How Project Teams Work

Bass Connections project teams bring together faculty, postdocs, graduate students, undergraduates and community partners to tackle complex societal challenges in interdisciplinary research teams that generally work together over nine to 12 months.

How Project Teams Are Formed

Faculty propose the research topics by submitting a proposal (our call for proposals runs from early September through to the first week of November each year). Staff and graduate students are also invited to partner with faculty on proposals. Project teams generally include at least two leaders, with additional faculty/staff often joining as team contributors. Projects should be:

  • Interdisciplinary
  • Vertically integrated (have opportunities for engagement across learner levels including undergraduate and graduate students working alongside faculty)
  • Engaged in research around societal challenges.

Each year, we select between 50 and 60 proposals for funding. Our 58 2018-2019 project teams include more than 150 faculty and staff leaders, 120 faculty and staff contributors, 400 undergraduate students and 130 graduate students.

Many teams also include community partners such as private companies, school systems, international NGOs and U.S. or international government entities.

How Students Join Project Teams

Graduate and undergraduate students apply to join a team through our application process, which generally runs from the third week of January through mid-February of each year. Team leaders review all student applications and form an interdisciplinary research team based on the needs of the particular project.

Students receive academic credit for participating during the school year or stipends/travel funding if the team includes a summer component. Academic credit is typically in the form of a one-credit independent study or special topics course per semester.

Every project team is structured differently, and operates differently, based on the goals and objectives of the team’s research. While teams vary in size, the average team includes about nine students with a ratio of about one graduate student for every four undergraduates. Graduate students often take on leadership roles such as serving as a project manager, leading specific segments of the work or managing the production of a major deliverable such as a documentary, exhibition, paper or event.

How Project Teams Operate

Once teams are formed in the spring, the work generally begins in the summer or with the start of the next academic year in the fall. Some projects start in the summer through a connected Data+ or Story+ team.

During the academic year, teams meet at least once a week. Project teams are expected to be more than a collection of individuals working in parallel. Instead, they should foster dynamic collaboration in which all members are exposed to the diverse aspects of each project and work together toward shared goals. Larger teams often divide into sub-teams, which meet more frequently than the entire team. Other teams operate as a full unit throughout the year.

While topics are wide-ranging, all projects should provide students and faculty the opportunity to struggle collectively with a complex problem and produce meaningful deliverables. Outputs may take several forms, including published reports and articles, curated exhibitions, datasets to spur further research, marketable services or commodities and strategic solutions for community needs.

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