Fahad Ahmed
COL 2020
Academic Major: Communication

I have been fortunate to conduct research alongside Dr. Kalil Abdullah in the Penn Glioma Project at the Perelman School of Medicine since the spring semester of my freshman year. The aim of the project has been to create and analyze a comprehensive clinical, economic, and genomic outcomes database for glioblastoma patients. Through this experience, I have gained knowledge about the entire research process (from finding a mentor to submitting manuscripts) as well as information about the resources available through CURF. It would be my pleasure to share my experiences with others and help anyone out who is interested in pursuing research at Penn. Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in research, especially if you are considering the fields of clinical/translational medicine, economics, or communications!

  • Research Intern, Penn Glioma Outcomes Project- Department of Neurosurgery, Perelman School of Medicine, Dr. Kalil Abdullah
  • University Scholars C’20
  • College Alumni Society Undergraduate Research Grant- Spring 2017
  • AANS (American Association of Neurological Surgeons) 2018 Annual Meeting, 1st Place Socioeconomic Category Poster

2018 UScholars Progress Report

Jessica Anderson
COL 2021
Academic Major: Biology

I have had the incredible opportunity to be a part of the work done in Dr. Heuckeroth’s lab at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia since fall semester of my freshman year. My work has allowed me to become fully immersed in cutting edge research of the enteric nervous system, the nervous system of the gastrointestinal tract. Most importantly, my experience has allowed me to cultivate priceless relationships with my colleagues, who have mentored me both in lab and in life. I’ve learned more than I can possibly put into this brief biography through my experiences in research, so please feel free to contact me, especially if you are considering the path of MD/PhD.

  • Borlaug-Ruan International Intern at Peking University, Beijing China
  • Research Assistant, Department of Gastroenterology, Heuckeroth Lab (2018-Present)
  • Recipient of Grant for Faculty Mentoring Undergraduate Research (Spring 2019)
Virginia Axline
COL 2021
Academic Major: Biological Basis of Behavior

Coming into Penn as a pre-med, BBB major, I thought research was an intimidating aspect of science that would be difficult for me to get into. After my summer involvement in PURM, I have a better grasp of what research is and what it involves. Through PURM, I was fortunate enough to work in a Neurology lab at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia with Dr. Judith Grinspan working with antiretroviral drugs. With the experience I had in Dr. Grinspan’s lab and the valuable information I learned through the process, I want to help guide other undergraduates in their search for research. I love talking about neuroscience and the brain, and I would love to help answer any questions about the research process, so please feel free to contact me!

  • Penn Undergraduate Research Mentorship Program (PURM), Dr. Judith Grinspan
  • Research assistant to Dr. Tiffany Hwa at Penn Medicine on a clinical project combining music and medicine
Sanaea Bhagwagar
COL 2021
Academic Major: Biology

I have had the amazing opportunity to work in Dr. Mitchell Lazar's lab at the Institute for Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism since my freshman year. The Lazar lab studies the transcriptional regulation of metabolism and has given me a greater appreciation for science and an understanding of the process behind medical discoveries. I would love to help other students interested in research learn more about what undergraduate research entails and how they can get involved. Upperclassmen involved in research were incredibly supportive and helpful when I first arrived at Penn so I would love to help other aspiring researchers get involved and find their passions!

  • Lazar Lab, Institute for Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism, Smilow Translational Research Center (November 2017-present)
  • Strittmatter Lab, Boyer Center for Molecular Medicine, Yale University (Summer 2019)
  • College Alumni Society Research Grant (Spring 2019)
Olivia Bruyn
COL 2021
Academic Major: Biological Basis of Behavior

Thanks to CURF, my summer working with Dr. Nicholas Betley in the Department of Biology was an incredible learning experience! By participating in PURM, I learned how research projects are conducted, and my interests in neuroscience and biology became more solidified as I am planning to major in the Biological Basis of Behavior. Through my projects working with mice, I learned about the anatomy and biology of the gastrointestinal tract and how it interacts with the brain, but I also acquired fundamental lab skills, like pipetting, creating solutions, and recording and analyzing data. I would be more than happy to answer any questions about getting involved with research at Penn, as I want every student to have the opportunity to find what they are interested in just as I had!

  • Penn Undergraduate Research Mentoring (PURM) Program, Dr. J. Nicholas Betley, 2018
Chelsea Chikwanda
COL 2021
Academic Major: Economics

Over the course of a long period of time, I have built an affinity towards the study of Economics and in particular, the analysis of decision making. When I came to Penn, I discovered my passion for understanding how individuals arrive at their decisions and how data drives those decisions. 

The summer after my freshman year, I conducted research in the Management Department of the Wharton School. The studies I worked on revolved around analyzing behavior. We examined, if faced with certain scenarios, what decisions would individuals make and to what extent would they make them? This research allowed me to understand decision-making beyond just what is taught in lecture. I was able to manifest my passions in a physical form with tangible data as a result. If this research interests you or you would simply like to learn more about how to get started in undergraduate research at Penn, I would be happy to share more via email! 

  • Penn Undergraduate Research Mentorship program (PURM)
  • Research Assistant to Dr. Rachel Arnett, Wharton School of Business
Kara Cloud
COL 2021
Academic Major: Philosophy Psychology

When I first came to Penn, I thought I was destined to be a physics major, an astronomer enthralled with the wonders of the universe. And while the work great physicists do is incredibly necessary, I quickly realized that the less-than-thrilling everyday work in a physics lab was not the best fit for me. When this realization struck me, I had a fleeting (okay, maybe not so fleeting) panic of “what am I going to do next?!” I decided to trust myself, and my long-time interest in mental health, and began diving into Penn’s psychology department. I’ve since held several research positions ranging from the department of neurology to positive psychology. I’ve found my love for the big picture questions of the human mind and behavior and relating these theories to the unanswerable questions of philosophy. If any of this resonates with you, I encourage you to reach out!

  • Research Assistant, Aguirre Human Cortical Vision Laboratory 2018 - present
  • Research Volunteer, Jaffee Risk and Resilience Lab 2019
  • Research Assistant, Penn Center for Mental Health 2019 - present
  • Recipient of Grant for Faculty Mentoring Undergraduate Research (Spring 2019)
  • Poster presentation at Vision Science Society National Conference in May 2019
  • Poster presentation at Penn’s CURF Fall Research Expo 2019
Courtney Daub
COL 2021
Academic Major: Anthropology

This past summer, I got the wonderful opportunity to travel to Jamaica with Professor Deborah Thomas and three other undergraduate students to see what Jamaica’s LGBT advocacy looks like and how LGBT Jamaicans are able to secure their safety within these spaces along lines of class, gender, etc. The project followed previous work editing ethnographic audio and video. Through my experience I’ve learned a lot about what it’s like to conduct ethnographic research, which isn’t as clear-cut as more quantitative methods and poses unique questions. Apart from research, I am also a FGLI student, so feel free to reach out if you have any questions or concerns regarding anthropology, qualitative research, and/or are interested in how navigating research opportunities and experience can intersect with being FGLI.

  • Penn Undergraduate Research Mentorship Program (PURM)
Jessica Davis
COL 2020
Academic Major: Health and Societies

When applying to Penn, my initial academic aspirations were to 1) major in Biology and 2) get involved in a cancer-related research project. After deciding to shift to the Health and Societies (HSOC) major, I thought I would in turn have to alter my research intentions. By the end of sophomore year, I also thought that it was too late begin collaborative research with any professor. But all these negative perceptions and speculations evaporated when I discovered CURF and the RPA's who together showed me that all was not lost, it was not too late, and research in any field was definitely still possible. Through PURM, I spent an incredible sophomore summer working under the mentorship of Dr. Salimah H. Meghani over in Penn’s Nursing School. Here we conducted a mixed-methods (quantitative and qualitative) study assessing the cancer pain management experience of cancer patients and their family caregivers. If any part of my story resonates with you and you want to know more, or you have research-related questions, then don’t think twice to direct an email my way. Curious minds ask questions, and research is built on questions, so please, ask away! 

  • Penn Undergraduate Research Mentoring (PURM) Program, Dr. Salimah H. Meghani 

Michael Di Martino
COL 2020
Academic Major: Biology


A little bio about me:

  •          I transferred to Penn last year. Originally from (the University of) Hawaii*
  •          Applying to medical school. Took the MCAT July 2019, currently working on applications
  •          Research interests are a mix of engineering, biomedical science, and physical/natural sciences.
  •          Currently working on an engineering project for sepsis management.
  •          I love singing, public speaking, and weightlifting
  •          I successfully grew up on an island without ever surfing until I was 21.

*Technically a student there for two years, but sophomore year was spent at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

I’ve held the following positions since 2016:

  •          (2018-Present) Research Assistant, Laudanski Lab, Perelman
  •          (2019, 2017) REU Participant, Harvard University
  •          (Sum2018) Paid Research Coordinator, John A Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM)
  •          (2017-2018) Research Assistant: Cain Lab (UH Manoa)
  •          (2017-2016) Research Assistant: Bercovici Lab (Cal Poly SLO)

Below are some milestones:

  •          6 poster presentations (Cal Poly, Harvard x2, Penn x2, BMES)
  •          4 full-length research presentations (Harvard x2, JABSOM, Penn)
  •          Accepted to BMES Annual Conference poster session
  •          Penn I-Corps Bootcamp Funding recipient ($3K)
  •          Singh Innovation Grant recipient ($3K)
  •          College House Research Fellowship recipient ($1.5K). Manuscript in development.
  •          Helped write a $640K federal grant application for JAB School of Medicine
  •          UH Manoa internal funding recipient (~$5K)

My e-mail is mtdm@sas.upenn.edu. Please don’t be shy and reach out - I love serving as a mentor and helping others take full advantage of their college education through research!

Allison Dreier
COL 2021
Academic Major: Biological Basis of Behavior

I am interested in neuroscience and I work with Dr. Mariella De Biasi looking at the neurobiology of drug addiction. I currently work on two projects. One looks at the effects of flavorants in e-cigarette vapor on the dopaminergic system and the other studies the rewarding and epigenetic effects of THC e-cigarette vapor. I am pre-med with a major in the Biological Basis of Behavior (BBB) and a minor in creative writing and chemistry. I have really enjoyed the research I do, and I would love to help students find an area of research that they are passionate about as well. Please feel free to reach out!

  • Research Assistant, Department of Neuroscience, De Biasi Lab (2018-Present)
  • Mary L. And Matthew S. Santirocco College Alumni Society Undergraduate Research Grant (Spring 2019)
Beverlye Gedeon
WH 2021
Academic Major: Economics

I was appealed by Professor Todd’s research fields after taking a Public Policy course that discussed an article that she co-authored. My similar interests in International Development later propelled me to join her working space the summer after my sophomore year. Together, we explored various outcomes of PROSPERA, a government-run social assistance program designed to improve health and educational attainment by providing cash payments to families in rural Mexico. PROSPERA, one of the most studied social assistance programs, started in 1997 in Mexico to drive the country’s economic development and was replicated in 50 other countries as of today. 

The opportunity to manipulate the data sets that resulted in the findings I studied in class was particularly fulfilling to me. As someone who has a track record of supporting women empowering initiatives, I was inclined to explore the ways in which the program contributed to achieving gender parity in the classrooms among other benefits. The regression analysis that I performed using R enabled me to investigate the gender differences in drop-out behaviors after families receive these cash payments. (I am happy to chat about that if it sounds interesting to you :)) In addition, I am very grateful to the guidance of both Professor Todd and Gabrielle Vasey, Ph.D. candidate. I am also thankful to Mira and Wenyao for being two exceptional and curious research buddies! 

As an RPA,  I hope to be supportive of inquisitive students looking to explore the world of research. I am hoping to help them throughout the process of identifying their interests and connecting with faculty members in their field. I am particularly looking to encourage more business-minded students to take advantage of this opportunity as it is both a stimulating and rewarding experience that offers the opportunity to gain valuable skills transferable to any other career involving data-driven decision-making.

  • 2019 Penn Undergraduate Research Mentorship Award (PURM)
  • Research Assistant to Dr. Petra Todd, UPenn Economics 
Sam Goldstein
COL 2020
Academic Major: Physics Mathematics

This past summer I had the opportunity of conducting cosmology research at the Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Lab. In particular, I worked with Anže Slosar on analyzing non-linear galaxy bias via power spectrum measurements in preparation for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). Prior to this experience I conducted research with Penn’s high-energy physics group.  Through PURM, I spent the summer after my Freshman year working with Professor Elliot Lipeles on the development of a new jet clustering algorithm for identifying boosted particles at the LHC. Ultimately, conducting research has helped me better understand the nature of academic research while providing me with the opportunity to contribute to and work with experts in their fields. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about research, especially if you are interested in physics, astronomy, or mathematics!

  • Department of Energy Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) at Brookhaven National Lab, Summer 2019
  • Penn Undergraduate Research Mentorship (PURM), Summer 2018
  • Research Assistant to Professor Elliot Lipeles in High-Energy Physics
Aiden Gonzalez
COL '20
Academic Major: Political Science

Like many, I came to Penn believing that research was a scary word and that it was limited, especially at the undergraduate level, to hard sciences. Fortunately, Penn has provided incredible opportunities for me, as a social sciences student, to investigate, independently and with faculty, topics that I am passionate about. Currently, I conduct research on secession including Brexit and Catalonia in Spain. Previously, I have done research on British-Irish relations and electoral trends all over the world. I love talking about political science, history, and international relations, so please feel free to contact me with questions about any of those topics in research, getting started in research, research more broadly at Penn, or even if you’d just like to talk about any of my work for some ideas!

  • University Scholar, 2020
  • Penn Research Grant, 2017
  • Penn Research Grant, 2018

2017 University Scholars Progress Report

Florence Ho
COL 2021
Academic Major: Biology

Since middle school, I was drawn to the complexity of life and fascinated by the diverse experiments in the field of biology. At my time at Penn, I am very fortunate that I could research in viral oncology. It is like the best combination I could imagine: virus plus cancer! I work for Professor Jianxin You in the department of microbiology, investigating in Merkel Cell Polyomavirus. Merkel Cell Polyomavirus is the direct cause of Merkel Cell Carcinoma, a rare but aggressive skin cancer. My independent project in the You lab is very challenging but brings me fulfillment in time and fruitful results. Research is one of the main time commitment in my undergraduate career. I hope fellow undergraduate students can utilize resources in the university, including CURF, to get exposure and get engaged with researching.

  • Research Assistant to Prof. Jianxin You, Department of Microbiology (Viral Oncology)
  • Medical Journal Assistant, American Journal of Kidney Diseases (AJKD)
  • College Alumni Society Undergraduate Research Grant- Fall 2018
Bienfait Igiraneza
SEAS 2020
Academic Major: Computer Science

Having an interest in Medicine and Biology, I joined Dr. Mecky Pohlschroder’s lab, in the department of Biology, since Spring of my Freshman year. For a while, I worked on projects that involved a lot of bench work. Nonetheless, by the end of my Freshman year, I had developed more interest in Mathematics and Computer Science. Until then, I could not tell how I would merge those 2 fields into my primary interest in Biology and Medicine. Fortunately, thanks to Dr. Pohlschroder’s advice and guidance, I quickly realized how handy the combination of my interests in all these fields would actually be to help answer many research questions. And so, in my current project, I use a python framework Ursgal, which combines multiple recently developed open modification search engines, to analyze quantitative mass spectrometric datasets. This research project contributes to the understanding of how post-translational modifications of proteins increase proteome complexity, thus affecting proteins’ functions in organisms.

Doing research at Penn has shaped my academic journey so far. It has helped me discover my interests and has given me a taste of what it means to apply one’s knowledge. Seeking mentorship and asking the right questions to the right people got me involved in research and I would love to help aspiring undergraduate researchers find ways to get started as well and make the most out of their research experience.

  • College Alumni Society Undergraduate Research Grant – Spring 2018
  • Seltzer Family Digital Media Award 2018
  • Research assistant in Dr. Pohlschroder’s lab, Department of Biology (From Spring 2017 to present).
Camila Johanek
COL 2020
Academic Major: Psychology

**I am abroad Fall Semester 2019 but am more than happy to answer email questions or talk via Skype!**

As a freshman coming into Penn, I knew I wanted to be involved with research, but was overwhelmed by the number of projects at Penn. Because of CURF, I was able to explore the different research projects and was lucky enough to plan my own with Dr. Rebecca Pearl. I learned how to design my study around my interests, and explored the relationship between current and lifetime stressors with weight gain. With the support of the Junior Jumpstart program, I fully immersed myself into the highs and lows of research, now understand the demands of it, and want to pursue a career in research. I would love to help students find their passion through this exciting opportunity, so please reach out if you have any questions!

  • CURF Jumpstart for Juniors
  • Research Assistant to Dr. Rebecca Pearl, Center for Weight and Eating Disorders
  • Research Assistant to Dr. David Dinges, Chronobiology Lab
  • Research Assistant to Dr. Robert DeRubeis, Lab for Techniques of Trauma Focused Psychotherapy for PTSD
  • ESDM Interventionist, Penn Center for Mental Health - Early Childhood Program
Omkar Katta
COL 2020
Academic Major: Mathematical Economics

As a research assistant to Dr. Femida Handy (SP2), I witnessed how my coursework as a mathematical economist can be applied to answering big questions that have big impacts. Currently, I am working on characterizing the relationship between the gender composition of nonprofit boards and the nonprofits’ good governance practices. I have also conducted research for a developmental economics lab at Yale University where I studied how incentives schemes can be designed to induce positive habits. These experiences made me realize the necessity of research in influencing positive change and convinced me that research in academia is right for me.

  • Research Assistant to Dr. Femida Handy (School of Social Policy and Practice)
  • Leadership Alliance Intern to Dr. Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak (Yale Research Initiative on Innovation and Scale)
  • Recipient of Yale Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship
  • Supported by Grant for Faculty Mentoring Undergraduate Research
Marc Klinger
COL '20
Academic Major: Physics Mathematical Economics

I have always been obsessed with the prospect of knowing “everything”. This thirst for the so-called “Theory of Everything” fed my passion for Physics and Economics – two primarily reductionist fields which attempt to elegantly wrap up the infinite complexities of the world around us in the universal language of mathematics. During the summer of my freshman year I was fortunate enough to work with Dr. Abraham Wyner on a project which used data science to create a valuation technique which can quantify the degree to which High School Football players are exploited by the NFL through league enforced market frictions; particularly the ineligibility of HS players in the NFL draft. I have also participated in the ATLAS Experiment at the Large Hadron Collider where my project focused on probing at Physics Beyond the Standard Model to begin the process of answering questions such as “What is Dark Matter?”, and “How can we build a Quantum Field Theory which is consistent with General Relativity?”. Most recently, I’ve been working with Dr. Jonathan Heckman on a pair of projects relating to Theoretical Physics and the Popularization of Physics. In the former, we are studying higher dimensional settings of the Fractional Quantum Hall Problem to investigate how the geometry of a physical setting can contribute to the realization of topological degrees of freedom. In the latter, we have created a blog and YouTube channel for the purpose of presenting topics from physics in a way that is fun and relatable while also being informative. I understand as well as anyone that it can be very intimidating getting started in research, so please don’t hesitate to reach out for any reason!

  • Penn Undergraduate Research Mentorship Program (PURM)
  • Research Assistant to Professor Abraham Wyner of the Statistics Department
  • Research Assistant to Professor Elliot Lipeles in High Energy Physics
  • Research Assistant to Professor Robert Strain of the Math Department
  • Research Assistant to Professor Jonathan Heckman in High Energy Theory
Jacob Kocan
COL 2021
Academic Major: Biological Basis of Behavior

As an aspiring physician, I have a deep passion for biomedical sciences. I plan to use my medical degree not only to provide care to patients, but also to advance and benefit the scientific community through biological research. CURF has been an incredible resource to help me develop a strong research-based foundation. Through PURM, I spent the summer after my freshman year at Penn performing research in the Mourkioti Skeletal and Cardiac Muscle Lab at the Perelman School of Medicine. I assisted my principal investigator, Dr. Foteini Mourkioti, with numerous projects, but my main endeavor focused on analyzing the efficacy of using tissue engineered nerve grafts to augment the functional neuromuscular regeneration of denervated muscle. I would be happy to share the details of my extremely positive experiences with CURF, and how I navigated my way to finding a research position that was right for me. Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions you may have. I look forward to hearing from you!


  • Penn Undergraduate Research and Mentorship Program (PURM) (Summer 2018)
  • Mourkioti Skeletal and Cardiac Muscle Lab, McKay Department of Orthopaedic Research Laboratory, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania (Summer 2018 -- present)
Gina Lepore
COL 2021
Academic Major: Biological Basis of Behavior

Getting involved in research may seem intimidating at first; research-driven schools such as Penn offer many opportunities, some of which may initially seem out of reach.

After discovering CURF and working as a research assistant the summer after my freshman year, I have realized that research is something that is not only attainable but also directional. It has the ability to supplement your knowledge and refine your goals. It is common to be unsure about what you want to do, and research acts as gateway to your own passions. I am a pre-med student interested in neuroscience and translational medicine, specifically how we can use animal models and techniques to develop new therapeutic treatments. Being a physician has always been a goal of mine, and after working on an opioid project assessing the effects of maternal drug use on infants, I now know I want to purse biomedical research as well. If you have any questions about CURF, research, events, or even about school, life, and Penn in general, please feel free to contact me!

  • Research Assistant, Boundaries of Anxiety and Depression Lab (Fall 2019-Spring 2020)

  • Research Assistant, Department of Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics (Summer 2018-Present)

  • Penn Undergraduate Research and Mentorship Program (PURM) (Summer 2018)

  • Research Assistant, Department of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care (Fall 2017-Spring 2018)

Candice Li
COL 2022
Academic Major: Mathematical Economics

Through the AP Capstone courses I took in high school, I knew I wanted to do some sort of research when I get to Penn. I stumbled across the CURF website the summer before, and started working as a research assistant for Prof. Reibstein basically the same time I started Penn. Through my work on Nation Branding, how the image of a nation influences its economy and vice versa, I am constantly engaged and fascinated. Some of the questions I investigated were how to align Japanese internal and external national images or examining market entry decisions for Chinese carmakers. Through this opportunity, I was not only exposed to the the transformative power of marketing, the analytical and critical thinking skills required, I also learned to take ownership of my work and to take initiative. The hours spent on the projects and meeting with Prof. Reibstein every week remain some of the highlight of my weeks. If you are interested in learning more about my research or how to navigate the many research resources at Penn, please feel free to reach out! 

  • Research Assistant to Prof. David Reibstein, William Steward Woodside Professor of Marketing, Wharton School of Business

Kevin Liang
COL 2022
Academic Major: Linguistics Computer Science

This summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to work under the mentorship of Professor Eugene Buckley on an original project. I investigated the changed tone system of Taishanese – a language spoken in Southern China. This project gave me a lot of practice in conducting fieldwork and tackling the inevitable hurdles that came my way. Additionally, I have also been involved with research in phonetics under Professor Jianjing Kuang. The project that I am currently working on involves investigating the varying acoustic properties of glottalic stops in Q’eqchi’ – a Mayan language spoken in Guatemala. Unlike my work with Taishanese, this research is much more data-driven and is centered around analyzing pre-existing data.  Mostly, this consists of using specialized phonetic software along with performing statistical analyses with R. I have been very fortunate to have been able to find research projects that I really enjoy and would be happy to talk to anyone about the process. No matter what field you’re in, please feel free to reach out to me. I’d love to brainstorm some ideas together!

  • University Scholars C’22
  • University Scholars Summer Research Funding (Summer 2019) Undergraduate Researcher, Department of Linguistics
Alice Liu
COL '20
Academic Major: Biochemistry Sociology

I conduct research in Dr. Christopher Fang-Yen’s laboratory in the Bioengineering department. I study how neural circuits generate behavior using the roundworm C. elegans. Working in the lab has instilled in me the mastery of important academic skills and has helped me discover that I want to pursue research and neuroscience in the future. I am majoring in Biochemistry and Sociology and sub-matriculating in Chemistry through the Vagelos Scholars Program in the Molecular Life Sciences. I would love to share my experience in research with others, so feel free to contact me with any questions!

  • Vagelos Undergraduate Research Grant
  • College House Research Fellow
  • University Scholar

2018 UScholars Progress Report

Christine Liu
COL 2021
Academic Major: Biological Basis of Behavior
I have been fortunate enough to begin research training at the Perelman School of Medicine since the spring semester of my freshman year. It has provided me great opportunities to study neurodevelopmental disorders by combining a spectrum of genetic, cellular, and neuroscience techniques. Joining the University Scholars program in my sophomore year has further connected me to a wide variety of peers and alumni within and outside of my field and enabled me to gain great insight into their research journeys. My research experience at Penn is enjoyable and valuable, and I’m excited to have this opportunity to give back to Penn’s exceptional research community and help connect anyone to the abundant resources Penn has to offer!
  • University Scholar
  • Benjamin Franklin Scholar
  • Research Assistant, Department of Genetics, the Perelman School of Medicine (2018-Present)
Jen Locke
COL 2020
Academic Major: Physics

Since the summer before my freshman year at Penn, I have been fortunate enough to participate in astrophysics research at Penn. Under Masao Sako, I worked on the project The Search for Planet Nine where I researched Trans-Neptunian Objects, and starting my freshman summer I worked an independent project on Studying the Population of Variable Stars in the Dark Energy Survey (DES). I joined the University Scholars community during the spring of my freshman year. I have presented my research at multiple physics conferences, including the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) Community & Workshop 2019 and the Dark Energy Survey University of Pennsylvania Meeting and also at Penn events like the CURF Research Expo and the Penn Women in Physics Annual Conference 2019. I am also heavily involved in theatre and performing arts at Penn. Feel free to reach out to me about questions regarding physics research, presenting research and public speaking, and balancing research with extra curriculars.

  • University Scholar
  • Research Assistant to Masao Sako, Department of Physics & Astronomy
  • Independent Undergraduate Researcher, Department of Physics & Astronomy
Sabina London
COL 2020
Academic Major: Biological Basis of Behavior

Prior to studying at Penn, I worked in an immunology research lab for two years and investigated immunosuppressive mechanisms in Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM), a rare and incurable lung disease in which tumors form in the lungs. This research experience inspired me to pursue cancer research at Penn through the Pediatric Oncology Student Training Program. At the same time, I have been studying neuroscience through the Biological Basis of Behavior (BBB) Program. I became interested in understanding how neural circuits control aspects of our behavior and language. I reached out to RPA Zach Sheldon who told me how much he enjoys working in Dr. Marc Schmidt’s lab. I started reading about Dr. Schmidt’s research on songbird vocalizations and found it really fascinating, and I am so happy that I joined his lab. I am now working on my honors thesis where I am studying how various classes of vocalizations activate brain areas involved in auditory perception and auditory-motor integration.

I have also recently worked on an independent Sociology of Science research project where I researched how to improve access to STEM education for low-income schools across the U.S. Based on this research, I recently established a STEM program in a refugee school in Chicago, Illinois. I would love to help undergraduates interested in research opportunities at Penn!

  • Kathryn Davis 100 Projects for Peace Award, 2019
  • 1st Place Undergraduate Poster Award in Cardiovascular Pharmacology, 2018 Experimental Biology Conference, San Diego, CA
  • Pediatric Oncology Student Training Program (POST) Grant Award from ALSF, 2018
  • American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) Travel Award, 2018              
  • Hassenfeld Foundation Social Impact Research Grant Award, 2018          
  • Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF), Rutgers Institute for Translational Medicine & Science, 2017
  • Research Assistant, Biological Basis of Behavior, University of Pennsylvania, Lab of Dr. Marc Schmidt, 2019 - Present
  • Research Assistant, Translational Oncology Genomics Research, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Lab of Dr. Yael Mossé, Summer 2018
  • Research Assistant, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Rutgers University, Lab of Dr. Andrew Gow, 2014-2017
Alyssa Lu
ENG 2022
Academic Major: Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

After being in two labs on campus, participating in PURM, and now conducting independent study research, I have encountered many benefits and challenges of doing research at Penn that I would be happy to share with aspiring researchers. If you have any questions about getting started in research, being active in CURF, or more specifically about my research field/department, I would love to answer them.

My research expertise lies in energy engineering; I am currently working on a hybrid flow battery project in Dr. Pikul's lab. I previously worked on fuel cell catalysis in Dr. Gorte's lab.

  • January 2019-May 2019: Research Assistant, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Gorte Lab (fuel cell/catalysis research)
  • June 2019-August 2019: Research Assistant through PURM, Mechanical Engineering, Pikul Lab (research conducted on batteries with application in grid storage)
  • Present: Independent Study Research Assistant in the Pikul Group
Dominique Martinez
COL 2020
Academic Major: Biological Basis of Behavior

My main research interests revolve around the intersection between neuroscience and society. I am interested in the effects of socioeconomic status (SES) on a child's developing brain, how neuroscience research can potentially lessen the growing income-achievement gap between low- and high-SES children, and the neural basis of persistence. I have had the privilege of working as a research assistant to Dr. Elizabeth Brannon in the Developing Minds Lab since spring 2018 and an independent study student to Dr. Allyson Mackey in the Changing Brain Lab since spring 2019. My lab experience has greatly influenced my decision to go into neuroscience research and academia myself. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about research, being a first-generation, low-income (FGLI) student at Penn, or anything else that comes to mind!

  • Independent Study Student to Dr. Allyson Mackey, Department of Psychology (2019-Present) 
  • Student Registration and Financial Services Summer Funding Award (2019)
  • Undergraduate Fellow, Center for Neuroscience and Society (2018-2019)
  • Research Assistant to Dr. Elizabeth Brannon, Department of Psychology (2018-Present)
  • Penn Undergraduate Research Mentorship (PURM) Program (2018)
  • Vice Provost for University Life Summer Funding Award (2018)
Tara McCaffrey
COL 2021
Academic Major: Biological Basis of Behavior

I came to Penn with very little research experience and was uncertain on how to get involved. Through CURF, I was introduced to the many opportunities Penn has to offer! After discovering my passion for neuroscience, I applied to a pediatric neuroscience lab at CHOP through the PURM program. I currently still work in that lab under Dr. Adeline Vanderver, where I assist in creating an in vivo model of the leukodystrophy H-ABC. I am on a pre-med track and plan on majoring in BBB and minoring in Health Services Management. Please feel free to contact me about any questions you may have, whether it’s about getting started in research, about my project or PURM experience, or anything about Penn in general!

 Tom McMonagle
COL 2020
Academic Major: Biology

I began my research career at Penn rather quickly and having been at the same lab for over 2 years now, I’ve been fortunate enough to gain not only invaluable research experience but also a deep understanding of the important role undergraduates play within a lab setting. I am currently working in Dr. Xiaolu Yang’s Laboratory in the Department of Cancer Biology. Specifically, my project focuses on a novel protein quality control system in both in-vivo and in-vitro models, which remedies neurodegeneration through the degradation of misfolded protein aggregates. This past summer I worked in Clinical Research at a large pharmaceutical company and was directly embedded into a clinical trial team. My academic research experience as well as my internship experience has given me insight to the world of biomedical drug discovery and development and I would love to help you get started on your journey here at Penn, so please feel free to reach out to me!


  • Department of Cancer Biology, The Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute, Yang Lab (September 2016 - Present)
  • Clinical Volunteer at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia(June 2018- Present)
  • Penn Undergraduate Research Mentoring Program (Summer 2017)
James Mo
COL '20
Academic Major: Biology

Having conducted research in high school, I knew I wanted to pursue research at Penn. Being a biology major, I wanted to pursue research in the biomedical field. Currently, I am working at the Institute for Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism at the Perelman School of Medicine under Dr. Joseph Baur. I have been working there since the beginning of second semester of freshman year and through PURM, I was able to stay at Penn over the summer and continue my research. Through this rewarding experience, I have learned how to handle mice, how to perform various assays, and in general more about the process involved in research. Here, I am able to apply what I learned in the classroom to research. Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in research, especially in the biomedical field!

  • Penn Undergraduate Research Mentoring Program, 2017
  • Research Assistant, Institute for Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, Baur Lab
Jewel Moore
COL 2021
Academic Major: Chemistry

Coming to Penn, I knew I wanted to research, but I had no clue how to actually start! It can seem so intimidating to get started, but Penn offers many opportunities to undergraduates across disciplines.

 Last summer, through CURF, I was able to find the perfect lab for me! I’m currently researching in the Goldberg group in the Department of Chemistry. I am studying the Aldehyde Water Shift (AWS), a reaction that transforms aldehydes into the corresponding carboxylic acid using water as the oxidant. I’ve had a great experience with CURF and researching in the chemistry department, and would love to help others share my experience! Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions!

  • Goldberg group, Department of Chemistry, Summer 2019- Present
  • Penn Undergraduate Research Mentoring Program (PURM), Summer 2019
  • Frances Velay Fellowship, Summer 2019
  • DeCarlo group, Drexel University, Summer 2018
Amanda Moreno
COL 2021
Academic Major: Biological Basis of Behavior

When I began my pre-med undergraduate career at Penn, I had no previous experience working in a lab. I wasn’t quite sure what a research position would entail or even if it was something I wanted to pursue. Finding a lab position that aligned with my interests and fit my lifestyle was no easy feat. After spending a summer researching the neurobiological basis of drug addiction under the guidance of Dr. Heath Schmidt, I developed a passion for biomedical research and my career aspirations began to align towards an MD/PhD degree. Along the way, receiving a CURF award and the opportunity to present my research findings at the Fall Research Expo helped me grow as a researcher and scholar. Please reach out to me with any questions about getting involved with biomedical research, finding a lab, balancing school and work life, or just assimilating to Penn!

Research Positions:

  • Student Researcher: Department of Psychiatry, Perelman School of Medicine, Dr. Heath Schmidt (May 2019-Present)
  • Research Assistant: Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute, Perelman School of Medicine, Dr. Celeste Simon (August 2018-May 2019)
  • Summer Treatment Program Intern: Center for Children & Families, Florida International University, Dr. Katie Hart (Summer 2018)

Research Awards:

  • University of Pennsylvania Career Services Research Grant (Summer 2019)
  • CURF College Alumni Society Research Grant (Spring 2019)
Nicholas Paleologos
COL 2020
Academic Major: Biological Basis of Behavior

Research has been an invaluable platform that has allowed me to apply scientific knowledge I’ve acquired through classes and design experiments to address questions that I am curious about within a particular field. In my case, my field of inquiry is understanding neuroinflammation caused by traumatic brain injury (TBI). I have been working in the Cullen Lab since my first semester at Penn and I have been recently developing my independent study project to study the role of microglia in mediating neuroinflammation at acute and chronic time-points after TBI. I am particularly interested in how chronic activation of microglia may be causing neuronal loss - leading to a variety of clinical deficits such as impaired memory, epilepsy, and increased susceptibility to neurodegeneration. My goal as an RPA is to help everyone who is passionate about the brain, or any unique field of interest, to get involved in the amazing research opportunities Penn has to offer. Research can be incredibly frustrating at times, but it also comes with the incredible feeling that you are making a contribution to advancing our scientific knowledge! Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions or if you are interested in pursuing research in neuroscience, or even if you would just like to chat and grab some coffee. 

  • Recipient of BMES Student Design and Research Award (Fall, 2019)
  • Recipient of Jumpstart for Juniors Research Grant (Spring, 2019)
  • Recipient of Pincus-Magaziner Family Undergraduate Research and Travel Fund (Spring, 2017)
  • Research Assistant, Cullen Lab, Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center (2016 - Present) 
  • Research Assistant, Serrano Lab, Psychology Department, Hunter College (2014 - 2016) 
Michelle Paolicelli
ENG 2022
Academic Major: Materials Science and Engineering

Participating in PURM over the Summer gave me the opportunity to see what my various interests look like at the professional level. I worked at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia on quality improvement initiatives surrounding nurse workload and the ways that patients are monitored. This experience gave me a behind-the-scenes look at the way that hospitals operate, deepening my interest in medicine. Additionally, I learned about the field of human factors engineering and how it can be used to optimize sociotechnical systems. As an engineer considering applying to medical school, seeing the intersection of engineering and medicine was fascinating. If you are interested in the intersection of medical and engineering research please feel free to reach out with any questions!

  • PURM Grant recipient Summer 2019, Dr. Chris Bonafide
Shreya Parchure
SEAS 2021
Academic Major: Bioengineering

As an aspiring physician-scientist, I am passionate about using interdisciplinary technologies to solve biomedical problems. I came to Penn having worked in materials science research at NCL, India during high school. CURF’s resources were instrumental in developing a strong research-oriented foundation with my interest in neural technologies. Since joining the Laboratory for Cognition and Neural Stimulation during freshman year, I have assisted my PI Dr. Roy Hamilton on numerous projects that characterize TMS, a non-invasive brain stimulation technology, and help expand it to clinical populations for neurorehabilitation. These opportunities have helped me understand the nature of bioengineering and translational research, while working with experts in the field to improve lives. Please do not hesitate to reach out with any research-related questions – I enjoy helping others find their passion and enriching their college experience through research!

Some research milestones:

  • Research selected for Oral Presentation and poster at 2019 NYC Neuromodulation and Neuromodulation: the Science Conference
  • 2 research posters accepted to present at American Society for Neurorehabilitation (ASNR) Conference 2019
  • 1st-Author abstract published in Brain Stimulation journal (Elsevier)
  • Poster presentation at 2018 NYC Neuromodulation and NANS Summer conference
  • 7 total poster presentations (CURF Expo x2, Rachleff, Penn Institute for Rehabilitation Medicine, 3 at conferences) and 2 oral presentations (Rachleff, Neuromodulation conference)
  • Rachleff Scholars Program, Penn Engineering
  • Rachleff Scholars summer research stipend recipient, Summer 2019
  • Vagelos Undergraduate Research Grant recipient, Fall 2018
  • Grants for Faculty Mentoring Undergraduate Research (Dr. Roy Hamilton), Summer 2018
  • Undergraduate Research Assistant, Laboratory for Cognition and Neural Stimulation, Fall 2017 - present
Natalia Parjane
COL 2020
Academic Major: Cognitive Science

I am interested in neurodegenerative diseases and psychiatric illnesses, particularly cognitive impairments, clinical manifestations, and behavioral and psychological changes. I am a researcher at the Frontotemporal Degeneration Center under Dr. Murray Grossman. I study language impairments in patients with FTD and atypical Parkinson’s disease (Progressive Supranuclear Palsy and Corticobasal Syndrome). Last summer was my first time delving into neurodegenerative research, but my experience at the lab has been wonderful. If you’re interested in trying to figure out how to connect with faculty and labs, or more specifically neuroscience, cognitive science, psychiatric disorders, clinical research, etc., feel free to email me!

  • Researcher (2019-2020) Frontotemporal Degeneration Center: Dr. Murray Grossman. Senior thesis on language impairments in FTD and atypical Parkinson’s disease
  • Intern (summer 2019) Frontotemporal Degeneration Center: Dr. Murray Grossman
  • Research Assistant (summer 2018) Department of Ophthalmology: Dr. Jessica Morgan. Data analysis on retinal imaging of patients with retinal disease (Choroideremia) and controls
Rylee Park
COL 2020
Academic Major: Psychology

I’ve been extremely fortunate to work with many faculty members at Penn, including Drs. Rinad Beidas, Rob DeRubeis, Melissa Hunt and Monica Calkins.  My research projects have involved a wide range of issues such as (1) ensuring that evidence-based mental health interventions reach underserved communities, (2) using personalized treatment and patient compensatory skills for mood disorders, (3) developing and testing a clinical ethical decision-making tool for therapists, and (4) investigating psychotic disorders and mental illness stigma.  These projects have involved learning qualitative methods and being deeply involved in the collection and analysis of qualitative data. Since the summer, I’ve also been collaborating on a global mental health research project conducted in Pune, India.

I would be excited to hear from folks at any point in their research journey, whether you want to know how to write the initial email to a professor whose work interests you, ask a professor you’ve been working with to supervise an independent study, or even discuss stepping down from a position so you can pursue other opportunities. Please do not hesitate to reach out!

  • Summer Research Fellowship through the Grant for Faculty Mentoring Undergraduate Research
  • Research Assistant and Honors Student to Dr. Melissa Hunt, Department of Psychology
  • Research Assistant and Independent Study Student to Dr. Monica Calkins, Department of Psychiatry
  • Research Assistant to Dr. Rinad Beidas, Department of Psychiatry
  • Research Assistant and Independent Study Student to Dr. Robert DeRubeis, Department of Psychology
Madison Pettaway
COL 2021
Academic Major: Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies

I knew from the very start that I wanted research to be a part of my Penn experience, but I had no idea how to find research opportunities as a social sciences student. Thankfully, I joined the research mentoring program organized by the Research Peer Advisors and learned that there were tons of research opportunities available to non-STEM students. One of them, the Peer Undergraduate Research Mentoring Program (PURM), stuck with me as I tried to figure out my summer plans. Through PURM, I worked with Dr. Deborah A. Thomas and spent part of the summer after my freshman year at Penn researching the relationship between human rights and sexuality in Jamaica. As a Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies major who wishes to attend law school, this project was the perfect blend of my interests, and it showed me the ways I can combine my research with activist work. Currently, I continue to work with Dr. Thomas and am conducting research as part of the Penn Slavery Project Seminar and the From Cell to Home Project for Women Lifers in PA. For me, research is another opportunity for advocacy, so I work to make sure my research centers the voices of the people and communities I work with. My Research Peer Advisor helped me so much, and I am excited to support any other student who wishes to get involved in research! Do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or want to meet up and talk about your research interests!


  • Penn Undergraduate Research Mentoring Program (PURM), Dr. Deborah A. Thomas
  • Research Assistant to Dr. Deborah A. Thomas, Department of Anthropology
  • Research Assistant to Professor Kathleen Brown, Penn Slavery Project Research Seminar, Department of History
  • Research Assistant to Dr. Kathleen Brown and Dr. Susan Sorenson, From Cell to Home Project for Women Lifers in PA, Ortner Center on Violence and Abuse in Relationships
Abigail Poteshman
COL 2020
Academic Major: Physics Mathematics

I am drawn to research questions that involve searching for underlying patterns in large, complicated, and often messy data sets. In high school, I worked in an oncology lab demonstrating that the basis for patients responding differently to certain drugs was in the genetic makeup of their tumors. I currently work in the Complex Systems group at Penn, where I am using network science to study how quantum systems transition from one energy state to another. I also spent the past summer working on a research project in cosmology at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Italy. Although the methodologies employed by the oncology, complex systems, and cosmology labs are extremely different, I have had fantastic experiences in all! If you have any questions about identifying different kinds of science labs or are interested in the differences between working in wet and computational labs, do not hesitate to contact me with any questions! I also have experience navigating fellowship applications--both internal and external to Penn--and would be more than happy to talk if you're interested about those processes!

  • Benjamin Franklin Scholar
  • University Scholar
  • Goldwater Scholar
  • PURM, Summer 2017
  • Complex Systems Group at Penn, 2017-present
  • The David Solit Lab at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, 2014-16
  • International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Italy, Summer 2019

2018 UScholars Progress Report

Suditi Rahematpura
SEAS 2021
Academic Major: Bioengineering

Coming into Penn, I had participated in a few research experiences, spanning many disciplines. Though I was initially unsure about how to shape my research experience at Penn, I have been extremely fortunate to find my place in Dr. Heath Schmidt’s lab since my sophomore fall. Our lab investigates the neurobiological mechanisms underlying substance abuse disorders and the development of novel pharmacotherapies to treat them. Since this past summer, I have been working on investigating the cell type specific effects of amylin on D1 and D2 neurons in nucleus accumbent shell on opioid reinforcement and analgesia. The Schmidt lab has allowed me to develop my skills as I am engrained in the technical and intellectual aspects of our work. Whether you are totally new to research or looking for advice as you explore something different, please feel free to reach out to me with any research-related question! 

  • Research Assistant, Department of Biobehavioral Health Sciences, Dr. Heath Schmidt (Fall 2018 - present) 
  • Supported by Grant for Faculty Mentors Undergraduate Research (Summer 2019) 
Daniel Rodriguez
COL/WH 2021
Academic Major: Chemistry Finance

Ever since I was young, I have always been fascinated with the world of science. Whether it be biology, chemistry, or medicine the way in which science allows us to understand the world around us has always captivated me. Thus, in coming to Penn I knew that I wanted to get involved in biomedical research. Thankfully I was able to get involved in a wet lab at CHOP investigating rare blood disorders during the winter of my freshman year. Working in this lab allowed for me to see the practical uses of what I learned in classes and thus instilled a greater dedication towards science within me. During my freshman year summer, I was able to work at both Pennsylvania Hospital and the Motion Analysis Lab at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. I worked on many different projects, including national population-based studies looking at economic trends in spinal surgery and patient centric studies investigating spinal conditions themselves. More recently, I have been working on a data science research project looking at Asset Based Loans in the United States Financial System. Overall, research has been a central part of my experience at Penn that I would be glad to speak about with anyone. So, if you have any questions about how to get involved in research or questions about research in general – feel free to reach out.

  • Research Assistant, Department of Accounting, The Wharton School
  • Research Assistant, Department of Hematology, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute
  • Research Assistant, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Pennsylvania Hospital
  • Penn Undergraduate Research Mentoring (PURM) program
Zachary Rovner
COL 2021
Academic Major: Mathematical Economics

I never imagined doing research when I first go to Penn. I had no research experience and I, like many others, thought that research was reserved for a handful of the best and brightest students in the hard sciences. If only I could tell myself how wrong I was. With the help of CURF, I was able to utilize research to enhance and dictate my academic pathway. Currently, I am working on empirical research in urban economics, continuing from my summer work in the relationship between municipal bond markets and fiscal health of large metropolitan cities. Research has helped me understand who I am as a student and has taught me critical thinking skills that cannot be learned in a classroom. My main academic interests are mathematics, economics, and statistics and I would love to get you started on research of your own. If you have any questions about my work, research in general, or how to get started, feel free to reach out!


  • Penn Undergraduate Research and Mentorship Program (PURM) (Summer 2018)
  • Research Assistant, Urban Economics, Wharton PPI (August 2018 - Present)
Nahima Saliba
COL '20
Academic Major: Chemistry

Part of what initially drew me to Penn was the multitude of opportunities to participate in research; however, like many other aspiring undergraduate researchers, I found myself feeling anxious about how to get started. However, after having overcome my initial reservations to reach out, I found myself working as a research assistant at CHOP for the Center for Mitochondrial and Epigenomic Research under the direction of Dr. Todd Kilbaugh. Having wanted to diversify my research experiences, I then worked under the direction of Dr. Lisa Schwartz in behavioral oncology where I was able to step out of the realm of wet bench research and interact with patients. Since taking more courses in the sciences, I found myself developing a fascination for fields of STEM research outside of medicine and currently work under the instruction of Dr. Zahra Fakhraai on stable glasses in Penn's Chemistry department. The choice to switch research paths has been one that, albeit slightly daunting at first, was incredible in that it allowed me to truly explore future career paths in alternative fields. These experiences have not only cultivated my passion for research, but have also allowed me to accumulate a vast wealth of knowledge on the fields I ultimately hope to contribute to in the future. I’m more than happy to answer any questions about research or getting involved in research; feel free to email me with any questions you might have!

  • Research Assistant, Penn Chemistry, Dr. Zahra Fakhraai 
  • Research Assistant, Center for Mitochondrial and Epigenomic Medicine
  • Penn Undergraduate Research Mentoring (PURM) Program, Dr. Lisa Schwartz 
Sumant Shringari
COL 2021
Academic Major: Biophysics Biochemistry Physics

I conduct research in Dr. E. James Petersson lab in the Chemistry department. My research involves using molecular simulations to predict effects relevant to our lab focuses. For example, I dock peptides into protein pockets, and attempt to predict proteolysis rates. Due to multidisciplinary nature of my work, I do both a mix of computational and experimental work, and span across Chemistry and Biology. I have been fortunate to have mentors that have been patient with me and have given me great advice. My goal for the future is to continue my work to use computational simulation for practical use. If you need any advice about research or about Penn in general, please feel free to contact me.

  • Vagelos Undergraduate Research Grant
  • College House Research Fellow
  • The Ruth Marcus Kanter College Alumni Society Undergraduate Research Grant
Erin Spicola
COL 2020
Academic Major: Anthropology

I have been involved with Dr. Megan Kassabaum’s archaeological research in the Lower Mississippi Valley for about two years now. In Summer 2018, I participated in the Smith Creek Archaeological Project’s (SCAP) excavation in southwestern Mississippi. Smith Creek is a Native American mound site that dates to three distinct cultures between approximately 200 BC and AD 1300. In 2019, I was given the opportunity to co-curate and design an exhibit in the local county museum. The exhibit consists of three display cases of artifacts from the county, as well as a set of panels that take viewers through a timeline of mound building cultures in Louisiana and Mississippi. Our opening day festival on June 29 brought in over 400 visitors! The exhibit will continue to be open to the public for free for the foreseeable future. I will be returning to Mississippi in November 2019 to present at the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, and I hope to continue working on this project by helping to create educational programming, such as field trips to the museum and mound sites, for local students.

If you are interested in research in the humanities but don’t know how to start, feel free to contact me! I love to chat with people about their passions, and especially enjoy talking to other anthropology students (or students who are considering anthropology).

  • Hassenfeld Foundation Social Impact Research Grant, 2019
  • Anthropology Undergraduate Research Fellowship, 2019
  • Penn Museum Student Field Funds, 2019
  • Penn Museum Student Exhibition Internship, 2019-2020
  • Lab Manager, Department of Anthropology, North American Archaeology Lab, 2019-2020
  • Penn Undergraduate Research Mentoring Program (PURM), 2018
  • Roger Williams Museum of Natural History Intern, 2017-2019
Joseph Squillaro
COL 2021
Academic Major: Philosophy, Politics and Economics

I have always been fascinated by the age of technological acceleration we live in and how we can stay secure with the cyber world being integrated into so many facets of our lives. When I first came to Penn, I knew I wanted to continue this interest and do research in cybersecurity and technology policy, but with so many research opportunities available, I was easily overwhelmed. Thankfully the RPA program through CURF clarified my journey into research at Penn and introduced me to the College House Research Program where I am the Research Fellow for Harrison College House. Specifically, I am researching the efficacy of the Two-Step Verification Protocol employed at Penn and elsewhere on the basis of a cyberlaw and cybersecurity prospective. I am also analyzing various other cybersecurity protocols to determine which ones are most efficient given the tradeoffs of safety and convenience.

Research has opened my eyes to a different side of academia and I am grateful to be able to contribute to making the digital world a safer place while studying what I am passionate about. If you have any questions on humanities, policy or tech-based research at the University of Pennsylvania, please feel free to reach out to me via email!

  • College House Research Fellowship, Harrison College House (2019-2020)
Christina Steele
COL 2020
Academic Major: Psychology

When I first entered Penn, I knew very little about research beyond the iconic portrayal of test tubes and laboratory coats. Such an image prevented me from ever really seeing myself as having the potential to conduct research at Penn, let alone even think of pursuing a research career in academia. I had first considered the prospect of working in a research lab after I decided I would declare my major in psychology. I thought I should get involved in a psychology lab so that I would be able to meet other psychology majors and learn more about the field.  This decision was one of the best I have made at Penn as I soon realized I was passionate about research and learned how immensely diverse the field of research was in terms of the kinds of projects you could pursue. If you would like to know more about psychology research at Penn, are interested in learning a bit more about what I do, or are interested in learning more about Penn research opportunities generally, please do not hesitate to reach out to me!

  • Undergraduate Researcher, National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Treatment-Related Research for Youth with Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Problems Ohio University (Summer 2019)
  • Research Assistant, Department of Psychology, Jenkins Lab (Spring 2019 - Present)
    • Hassenfeld Foundation Social Impact Grant
  • Research Assistant, Department of Psychology, DeRubeis Lab (Spring 2019 - Summer 2019)
  • Research Assistant, Department of Psychology, Risk and Resilience Lab, Short Project (March 2019 - May 2019)
  • Research Assistant, Department of Psychology, Brannon Lab (Spring 2019 - Present)
  • Research Assistant, Department of Psychology, Emotion, Development, Environment, and Neurogenetics (EDEN) Lab (Fall 2018 - Present)
  • Research Assistant, Department of Psychology, Hunt Lab, PSYC 362 Independent Study (Fall 2018 - Spring 2019)
    • College Alumni Society Undergraduate Research Grant
  • Undergraduate Researcher, National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Ukraine (Summer 2018)
  • Research Assistant, Department of Psychiatry, Perelman School of Medicine, Sleep and Chronobiology Lab (Fall 2017 - Spring 2018)
  • Benjamin Franklin Scholar (2016 - Present)
Varun Sudunagunta
COL 2021
Academic Major: Biological Basis of Behavior

I have been fortunate enough to conduct research at the University of Texas Institute of Geophysics in high school, and while I enjoyed my work there I knew I wanted to work in a wet lab. Using CURF’s Research Directory I was able to find the Poncz Lab out of the Division of Hematology at CHOP. Our lab as a whole seeks to understand the mechanisms that govern hematopoiesis and megakaryopoiesis. In my current project with Dr. Brian Estevez, I am attempting to understand the processes that are dysregulated in Familial Platelet Disorder with predisposition to Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (FPD/AML), an autosomal dominant disorder caused by a mutation to the RUNX1 transcription factor, while attempting to further characterize the patient phenotype in patient-derived iPS cell culture. Penn is a truly unique place that is the focal point of research and intellectual discourse in all fields. We are truly fortunate to have a multitude of opportunities and resources at our disposal. The only problem is determining which path of research is right for you and using Penn’s resources to get started on that path. That’s what CURF and I am here to help you do. Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in research, especially in the biomedical field!

  • University Scholars C’21
  • Research Assistant, Poncz Lab, Division of Hematology, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
  • Woodrow Wilson Undergraduate Research Fellowship at Johns Hopkins University (turned down)
  • Research Assistant, University of Texas Institute for Geophysics
  • Research Assistant, Diabetes Research Center, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

2018 UScholars Progress Report


Update on research project:

Familial Platelet Disorder with predisposition to Acute Myeloblastic Leukemia, or FPD/AML, is an autosomal dominant disorder characterized by thrombocytopenia, platelet dysfunction, and a lifelong risk of developing cancer. As a result of the first two defects, patients tend to be predisposed to bleeding and experience more bleeding than patients without the disorder. However, this bleeding tends to be more severe than is to be expected based on the degree of thrombocytopenia. The three defects described above are the result of mutations in the RUNX1 gene, which encodes a transcription factor of the same name. RUNX1 acts at many stages in megakaryocyte development, initiating definitive hematopoiesis and promoting megakaryopoiesis. FPD/AML manifests in-vitro as a megakaryocyte production defect, with the megakaryocyte-platelet axis unaffected in murine models. Our investigation of FPD/AML aims to discover pharmaceutical compounds that correct RUNX1 expression and/or activity, thereby correcting the platelet and hematopoietic progenitor cell defect and to identify points of dysregulation in associated cytokine pathways.

            Previous work done in house has shown that the administration of RepSox, a TGFβR1 inhibitor, improves megakaryocyte yields in patient derived induced-pluripotent stem cells, suggesting the involvement of the TGFβ family of cytokines in FPD/AML. The TGFβ family constitutes a multifunctional set of cytokines that regulate a massive array of cellular processes during development and beyond. With respect to hematopoiesis, TGFβ plays an important role in regulating hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) behavior, particularly quiescence and self-renewal. Several molecular mechanisms have been proposed to account for TGFβ-mediated growth inhibition, including alteration in receptor expression and upregulation of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors such as p21 and p27. Preliminary data has shown p21 levels to be upregulated four to five times in patient-derived cells relative to isogenic controls. My current work focuses on better understanding the role of cell cycle modulators, namely p21, in FPD/AML.

Hiab Teshome
COL 2020
Academic Major: Biology

When I first came to Penn, I knew that I wanted to get involved in research, but I was initially overwhelmed and intimidated by the endless amount of opportunities offered at Penn. However, through CURF, I was able to find my perfect lab, that complemented my passions for Neuroscience and Genetics. For the past year, I have been working with Dr. Naiara Aquizu at CHOP focusing on a genetic and proteomics approach to understanding neurodegenerative disorders such as cerebellar ataxis and spastic paraplegias. Many of the genes we study are also involved in the degradation and disruption of protein synthesis processes seen in diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS. I love conducting research, and I have had an incredibly positive experience with CURF, and I would be happy to share my experiences. I am a pre-med student pursuing a Biology Major with a concentration in Neurobiology, and I am also minoring in Chemistry and Computational Neuroscience, so if you have any questions about getting started with conducting research at Penn, the Biology major, being a pre-med student, or just need help understanding the resources here at Penn, please reach out and contact me!


  • Research Assistant Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, Aquizu Labs (2017-Present)
  • Research assistant at Rutgers Summer Undergraduate Research Program in Neuroscience for Molecular and Developmental Neurobiology (2018)
  • Independent Study Research on the Effects and Relationships of the Pneumococcal Vaccine and Type 1 Diabetes (2016-2017)
  • Undergraduate Fellow, Center for Neuroscience and Society (2018-Present)
  • Benjamin Franklin Scholar
Yiyue Wang
COL 2022
Academic Major: Biology Economics

Having conducted short-term research in high school, I came to Penn with the aspirations of building my research skills and engaging in longer-term, more in-depth projects. Through the resources offered by CURF, I got involved in a biomedical lab during my freshman year and learned a lot of wet lab skills. By the end of my freshman year, my deepened passion for healthcare motivated me to explore other types of biomedical research that I have never tried before. Through PURM, I spent my summer after my freshman year working with Dr. Shashaty in a clinical research project focused on acute kidney injury (AKI) among trauma patients. Besides helping me understand the nature of clinical research, this valuable experience has also inspired me to study more about statistics that would help me analyze clinical data in future research. Trying and learning new things are the main theme of my Penn research experience. I would love to share my wonderful experience in both basic and clinical research and enjoy talking about biology and healthcare. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions regarding how to get started in research at Penn, try something new in research, and find your own passion.


  • Penn Undergraduate Research Mentorship Program (PURM) 
  • Research Assistant to Dr. Michael G.S. Shashaty, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care, Perelman School of Medicine
  • Research Assistant to Dr. Hiroshi Nakagawa, Division of Gastroenterology, Perelman School of Medicine
Luke Yeagley
SEAS 2020
Academic Major: Networked and Social Systems Engineering

I have had the privilege of being a College House Research Fellow my freshman and sophomore years. This gave me the opportunity to pursue a project based heavily in network science and sociology. Through my research on students, I was able to determine the real-world connectivity of the freshman class. Throughout my studies and research experience I have learned about the ins and outs of social networks. I have also learned how to interact with human test subjects and how to efficiently parse survey data.

I would be excited to connect with anyone interested in research in Psychology, Sociology, or Computer Science. I am also an avid reader so I would be happy to forward some great reads on those topics and others. I hope to channel what I have learned through research to eventually start my own company or use my work to help other companies. Last summer I interned at a cybersecurity company in Seattle that had me develop a tool to harness employee data and improve communication among the development team during production. Designing my own research project helped me in huge ways when it came to designing the tool for the company. 

Lilian Zhang
COL 2022
Academic Major: Biological Basis of Behavior Hispanic Studies

I had never learned about the numerous facets and fields research could encompass until CURF.

During the summer before my senior year in high school, I worked at a wet lab studying neural regeneration, but found it not to be perfectly fitting with my abilities at the time. Therefore, after my arrival at Penn, I decided to take part in more humanities-geared research. Working at the Dahan Lab has been a fantastic experience because it allows me to study the two things I find most fascinating, Psychology and Linguistics. Being a BBB and Hispanic Studies double major, I’ve always been curious about language acquisition, communication efficiency, and the constituents of making someone an “eloquent communicator.” Research at the Dahan Lab investigates questions such as “what demographic or personality factors influence the efficiency at establishing common ground”, which has not only satiated my curiosity towards the two disciplines I’ve chosen to major in, but also allowed me to conduct empirical research from designing a study to recruiting participants, to ultimately analyzing data and producing tangible results. Therefore, if you have questions regarding the intersection of multiple disciplines, or finding a research position that fits your niche of interests, please do not hesitate to reach out to me with any questions!

  • Penn Undergraduate Research and Mentorship Program (PURM) (Summer 2019)
  • Dahan Lab, Psychology Department, University of Pennsylvania (Spring 2019- Present)
  • Song Lab, Colket Translational Research Building, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (Summer 2017)