CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Awards

The Program: The CRA Undergraduate Research Awards (“URA”) program recognizes undergraduate students in North American colleges and universities who show outstanding potential in an area of computing research. While it is expected that successful nominees will have excellent academic records and will have engaged in some form of service (e.g., club leadership, teaching, peer tutoring), excellence in research is the primary consideration.  

Eligibility: Students enrolled as undergraduates in North American colleges or universities in Fall 2023 are eligible for the 2024 award. On the nomination form, the electronic signature of the chair/head of the home department confirms that the nominee is in good standing and eligible for the award. All nominations require the electronic signature of the chair/head of a nominee’s home department. Students are not able to self-nominate. 

Number of Nominees Per Department: Departments that grant Ph.D.s in a computing field may nominate up to four students per year. Departments that do not grant Ph.D.s in a computing field may nominate up to two students per year. 

Diversity: In addition to recognizing excellence in undergraduate research, CRA is committed to broadening the participation of individuals in traditionally underrepresented groups in computing fields. CRA recognizes that students in different academic environments have different opportunities for research. The selection committee will consider these factors in its evaluation; nominations can describe these factors in nominees’ personal statements or recommenders’ letters. CRA strongly encourages departments to consider all aspects of diversity when selecting their nominees.

Awards: Up to 4 Undergraduate Researcher Awards will be made each year. Each award recipient will receive financial assistance of up to $1,500 to attend a research conference of their choice. In addition, some nominees will be designated as runners-up, finalists, and honorable mentions. Award recipients, runners-up, finalists, and honorable mentions will be announced on our website and directly contacted by e-mail in mid-December. These students will also receive certificates of their awards via mail.

What departments submit

A nomination is officially a submission on behalf of the department chair, but it may be prepared and submitted by a designated representative for the chair. The nomination form includes a prompt to upload the following:

  • One letter of recommendation from a faculty member (not to exceed three pages in length). The faculty recommender need not be from the same department or institution as the nominee.  The letter should discuss:
    • The problem that the nominee worked on, its significance to the field and/or society, and what was challenging about the work done.
    • The specific tasks/contributions to this research project that the student performed.  For example, did they do data collection, data analysis, algorithmic development, algorithmic implementation, paper writing, etc.
      • The awards committee needs to understand and evaluate the individual contributions of the nominee, so it is important to be both precise and specific about the nominee’s contributions. If the nominee collaborated with other individuals, distinguish between their contribution, the contributions of others, and the overall team’s accomplishments.
    • Nominators are also encouraged to address:
      • What makes this student stand out from other research students, perhaps in terms of research and in community engagement or personal experiences (e.g., club leadership, teaching, peer tutoring)
      • What opportunities the student took advantage of outside of your group that demonstrate development of research skills or engagement in research.
      • How the student showed leadership and/or independence in research or in other ways.
  • Materials prepared by the student (these are described in detail under the “What students prepare” section), including:
    • A resume (up to two pages)
    • A summary of research (up to 750 words)
    • A personal statement (up to 300 words)
    • Academic Transcript(s)

What students need to prepare

A nominee is expected to share the following documents with their nominator: a resume, a research summary (not to exceed 750 words in length), a personal statement (not to exceed 300 words), and an academic transcript.

Resume: Resumes should not exceed two pages in length. A resume should contain information on the nominee’s academic record and service. It should also indicate the nominee’s involvement in research project(s). For each project the student has participated in, the resume should include:

  • a few sentences describing the project,
  • the name(s) of the research mentor(s),
  • the institution where the research was conducted,
  • complete citations of publications arising from this research (if any),
  • and, for manuscripts currently under review (if any), the titles and the venues to which they are submitted.

Research Summary: The research summary (not to exceed 750 words) gives the nominee the opportunity to describe research project(s) in detail. While the award committee is comprised of computer science professors, it’s likely that most of them will not have expertise in the specific field in which the nominee worked.  So, while one can use well-known concepts without defining them (e.g., names of data structures and terms like “NP-completeness”, “compiler”, or “k-means clustering”), nominees should imagine they’re writing to a computer science professor who works in a different sub-discipline.

It’s important for the summary to explain the research problem, its significance to the field and/or society, and what was challenging about the work. It should also describe the problems the nominee worked on and why. It should also discuss tasks directly performed by the student (e.g., idea generation, data collection, data analysis, algorithmic development, algorithmic implementation, paper writing, etc.). If the nominee collaborated with someone, the summary should indicate their individual contributions. The awards committee should be able to understand and evaluate the individual contributions of the nominee, so it is important for nominees to be both specific and precise. Situations where the nominee took a leadership role and/or showed independence in their work are of particular interest.

Personal Statement:  The personal statement (not to exceed 300 words) should address the student’s interests and activities outside of research (e.g., club leadership, teaching, peer tutoring) and/or challenges encountered with respect to getting and staying involved in research.

Academic Transcript: While excellence in research is the primary consideration for this award, all students must submit an academic transcript from their institution. Most institutions allow students to order copies of transcripts online, by mail, or in person via the office of admissions or registrar’s office.

How to submit a nomination

Once the nomination materials are complete, the department chair (or an authorized representative) should complete and submit the nomination form.

The nomination form will ask for:

  • Information about the nominator
  • Information about the student
  • A single-file PDF with the faculty recommendation letter and students materials

If you have trouble accessing the form (, please reach out to our team at

2023-2024 Selection Committee
Michael Hilton, Carnegie Mellon University, Co-Chair
Steve Swanson, University of California, San Diego, Co-Chair
Alex Psomas, Purdue University
Anna Rafferty, Carleton College
Bo Zhu, Dartmouth College
Brittany Duncan, Nebraska-Lincoln University
Hadi Hosseini, Pennsylvania State University
Jonathan Bell, Northeastern University
Matt Weinberg, Princeton University
Ovidiu Daescu, University of Texas, Dallas
Rahmat Beheshti, University of Delaware
Tracy Hammond, Texas A&M University

Opens: Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Deadline: Friday, October 13, 2023 at 9PM ET. Submissions after the deadline will not be accepted.

Link to submit a nomination

NOTE: Students are not permitted to upload their own submissions. All nominations must be submitted by a department chair, the head of a department, or an official representative designated by aforementioned leaders.

Questions? Inquiries about the awards should be directed to:

CRA gratefully acknowledges the support of Microsoft Research and Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs (MERL) who sponsor the Outstanding Undergraduate Researchers Award Program in alternate years.

Click here to view the 2023 awardees, as well as awardees from prior years.