Hassenfeld Foundation Social Impact Research Grant

Application Deadline

March 8, 2020

General Information

The Hassenfeld Foundation Social Impact Research Grant has been established to provide support to undergraduate students in the College of Arts and Sciences who are undertaking innovative research or social entrepreneurship projects or internships with potential for real-world outcomes and significant social impact. Projects must be based in the United States and address domestic (rather than international) social challenges. It is expected that through this experience student recipients will develop a deeper understanding of our increasingly interconnected world – as well as a greater appreciation of the challenges facing society.


Applications and all supporting materials, including Faculty recommendations and a Statement of Willingness from any external site supervisors, are due electronically to CURF by midnight on Sunday, March 8, 2020 (Applicants notified by April 26)Applications will be evaluated by a faculty committee designated by CURF. Applications with late material risk not being considered.

Eligibility and Guidelines

Full-time, regularly enrolled 1st year, sophomore and junior undergraduates in good standing at the University of Pennsylvania's College of Arts & Sciences are eligible.  International students are welcome to apply, but must be eligible to work in the US to receive funding.  International students should consult Penn Global’s Office of International Student and Scholar Services if they have questions about eligibility to work in the US. 

Proposals representing any disciplinary field are welcome and guidelines for the Hassenfeld Foundation Social Impact Research Grant are intentionally open-ended to permit students to shape and define their own projects.  Prospective applicants are encouraged to seek out and develop mentor relationships with appropriate Penn faculty members in designing their projects and are invited to discuss their ideas with Dr. Ann Vernon-Grey, Associate Director for Research at the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (CURF).  Please call 215-746-6488 to schedule an appointment.

These grants can range anywhere from $500 to $5,000, depending on the needs of the project.  The Fund will provide a stipend to recipients that can be used for travel, research costs, and modest living expenses. Student recipients are expected to return to Penn to share their experiences with other students and to contribute to an entrepreneurial culture of service at Penn and in the larger world.

All projects related to the Fund’s goals will be considered, but since one goal of the fund is to promote deep understanding of the roots of social challenges, preference will be given to projects that students have originated and developed on their own (in consultation with recognized specialists at Penn or elsewhere), rather than working within an established organization.  Projects must address domestic (rather than international) social challenges

Procedure for Application

In consultation with your advisor(s), prepare the following six components in this order before proceeding to the Application Form.  You must request a Letter of Recommendation separately (see below).  The information you enter about your recommender on the application form does NOT serve as a recommendation request, though you can link to the recommendation request form through the application. If you will be working with an external organization or local affiliate, you must also request a Statement of Willingness from the individual who will be supervising you.

  1. Short abstract (~100 words): On a separate page, explain the overall goals of the project
  2. Proposal (~500 words): Use the following as suggested areas to cover rather than required categories.  If the proposal is based on participation as an intern, the applicant must still describe their individual/specific responsibilities during the internship and provide a complete description of how much and when they will work.
    1. Background: Evaluate existing knowledge and work in the area and briefly summarize/justify the proposed project’s potential contribution to the field
    2. Objectives: State the hypotheses, objectives, and relevance of the proposed work in terms intelligible to an educated non-specialist
    3. Methodology: Describe the design and procedures to be employed and provide a timetable and implementation plan for completion of the project
    4. Predicted Outcomes/Future Plans/Statement of Impact or Importance: Discuss some potential results to be generated from the submitted project, proposed next steps, and a statement of lessons to be learned from the undertaking
  3. Bibliography (no more than one page – limit of 12 items) of key scholarly works (listed in the citation format used in your discipline) providing background for your project. These may be books or articles, and they may be a mix of theoretical and empirical works that inform the project. If desired, a one-sentence annotation may be used to explain a specific item’s relevance to the project, but annotations are not required
  4. Personal Statement (~250 words): Describe how this project fits with your academic, personal, or career plans for the future, and with your current academic, personal, and career interests and activities
  5. Budget (Itemized and Total Overall): On a separate page list and justify each budget item in order of priority, including the total amount needed to complete the project.
    • These funds are to support the student in their project and are NOT to be used as programming or course costs. 
    • Types of expenses to which the funds may be applied include travel to libraries, museums, archives, and research/internship sites; living expenses that would enable the student to participate in the project, research equipment, and supplies. 
    • Conference travel, registration, poster printing etc. are NOT acceptable expenses. 
    • Reimbursement of living expenses may be taxable. Software and capital equipment are almost never funded.  Items that cost $500 or more with a useful life of one year or more must be purchased with a University purchase requisition and will remain the property of the University. 
    • If funds are being sought from other sources, state the source and potential amount of such funding.
  6. Transcript: Create an electronic "unofficial" version of your transcript by going to Penn In Touch —> Academic Records —> Transcript & GPA, and print your transcript as a .pdf.  If you don’t have Adobe Acrobat installed on your computer, download the free installer or use a Penn computer that has Adobe Acrobat installed. Do not request an official transcript from the registrar's office.  Do not upload a "locked" or official transcript.

Fill out the application form at Common Research Grant ApplicationYou must submit all these materials in a single file in .pdf format.  No other format will be accepted.  Print and save each document as a pdf, then create a single pdf file as indicated above by navigating to Acrobat’s “File -> Create -> Combine Files into a Single PDF” feature.

Letter of Recommendation (and Statement of Willingness)

Please follow all instructions for requesting letters from both (1) your faculty advisor and (2) your local project affiliate (where appropriate). 

(1) As early as possible, request a letter from your faculty research advisor via the Recommendation Request Form.  Completing this form automatically generates an email to your recommender with instructions on how to upload their letter to the CURF site.  Please ask your advisor to anticipate the arrival of this email (which is sometimes sorted to junk or spam folders), and inform them whether you have chosen to keep their letter confidential and waive your right of access to it.  It is your responsibility that this letter be submitted to CURF no later than midnight on Sunday, March 8, 2020.

The letter should:

  • Discuss the project’s feasibility and the adequacy of the applicant’s preparation to complete it
  • Review and comment on the student’s projected budget
  • Make clear the nature and extent of the student’s contribution in formulating and carrying out the project
  • Advise the student on any applicable Institutional Review Board or related issues
  • Detail what supplies and/or support they are able to provide to ensure project completion
  • Outline the active ways in which the student will be mentored during the research process (both in summer and beyond)

(2) If you will be working with an external organization or local affiliate, you must also request a Statement of Willingness from a representative of that organization.  For example, this can be obtained from your supervisor at an external organization, a local affiliate contact, a staff member at an archive, a faculty member at another institution, a governmental representative, etc.  Please note that while the Statement of Willingness utilizes the same "recommendation request" form, it need not be equivalent to a recommendation letter.  Rather, the statement of willingess is written acknowledgement that the student will have access to necessary materials and support while on location.

Procedures for Receiving Funding and Expectations for Grant Recipients

Funds will not be disbursed until students review CURF’s information on Ethics and Compliance and complete and submit all necessary forms. All CURF-funded student researchers must complete CURF’s Research Experience Checklist and Waiver of Liability.

Once the award has been made and the Research Experience Checklist and Waiver of Liability has been submitted to CURF and approved, recipients will be given instructions on how to access these funds.

Appropriate Environmental Health & Radiation Safety training modules must be completed, and research involving animals must be approved by the relevant University oversight committees. Students should consult with their faculty research advisors to correctly submit any necessary forms.

Undergraduates receiving this funding are expected to (1) present a poster at a designated CURF event, (2) submit a webiste summary and photograph, and (3) provide a detailed report for the Hassenfeld Foundation.  The website summary should be suitable for posting on CURF’s website and will describe the project’s goals and content, what the student learned through the experience and how participating in this project contributed to the educational experience. The Foundation report should include the above and also detail the specific work (rather than the theoretical contribution) of the project and the potential for real-world outcomes and significant social impact that theproject offers.


Research Offering Type

Independent Research Grant

Research Offering Location

Research Eligibility: 

Undergraduate School


Research Offering Source


Contact Information

Dr. Ann Vernon-Grey
Please call 215-746-6488 to schedule an appointment