My GCURS Experience: Application Tips and Tricks

By: Carly Graverson. Carly provides you with an exclusive look into the process of applying for Rice's undergraduate research symposium.

A 2022 GCURS Presentation

In 2019, I was a senior undergraduate student in a small town in Illinois when I received an email from someone at Rice University in Houston, TX inviting me to apply to the “Gulf Coast Undergraduate Research Symposium.” Having never heard of this symposium, I did a quick Google search and found that this program (GCURS) was an annual event hosted by Rice where undergraduate students from around the country (and even the world!) present their research to students, faculty, and staff. After a bit more research, I decided to apply and, to this day, I am so thankful that I made the decision to apply and ultimately attend this program! In this blog, I will share my experience with GCURS, how it benefitted me, and why you should consider applying. 

In speaking with undergraduate students about GCURS, I often get asked, “What should I include in my application package?” If you find yourself asking this question, then read on!

First and foremost, a well-written abstract:

While writing an abstract may seem straightforward, it can often be quite difficult to condense all of your knowledge about a project into a clear and concise paragraph of 600 words or less. That’s why it’s important to start early and to revise often when writing your abstract. When I applied for GCURS, I rewrote three versions of my abstract before submitting it. Remember that your abstract is meant to summarize the main takeaways from your research but does not include all of the details of your work. I highly recommend reviewing this article from Wiley for ideas on the primary areas to focus on when writing. Additionally, I suggest asking your research advisor, postdoc, or graduate student to review your abstract. These individuals are your mentors and can likely provide insight into what our admissions committees seek in an abstract.

Your Curriculum Vitae (CV):

Maybe you don’t know Latin, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a CV! A CV documents all of your academic and professional credentials. Typically, this will include information about your education, awards, publications, presentations, teaching experience, and other relevant professional activities. This document is similar to a resume, but instead of tailoring the information toward a specific job, the CV functions as a current log of your accomplishments. While this may sound intimidating as an undergraduate, don’t panic! My CV started out as one page and has since expanded to multiple pages. Even if you don’t feel like you have much to include in this document right now, it’s still good practice to start – then, every time you have an accomplishment, you have one document where you can add your updated information! This will make your life easier as you apply to graduate school, jobs, fellowships, etc. Consider working with your college or university’s career center for editing, proofreading, and helpful formatting advice as you build this document.

A photo of yourself:

This may seem a little strange to include in your application, but the folks at Rice want to be able to recognize you when you come to visit during GCURS weekend. Additionally, some sections will include an abstract guide and like to include photos of the presenters – this will help you and other attendees connect with each other. Don’t stress too much over this component, but try to submit a photo that clearly shows your face without other people in the picture.

Final Advice:

Regardless of the outcome of your application, submitting this information is great practice in writing an abstract and building your CV. Write early and revise often. Consult with mentors and other resources. Most importantly, be yourself! And check the GCURS website if you have any questions about formatting, eligibility, sections, etc.

Additionally, if you are considering a graduate program that differs from your research section, submit to the area you want to work in. This will allow you to meet students and faculty you may be in contact with at Rice! For more information about my experience at GCURS (and what it even is!), check out my previous blog here.

This year’s Gulf Coast Undergraduate Research Symposium (GCURS) will be held on Saturday, October 21st, with additional panels and workshops happening on Sunday, October 22nd, at Rice University in Houston, TX. This will be the 15th anniversary of this unique symposium! Some travel awards will be granted to qualified students. Applications to attend GCURS are now open and are due by September 10th!