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Laidlaw Undergraduate Research and Leadership Scholarship Program

The Laidlaw Undergraduate Research and Leadership Scholarship Program offers first-year students at Columbia College the opportunity to pursue independent research projects and to develop leadership attributes and skills that will serve them well in any future endeavor. This program is designed to help students learn from one another as well as from leaders in the academic and professional world, and to support students in their intellectual pursuits and their future growth.

Students must commit to their participation in all elements of the program for the full period of the program, and afterward they will become permanent members of the worldwide Laidlaw Scholars network.

Questions about the program or about the application process should be directed to Ariella Lang, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Director of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships.

Learn more about the Laidlaw Scholars program by visiting their website.

For more information about the program, application details and application deadline, click here.


  • Fall semester –Spring semester: Seminars, retreats, and special events for current Laidlaw Scholars.

  • October - November: Laidlaw Scholars Program information session for first year students interested in applying to the program.

  • mid-January: Deadline for applications for Laidlaw Scholars Program. Please apply through our fellowships website.

  • February-March: Interviews of applicants

  • March-April: Laidlaw Scholars announced

  • April: Dinner for new cohort of Laidlaw Scholars

  • Summer: research (research lasts 6 weeks; for Laidlaw scholars in their first summer with the program, or for second year Laidlaw scholars who are planning to remain on campus, this research period coincides with Summer Session One of the academic calendar.)

  • Early Fall: Laidlaw Symposium (coincides with the Friday of Family Weekend; all Laidlaw Scholars are expected to present a poster.) Concluding awards ceremony for second year Laidlaw Scholars.

Program Components

Laidlaw Scholars will engage in two main pursuits over the course of 16 months: (1) independent research that will extend over two summers, with 6 weeks each summer dedicated to the development of research skills and the exploration of a specific topic with guidance from a faculty member; and (2) the development of knowledge, skills and attributes that will train them to be future leaders in their fields.

Research Project

Because of the program’s flexibility, students selected as Laidlaw Scholars can be at various stages in developing a research project and the requisite research skills:

  • Students may already have in mind a research topic, and the program can help identify a faculty member who can provide guidance on the project;
  • Students may already have in mind a research topic and can approach a faculty member directly to ask if the faculty member would serve as a mentor on the project;
  • The program can pair students with faculty members working on research projects that overlap with the students’ general interests (in a field or in research approaches);
  • The program can place students into a small group who will work with a faculty member working on a research project that introduces the students to a field and to a set of research skills or approaches.

First Summer

The first summer program will consist of a combination of training in research fundamentals and conducting individual research (disciplinary or interdisciplinary), along with meetings that introduce discussions of different concepts of leadership. The first week of the program will allow the entire cohort to meet and to work intensively with librarians and other academic advisers to develop an understanding of research approaches—e.g., searching for and discovering primary and secondary resources, understanding “knowledge architecture,” creating structures of information, understanding the ethical implications of information use. During the remaining five weeks of the first summer, students will pursue a research project under the mentorship of a faculty member, while still receiving training on research skills and approaches that can be applied to the disciplinary area of the research projects.

Second Summer

In the second summer, Scholars have the option to continue their research, either in the same location or in a different environment or location. The expectation is that this summer Scholars will build on the research of the previous summer, and that they will assume more responsibilities and/or a leadership role in their engagement with the topic. Alternatively, Scholars are welcome to apply the research they pursued in the previous summer to a field work position, and to consider roles in which they might pursue an 'applied research' opportunity. Finally, Scholars have the option to engage in an internship position that allows them to engage with a community that will benefit from their contributions, and that will allow them to utilize your leadership training. Projects or experiences with an international focus are particularly welcome, as the program supports those who wish to spend their second summer at an overseas university or doing fieldwork. Partnerships or collaborations with international universities who are fellow sponsors of the Laidlaw Research and Leadership Programme are also possible, including six partner programs in the United Kingdom (Durham University, the University College London, University of Leeds, University of Oxford, the University of St. Andrews, the University of York), and our partner program in the United States, Tufts University, which may provide further research resources and networking opportunities.

Laidlaw Research Symposium

All Scholars are required to present their research progress at the Laidlaw Research Symposium in the fall semesters following their funded summer sessions. These presentations can take the form of a poster presentation or a PowerPoint presentation. The event will be open to the Columbia community, and it will be developed and organized by those Laidlaw Scholars who have completed their second summer of research, in collaboration with the Laidlaw Scholars Program Coordinator. In preparation for this event, Laidlaw Scholars will develop an abstract to submit to the Laidlaw Scholars Program Coordinator, Dean Ariella Lang. The abstract will summarize the results of the research conducted during the summer, will place the research in the context of the broader issue being investigated, and will highlight the main ideas and possibly the conclusion of the research (even if those are provisional or tentative). Students will be expected to receive guidance from their faculty mentors on these abstracts before submitting them

Leadership Development

In addition to conducting research, Laidlaw Scholars will attend a series of meetings – some during the summer sessions and some during the sophomore year -- that will provide training on, and discussion of, leadership skills and attributes that can be used in a variety of settings. These meetings may take the form of workshops, trainings, retreats, and events with guest speakers, as well as mentoring opportunities between older and younger Laidlaw Scholars (see details about the Laidlaw Symposium). The programming for this component of the program begins the first week of the scholar’s first summer research period, and will include several meetings and retreats throughout the academic year in between the first and second summer research period. Participation in seminar / retreat activities is mandatory.


To be eligible to be a Laidlaw Scholars, student applicants must be:

  • currently enrolled as a first-year student in Columbia College,
  • in good academic and disciplinary standing with the College,
  • performing well academically, with preference given to students who have a minimum GPA of 3.3, and
  • willing and able to commit to all components of the program throughout its 16-month duration (see “Program Components” for more details).


Applications should be submitted via our website, and consist of the following:

  • Responses to the following two prompts:
    • Prompt I:
      In approximately 500 words, describe the question(s) that you would most like to research, what you hope to learn in pursuing this question, and how you would envision pursuing this research. Some things to consider: Why does this topic excite you? Why do you think others might find the outcomes of your project interesting? Why would travel be an important opportunity for your research (if relevant)? Do you already have previous research experience (important to note, but not required to have)? If you have identified a faculty mentor with whom you would like to work over the summer, and/or if you have approached this person, please indicate. (Please note that this is not a requirement to apply.)
    • Prompt II:
      In approximately 500 words, describe the way in which you currently define the word leadership. Some things to consider: What knowledge or skills or attributes would you emphasize? How do you know whether a person has them? Is there a particular individual you would see as a model of your definition of leadership? What leadership attributes would be useful to you in light of your future goals at this time?
  • Your resume (1 page)
  • A copy of your official CU transcript
  • Faculty reference(s):
    • Provide the name, department, office phone number, and Columbia email address of a Columbia faculty member who can speak about your academic work and interests, and briefly describe your work with the faculty member (e.g., the course you took, the coursework you did, a project that you performed). The faculty member is not required to provide a letter of reference; if you are selected as a finalist, we will contact the faculty member for a reference by phone or by email.
    • A second reference is not required, but if you have previous research experience with an instructor or researcher, within or outside of Columbia, and wish to include that person as a reference as well, please provide the person’s name, institution, office phone number and institutional email address, and briefly describe your work with that person (e.g., the project you performed).

Funding Details

The Laidlaw Scholars program will cover the cost of housing during the six-week period that corresponds with Columbia University’s Summer Session I. (Please note that there is an interim period between the spring semester housing period and the Summer Session I housing period, and that interim period is not part of the Laidlaw Scholars program.) During the first summer, the housing will be in Columbia University’s residential halls. During the second summer, the housing may be in Columbia University’s residential halls, or an equivalent amount of funding can be used for housing elsewhere for research done abroad.

During the six-week research periods during the first and second summers, Laidlaw Scholars will receive a stipend of $500/week to cover other living expenses.

Additional funding will be available for travel for research during the second summer.