USF Volunteer Policy

Good morning, for all volunteer activities please make sure the process begins by contacting CoE HR prior to any action taking place.

The Volunteer Guidelines, Volunteer Service Application, and Volunteer Appointment forms are found on the Division of HR website:

Departments must  submit completed forms electronically to the Volunteer Service email address:


  1. Does an undergraduate/graduate student that wants to get research experience and spend some time in a lab as an unpaid researcher need a volunteer appointment?

[This will likely depend on a number of factors, including the type and nature of the research or other services to be performed.  Generally, whether an individual is a volunteer is a fact-specific inquiry.

For instance, if the individual volunteers his/her services for civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons, the research may qualify as volunteer work that would require a volunteer appointment.  If the individual is already being paid to perform the same type of research for which the individual proposes to volunteer, however, or if the research displaces a paid position that would otherwise be performing the research, the individual may not be considered a volunteer under USF’s Volunteer Guidelines and applicable law and may need to be paid. 

Finally, it is possible that the situation will not fall under either volunteer services or paid employment—such as research for a science fair or for other individual purposes that the University has reason to allow and encourage.  We are working on developing a simple registration process/form that can address these types of situations.] 

  1. Does a PhD student registered for directed research under the direction of a faculty member need a volunteer appointment?

[NO. This is not a volunteer.  This is part of the person’s academic program and education.]

  1. If a student registers for independent study and does research as part of that will he/she be considered a volunteer?

[NO. This is not a volunteer.  This is part of the person’s academic program and education.]

  1. What if a student is registered for a master’s thesis class, does he/she need to fill out volunteer forms or is this academic?

[NO. This is not a volunteer.  This is part of the person’s academic program and education.]

  1. Would a J-1 visiting scholar/intern require a volunteer appointment?

[NOT usually, This person is not a volunteer if he or she is doing research related to the reason they are here on a J-1. The J-1 documentation is all they need to do research in the field they are here for. However, if they volunteer to do work in other areas different from their Visa area, then they likely need to fill out volunteer documentation.]

  1. Please differentiate a volunteer from an internship, along with the requirements.

[As a general rule, an internship is something one does to develop skills in a profession; it has learning objectives.  In an internship one learns about the work of a profession.  Students typically get college credits, grades or payment in exchange for the internship work. 

By contrast, the driving force for a volunteer is a desire to help out. Volunteering is the act of voluntarily giving one’s time for civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons, and there is usually no tangible benefit from a volunteer opportunity, other than one’s satisfaction in helping others. Sometimes you can have an opportunity that is both a learning internship where one helps others as a volunteer. For example, a medical student interning in Guatemala- he or she may be getting medical education and experience, may even get college credits, while also helping others in the community.]

  1. Some MS students do research with the intent to write a thesis.  They usually work through their entire program but they only register for thesis hours their last semester – is this considered a volunteer?

[NO. This is not a volunteer.  This is part of the person’s academic program and education.]

Homology-Preserving Dimensionality Reduction via Manifold Landmarking and Tearing

Dimensionality reduction is an integral part of data visualization. It is a process that obtains a structure preserving low-dimensional representation of the high-dimensional data. Two common criteria can be used to achieve a dimensionality reduction: distance preservation and topology preservation. Inspired by recent work in topological data analysis, we are on the quest for a dimensionality reduction technique that achieves the criterion of homology preservation, a specific version of topology preservation. Specifically, we are interested in using topology-inspired manifold landmarking and manifold tearing to aid such a process and evaluate their effectiveness.

Homology-Preserving Dimensionality Reduction via Manifold Landmarking and Tearing
L Yan, Y Zhao, P Rosen, C Scheidegger, B Wang
Visualization in Data Science (VDS at IEEE VIS 2018)