures to use). This project is your project, not your faculty mentor's, so you do need to demonstrate how you did most of the data collection or data organization and analysis. Questions about the appropriateness of a project or the degree of independence may be directed to the Academic Awards Committee Chairperson.

What if I don’t complete the research I proposed?

Quite often progress on a research project does not occur as quickly as one thought it would. This is the very nature of research; new questions are being asked, novel techniques or protocols are being developed and unforeseen problems occur. What is important is how you approach and deal with these difficulties. Since this is your research project, you should be suggesting or providing possible solutions to your mentor to surmount these problems. The Committee will be looking at how your mentor and department faculty felt about your progress and the handling of any problems in their letters of endorsement. In your final paper and oral presentation you may propose solutions to the encountered problems and explain the importance of the future experiments and results in advancing your area of study.

Can I get an extension if I was planning to defend in the fall, but my project isn’t as far along as I expected?

Yes, such an extension can be requested when submitting the early semester update to the Chair of the Academic Awards Committee. If the extension is granted, all deadlines for the following semester must be met. Please note that DUR submissions are typically done in a student’s senior year.

What is the role of the faculty endorsing final papers?

Faculty members not directly involved with the project, but capable of evaluating its quality critically, should be selected to review and endorse the final paper or product. Faculty reviewers may recommend revisions. When the paper or product is judged to be of outstanding quality, each faculty member will sign off on the thesis cover page and submit their endorsement to the CALS mentor prior to the final paper submission deadline.

What if my project is not granted DUR honors by the CALS Academic Awards Committee?

If a student wishes to appeal the decision of the Academic Awards Committee, it is their right to do so through a formal letter of appeal to the Associate Dean. The Associate Dean will evaluate input from the student and the Academic Awards Committee. It is not appropriate for faculty to appeal this process or advocate for their students, unless requested by the Associate Dean. The decision by the Associate Dean may be appealed to the Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. For information, contact the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean's Office at (802) 656-2980.

Important Materials

Download DUR Application

Download DUR Thesis Cover Page



Spring 2024: 

  • Project proposal submission by Friday, September 8, 2023, by 4:00 p.m. ET
  • Resubmissions by Friday, October 6, 2023, 4:00 p.m. ET
  • Update of the research project and identification of Review Committee members by Friday, February 2, 2024, 4:00 p.m. ET
  • Final papers and letters by Friday, April 26, 2024, 4:00 p.m. ET

Fall 2023: 

  • Project proposal submitted by Friday, April 7, 2023 by 4:00 p.m. ET
  • Resubmissions by Friday, May 5, 2023 by 4:00 p.m. ET
  • Update of research project by Friday, September 22, 2023 by 4:00 p.m. ET
  • Final papers and letters by Friday, November 17, 2023 by 4:00 p.m. ET

All DUR materials should be submitted to calsstudentservices@uvm.edu.



Questions should be directed to the Academic Awards Committee Chairperson. For additional questions, contact calsstudentservices@uvm.edu or call 802-656-2980.