Penn Undergraduate Research Mentoring Program (PURM)
Application DeadlineJanuary 22, 2021
Each year Penn supports undergraduate involvement in faculty research through the Penn Undergraduate Research Mentoring Program (PURM), which provides students completing their first or second undergraduate year the opportunity to spend a summer conducting research with a Penn faculty member. Since its inception in 2007, PURM has funded over 800 Penn faculty members to provide more than 1000 undergraduates with cutting-edge research experiences. Previous years' projects: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020
Because PURM is a matching program rather than a funding vehicle, faculty members need not have identified interested students prior to submitting an application.
Faculty members in any discipline from any of Penn’s twelve schools are encouraged to apply. Applications from faculty from underrepresented groups are particularly welcome.
Faculty members should describe a project on which undergraduates could assist them for ten weeks during the summer. If there are distinct parts to the project or multiple projects/roles, please indicate that and include information about how the research or roles might be distributed. Projects may also include curricular development. Given the importance of student interest in determining faculty recipients, faculty should be sure to include the academic and professional skills, experiences, and benefits a student would derive from working on their project in the 250-word project description. We encourage faculty to invite students they encounter to apply for their PURM projects.
Research projects can be carried out on Penn’s campus, on other campuses, or at collections, archives, field sites, or other locations throughout the world. One of our primary goals is to support the development of close mentor/mentee relationships. Because PURM aims to expose students to the reality of academic scholarship early in their undergraduate years, students should be included as much as feasible in all phases of the project, although they are not required to play a leading or independent role.
Current funding levels do not allow CURF to fund all faculty who submit PURM projects. Historically, ~35-40% of faculty who apply have received a PURM award.
Faculty can choose to participate in one of two ways:
- One student research assistant will be funded entirely by PURM (the student will receive a $4,500 stipend funded by PURM and administered through the faculty mentor’s department), and the faculty member will receive an additional $1,000 to support their research project, or
- Faculty may engage two PURM students by forgoing their PURM research fund to engage a second student. If faculty choose this option, each of the two students will receive a $4,500 stipend paid entirely by the Provost's Office. Requests to work with two students are strongly encouraged, but dependent upon available funds
- The $1,000 research award is paid into the faculty member’s research account and cannot be taken as salary
NOTE: Faculty whose research affiliation is at CHOP may participate in PURM, but they are not eligible to receive PURM research funding. If sufficient funding is available, these faculty may engage one or two PURM students (students will receive stipend, but faculty will not receive research funds).
Faculty Eligibility, Application, and Selection
Only standing faculty members are eligible to receive PURM funding. While applications involving more than one mentor are acceptable and encouraged, the application must be submitted by a member of the standing faculty. Clarification on standing faculty definitions can be found here.
- Preference will be given to faculty who have not previously received PURM funding
- Student interest is a major factor in selection, as determined by the number and quality of students with a GPA above 3.0 who apply to work on a faculty member’s listed project. Because projects with no student applicants will not be funded, we encourage prospective faculty mentors to describe the academic and professional skills, experiences, and benefits a student would derive from working on their project.
- Diversity of projects and faculty are also weighted heavily, since each year PURM seeks to support faculty from as many different Penn schools and departments as possible
- Faculty occasionally receive PURM funding in consecutive years, but never three years in a row
- Because PURM is a matching program, faculty selected to receive PURM funding are strongly encouraged to engage students with whom they are not yet working (rather than funding students they already mentor)
- Faculty selected for PURM are encouraged to consider students from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in their disciplines.
While Penn intends to allow undergraduate research to be conducted on campus this summer, in-person activities are not required to be eligible for these applications. As a result, you will be asked to indicate whether your proposals can be (a) done entirely remotely, (b) modified to accommodate remote activities even if initially proposed in-person, or (c) completed only if on-campus activities resume.
Students must be available to work on their PURM project full-time for ten full weeks during the summer. In many cases, PURM research relationships continue during the academic year through informal collaborations, independent study, or departmental or university-funded research grants.
Since students will be engaged full-time during their PURM experience, PURM participants may not be involved in any other paid employment or internship at the University of Pennsylvania during the ten weeks of the PURM experience. Subject to their PURM Faculty Mentor’s approval, students may be able to enroll in one course per summer half-term, provided it does not interfere with the needs of the project. Based on past student experiences, enrollment in summer courses is strongly discouraged. The exact dates that students will work on their project will be determined in conjunction with their PURM Faculty Mentor.
All full-time, regularly enrolled undergraduates in good standing, with a GPA of 3.0 or higher from Penn’s four undergraduate schools who are completing their first- or second-year of college are eligible to apply. Students currently engaged in programs that provide funded research opportunities such as University Scholars, Engineering’s Rachleff Scholars and the Vagelos family of programs are not eligible for PURM funding. Students may only receive PURM funding one time.
PURM Application and Selection Process Overview
Faculty submit a research project that would benefit from student research assistance via the Faculty project submission form.
Students apply for up to three projects via the Application Form, indicating their first, second, and third choices. To maximize the chances of moving forward, students should apply for projects submitted by 3 different faculty mentors. Please take note of the project titles so that you do not apply to the wrong project. IF YOU DO NOT RECEIVE A CONFIRMATION EMAIL, YOUR SUBMISSION WAS NOT RECEIVED. Late submissions will not be considered.
Faculty projects will be selected for funding based on criteria outlined above under "Faculty Eligibility and Selection." Because there are always more faculty projects than funding available, not all faculty submitting projects will receive funding through PURM.
After faculty projects have been selected for funding, all eligible student applications will be forwarded to the PURM faculty members. Students are asked to notify CURF if their application status changes (ie, they accept another position elsewhere and would no longer like to be considered for a PURM position). Faculty members are strongly encouraged to interview students prior to making mentee selections.
Students are asked NOT to contact faculty about their projects until contacted for an interview or the PURM selection process has been completed.
The student application portal will open once the faculty applications have been received and compiled (mid-late January).
Which students and faculty are eligible?
All 1st and 2nd year undergraduates enrolled at any school in any discipline at Penn are eligible. International students must verify with Penn’s Office of International Programs that the PURM project for which they are selected qualifies as education-related employment under their visa.
Prospective faculty mentors can be standing faculty members from any school. Applications involving more than one mentor are acceptable and encouraged, but the application must be submitted by a member of the standing faculty. Because a long-term mentoring relationship is a desired outcome, visiting faculty at Penn are not appropriate mentors.
What is the timing?
By Friday, January 22, faculty members provide a project description, which are then made available to students online. Students submit applications by midnight on Sunday, February 21. Decisions are made and announced by April 16.
All projects take place in the summer and are expected to extend for 10 weeks. Students and faculty mentors negotiate the precise logistics between themselves, taking into account the needs of the project.
Which students and projects do or don’t get selected, and why?
Projects which have no student applicants will not be selected. Prospective faculty mentors are therefore encouraged to make clear in their description why/how their project is interesting, how its aims are achievable during the summer, and what it might lead to. Students with GPAs under 3.0 average are unlikely to be selected.
Because the goal of PURM is to create new mentor relationships, students already working with a particular faculty mentor are less likely to be chosen. Students already working with faculty should consider applying for funding from the College Alumni Society Research Grant or the Class of 1971 Robert J. Holtz Endowed Fund for Undergraduate Research.
How do students receive their funds?
Disbursement of funds is handled by each faculty mentor’s business administrator (BA). The BAs will be sent an award sheet outlining payment procedures, account numbers, etc. The student’s award is intended for each student’s expenses and will be disbursed in two halves in May and July. Once selected as a PURM student, questions about student awards should be directed to the faculty mentor’s BA.
Additional costs for the project – such as transportation, supplies, and other miscellaneous costs – should be paid from the faculty mentor’s research grant.
Can PURM students enroll in a Penn course during their summer PURM experience?
The PURM program does not prevent a student from enrolling in a maximum of 1 CU at Penn during their PURM summer experience. However, individual faculty mentors or the needs of a PURM project may make enrolling in a summer course impossible. Students considering enrolling in a summer course should request permission from their potential PURM mentor during the interview / selection process. Based on past student experiences, enrollment in summer courses is strongly discouraged. Final determination of whether a PURM student can enroll in a summer course is up to each individual faculty mentor.
What about housing for the summer?
Not all PURM projects are on campus and those that are on campus are not occurring simultaneously. Therefore, students will need to arrange housing that meets their needs. One of the high-rise residence halls will be open for the 12 weeks of the two Penn summer sessions. Their costs tend to be much higher than renting a furnished room or a furnished sublet near campus and can be much less flexible. Penn’s Office of Off-Campus Housing has extensive and clear web information that can demystify the process of apartment/room/sublet renting to make it a safe, affordable, and positive option for students.
Access to an exciting array of Professional Development Seminars. Unless your PURM project is being conducted away from Penn's campus, you will be expected to attend at least 5 of these sessions over the course of your summer, which will generally be held at 12noon. They will include sessions like: Networking and Creating Connections, Public Speaking and Presentation Skills, Technical Skills for Research (SQL, Python, R workshops), How to Attend a Conference, Library Research Fair, Research Ethics, How to Develop an Elevator Pitch, Making a Research Poster, and more!
Participate in cutting-edge research in a variety of fields, gain an understanding of the research process, and develop a one-on-one relationship with a Penn faculty member.
Experience the triumphs and challenges of advanced research, while honing your analytical skills and providing you with deeper knowledge of your field
Before PURM funds are disbursed, students are required to work with their faculty mentor to complete and submit to CURF our Research Experience Checklist and Waiver of Liability.
Since PURM students will be considered full-time employees of Penn during their 10 week PURM experience, you may not have any other employment at Penn during these 10 weeks (The specific dates of your experience should be worked out with your mentor, but they must occur during the summer).
At the conclusion of your PURM experience, each student must submit a brief summary (250-500 words) of your experience in conversational and accessible language (suitable for posting on the CURF website) that briefly describes:
- your project’s goals and content
- what you learned through your research experience
- how participating in this research project contributed to your educational experience
If your PURM mentor consents, please provide CURF with photos of you as you participate in your PURM project.
Each PURM student recipient will also be required to present posters describing their PURM research at the CURF Research Expo in September. A lunch with the Provost to talk about benefits of the program will be held in October.
Our hope is that many of these summer research experiences will develop into long-term faculty-student mentoring relationships, but this is not an obligation.
- Friday, January 22, 2021– Faculty applications due electronically to CURF
- Sunday, February 21, 2021– Student applications due electronically to CURF
- Early March 2021 – Faculty notified of award decision & receive student applications
- Mid March 2021 – Notification of student award decisions begin
- April 16– All faculty and students will be notified of decisions
Past Projects Funded
Research Offering TypeResearch Assistant
Research Offering LocationUSA
Research Offering SourceCURF-Administered
Dr. Ann Vernon-Grey