Carnegie Mellon University

Community-Based Research-to-Practice Program


Student Proposals due Wednesday, April 20, 2022 (11:59 pm EST)
Faculty Letter of Recommendation Upload Due: Sunday, April 24, 2022 (11:59 pm EST)
Decisions Announced Late April

The Research-to-Practice grant awards $5000 to undergraduates at Carnegie Mellon for 8-10 FULL-TIME weeks of summer research that positively impacts the Greater Pittsburgh Region community.

The Community-Based Research-to-Practice Program offers a limited number of financial awards for qualified undergraduates sponsored by the Center for Shared Prosperity (CSP). CSP is borne from efforts to reduce barriers to equitable prosperity in the Pittsburgh region while working to build healthier relationships between institutions and the communities of which they are a part. Research-to-Practice projects are strongly encouraged to be developed in partnership with local community-based organizations, and all projects must be for the benefit of our Greater Pittsburgh Region.

Who is eligible to apply

  • Open to current undergraduates (including freshmen) in degree-granting programs at Carnegie Mellon. Student must be planning to be enrolled full-time during the Fall semester after your fellowship. Students who are graduating in May 2022 are not eligible, whether or not they are continuing on to graduate school at Carnegie Mellon.
  • Students must be in good standing at the university (not on academic or disciplinary probation or suspension).
  • Preference will be given to students who are physically located in Pittsburgh to work on their project (ideally, students are able to be present with their community partners), but we recognize that this is not always possible and location will not be prohibitive to receiving the grant. Additional considerations for COVID will be taken into account.
  • This grant is considered to be full-time (37.5 hr/week). Students may hold other jobs during the grant period, but this must not interfere with your full-time hours of research and responsibilities to community partners. If you plan to work in addition to your research hours, you cannot have another position within Carnegie Mellon University, as working over 40 hours per week at CMU would throw you into overtime status, and we are not able to pay overtime hours. Additionally, students are discouraged from pursuing credit-bearing work (including TA/instructor work) during the period of their Research-to-Practice program. If a student has a compelling reason for taking a summer course, it should not interfere with the Research-to-Practice program. Contact Jessica Kaminsky ( if you will need to enroll in credit-bearing work during your Research-to-Practice program period.

Can this be an individual or group application?

  • This can be an individual or group application. Because these projects are accountable to our regional community, it is important to gauge what is doable and manageable. A detailed accounting of task/ responsibility delineation should accompany a group proposal.

How much support is available?

  • $5000 stipend per individual student. For group projects, this amount would be awarded to each student (groups are suggested not to exceed 5 students).
  • The award is subject to all applicable taxes. Students will not be compensated from CSP beyond the $5000 maximum or beyond the established 300-hour maximum.
  • Housing is not provided with the Research-to-Practice grant. Information on summer housing is available here.

What is the grant period?

  • Projects will take place primarily in the summer, but may also start during the summer and extend into the academic year. However, projects may not extend beyond the 8-10 week timeframe.

What is Research-to-Practice?

  • Connecting universities to communities and communities to universities.
  • Recognizing that universities are part of a community ecosystem, therefore universities have a responsibility to ensure a community where everyone can thrive.
  • Breaking down barriers between researchers and practitioners, and acknowledging that expertise comes in many forms and from many ways of knowing.

How should project ideas be developed?

  • Students are invited to create their own projects, inspired by their interests, talents, and demonstrating an understanding of regional needs (however, you must have a faculty mentor who will oversee the work and advise). We expect these project ideas to either be instigated or further developed in direct collaboration with local community organizations, individuals, or issue-based efforts.
  • Students may also propose a project that is part of a larger faculty research endeavor but will need to demonstrate how their unique perspective benefits the research-to-practice grant and greater community.
  • The project must address the following questions (in the application and additional page):
  • What issues are you addressing? What work has already been done to address these issues (with an emphasis on local efforts)?
  • Why is your personal and/or CMU’s expertise (expertise can be defined expansively) important to addressing these issues? How is this complimentary to the expertise of your community partners?
  • How will you evaluate your work? Exactly how have you or will you engage with local communities and/or community organizations in pursuing this work?
  • How will this exemplify CSP’s values (defined on the CSP website) of compassion, collaboration, and community?

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

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

What are community-based organizations?

  • They are owned and managed by people in the Greater Pittsburgh Region.
  • They have a mission to improve the region for all peoples.
  • Examples of community-based organizations 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.

What are the 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.
  • Students will also be required to share their research findings with the relevant community partners.

How to find faculty mentors:

Faculty members can help co-design your project in addition to providing mentorship. The following faculty members have agreed to be contacted directly by students regarding this opportunity, but you may also request an introduction by Professor Illah Nourbakhsh for an introduction (see below).

Faculty engaged in university-community research-to-practice include the following:

  • Randy Sargent, School of Computer Science
  • Melisa Orta Martinez, Robotics Institute
  • Kevin Jarbo, Social and Decision Sciences
  • John Zimmerman, Human Computer Interaction Institute
  • Illah Nourbakhsh, Robotics Institute
  • Dina El-Zanfaly, School of Design
  • Joanna Dickert: Assistant Dean for Educational Experience Assessment
  • Sera Linardi (, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs & School of Computing and Informaition, University of Pittsburgh

All other 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 (

Grant Acceptance:

By accepting a Research-to-Practice grant, you are agreeing to:

  • Participate in SLICE & CSP’s “Intro to Community Engagement” training in Canva.
  • Attend 2-3 meetings with CSP staff and fellow research grant recipients.
  • Write a short reflective piece upon completion of the research project.