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Additional Ways to Identify Faculty Mentors

If you do not find an opportunity that matches your interests on CURF’s Research Directory, do not despair.

You can browse faculty research interests in each school:

  • Departmental pages in The College of Arts and Sciences allow you to conduct a focused search by field. Departments often list faculty on pages entitled “Faculty and Research” or “People.” The College also maintains an alphabetical list of all College faculty.
  • The School of Engineering and Applied Science maintains a Faculty Expertise Directory where you can search for faculty by name, department, or area of research expertise.
  • The School of Nursing maintains a list of Research Centers, as well as a listing of faculty research interests.
  • Wharton maintains a list of faculty alphabetically or by department, as well as a list of Wharton Centers and Initiatives where faculty researchers are doing cutting-edge work and may employ students.

The Student Employment Office may also yield research opportunities through the Work-Study job listings page. Student research can be paid through the Federal Work-Study program if the student has a Work-Study grant. Students who do not have grants will still be able to find faculty researchers who are looking for students to hire, although not all will be able to fund non-work-study students. Searching under “category” = “research” yields the best results.

  • Connect with a Research Peer Advisor who can help you identify potential mentors
  • If you’ve already identified a research topic, your Research Mentor might be a faculty member with whom you’ve taken a class in which you excelled. In this case, contact the instructor indicating that you’re interested in learning more about the topic, and follow up by visiting the instructor during office hours or scheduling an appointment.
  • If you’re just starting out, visiting your professors during office hours is a great way to get to know faculty and their research interests. Reading online faculty biographies and asking about their current research can help you learn about the kinds of research Penn professors are doing. Demonstrate your serious interest by reading an article they have published.
  • Ask your College House Faculty Master, Faculty Fellows, or House Deans about their research interests, and share your interests with them. Not only will you make a connection with a Penn faculty member, they may also be able to connect you with a faculty member with expertise in your area.
  • If you’re a freshman or sophomore, the Penn Undergraduate Research Mentoring Program (PURM) provides opportunities for Penn students to work closely with a faculty mentor on an ongoing research project during the summer.
  • Enroll in a course with a research focus. Departmental advisors can be most helpful in identifying such courses.
  • Ask your current and former Teaching Assistants. Graduate students can’t be your formal Faculty Mentor, but they can help direct you to faculty who share your interests.
  • Ask fellow undergraduates, especially if they’ve had successful research experiences. Many Penn departments and programs have Undergraduate Advisory Boards and Student Associations consisting of students eager to share their experiences. Use and expand your network whenever you can.
  • Prepare a resume according to the conventions of your undergraduate school posted on the Career Services website and bring it to your appointment with your potential faculty mentor. If your research interest is in the faculty member’s area of expertise, they may agree to work with you. If not, they may refer you to a colleague. Or they may recommend other courses for you to take before beginning your project in order to continue to build your research capacity. Listen to your faculty member’s advice, and carefully consider an expert’s view on what you’ll need to do to successfully conduct your research.
  • Schedule a consultation meeting with a Van Pelt library subject specialist in your area, who can be extremely helpful in narrowing and defining a research project/topic. Your project will still require a mentor who is on the faculty, but library subject specialists can help you shape your project as you prepare to approach a potential faculty mentor.

And you can always make an appointment to strategize with CURF’s Senior Associate Director for Undergraduate Research, Dr. Ann Vernon-Grey, by calling the CURF office at (215) 746-6488.