Distinction in Research

Expectations and Criteria

Rice offers an award for "Distinction in Research and Creative Works." This is a university honor for graduating students that will be granted at Commencement and will appear on recipients' transcripts and diplomas. To apply, CS students should submit a work or body of work that illustrates creativity, self-initiation, independence, perseverance, and dedication. In all cases, we expect that students who apply for distinction in undergraduate research in computer science will have produced something that goes beyond the traditional expectations of their coursework.

Competitive candidates have commonly presented their work orally (e.g. at a conference, research symposium, poster session, or other meeting) or contributed to a publication.

Some examples include:

  1. Contributed to a research paper,
  2. Developed a software artifact, or
  3. Contributed to an open source project.

In the first case, for contribution to a research paper, we would expect the student to be a co-author on a paper of sufficient quality that it can and will be submitted to a prestigious conference or journal. We expect that the student has made a substantive contribution to the paper. In the application, the student should clearly state their contributions and submit a copy of the paper. Given the many factors that go into publishing a paper, the paper does not have to have been published yet. The faculty adviser who directed the work therefore must include a letter of support that certifies that the student made a substantive contribution and that the work is worthy of publication (or has already been accepted/published). First authorship is definitely considered above-and-beyond the norm, whereas co-authorship will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

In the second case, for development if a software artifact, we would expect the student to have produced a software artifact, independently or as part of a group, that is usable and polished. Further, the software should have largely been initiated by the student and exhibit a level of originality or creativity. Simply satisfying the requirements of a course or design project will not meet these criteria. Nor will these criteria be met if someone else provided the student with a specification for how the software should be designed and written. In the application, the student should clearly state their contributions to the software and explain the originality of the project. Furthermore, the student will be expected to demonstrate the software.

In the third case, for contribution to an open source project, we would expect the student to have made significant, original, and creative contributions to an existing open source project. Such contributions must go well beyond fixing a few bugs out of the project's bug database, but will otherwise be considered on a case-by-case basis. As a part of the application, the student is strongly encouraged to include a letter of support from someone in the project's leadership that explains the level and type of contributions the student made.


Download the application form and send your completed application, a one-page description of your work, and a faculty letter of support via email to Beth Rivera ( by March 31. The subject of your submission e-mail must be "Distinction in Undergraduate Research."


March 31 Annually