Carnegie Mellon University

Community-Based Research-to-Practice Program


Proposals due Monday, May 17, 2021

The Community-Based Research-to-Practice Program offers a limited number of financial awards for qualified undergraduates sponsored by a new center dedicated to broadening university-community collaborative innovation to enact progress on issues of equity, justice, and shared prosperity in the greater Pittsburgh region.  

Students interested in research-to-practice engagement with local communities, in collaboration with their CMU research mentor, may apply (we encourage applications from individual students, as well as groups of two or more). The project must

  • assess community need in Carnegie Mellon’s geographic footprint of southwestern Pennsylvania; 
  • establish research-based methods for co-designing innovative solutions with the community; 
  • and lay out a clear process for piloting and evaluating the solutions within the community. 

What is Research-to-Practice?

  • Connecting Universities to Communities and communities to universities
  • Ensuring that the research in the universities makes its way to decision makers and is tested on-the-ground with direct community engagement or with engagement with community-based organizations.
  • Putting local community betterment at a the center of the university’s mission
  • Breaking down barriers between researchers and practitioners

What locale and set of issues fits the parameters of this research program?

  • This program is designed to address pressing issues that are impacting the local Western Pa region such as:  the environment, education, health and wellness, food insecurity, housing, transportation, among others.

What are examples of community organizations?

  • Community organizations already directly engaged with the center, which serve as good potential community partners, include Urbankind Institute, ACCAN, Lawrenceville United, Poise Foundation, GASP, Homewood Children’s Village, Gwen’s Girls, North Braddock Residents for Our Future, Take Action Mon Valley, New Sun Rising, and many others.

Who is eligible to apply

  • Open to current undergraduates at Carnegie Mellon; students who are graduating in May 2021 are not eligible, whether or not they are going on for a Masters program at Carnegie Mellon.

How to find faculty mentors

Faculty already associated with the center and engaged in university-community research-to-practice include the following. You can contact them directly or ask Professor Illah Nourbakhsh for an introduction (see below):

  •  Kristin Hughes, School of Design: Night Owl Bakers and other community entrepreneurship and nutrition programs.
  •  Mary-Lou Arscott, School of Design: Night Owl Bakers
  •  Nico Slate, Department of History: Engagement with Wilkinsburg and other local communities around cultural history.
  •  Joe Trotter, Department of History: CAUSE and the analysis of need for reparations for past injustice to vulnerable populations.
  •  Randy Sargent, School of Computer Science: Direct engagement of local high school students for internship summers at CMU.

If you have a project in mind and are looking for faculty willing to mentor you and help refine your project concept, you can contact the above list. In addition, the following faculty are happy to mentor and co-create your project direction:

  • Melisa Orta Martinez, Robotics Institute
  •  Kevin Jarbo, Social and Decision Sciences
  •  John Zimmerman, Human Computer Interaction Institute
  •  Illah Nourbakhsh, Robotics
  •  Kristen Kurland, School of Architecture
  •  Dina El-Zanfaly, School of Design
  •  Amy Ogan, Human Computer Interaction Institute

All Carnegie Mellon faculty who are doing work that falls under the Research-to-Practice umbrella are eligible.  If there are faculty who are interested and may have questions regarding how their research fits with the overall mission, please contact:  Illah Nourbakhsh.

What if I want to come up with my own project?

  • This is certainly possible and encouraged.  All students, whether their project is self-initiated or part of a larger faculty research endeavor, must have a faculty mentor who will oversee the work and advise the student(s).

Can this be an individual or group application?

  • This can be an individual or group application.  These projects will require a great deal of infrastructure and relationship building with community partners, so it is important to gauge what is doable and manageable.

How much support is available?

  • $3500 stipend per individual student  

What is the grant period?

  • Projects will take place primarily in the summer, but may also extend into the academic year.

What are requirements for those who are funded?

  • All students funded through this program will present their research and findings at the annual campus-wide research symposium, Meeting of the Minds, held in early May each year.