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Penn Undergraduate Research Mentoring Program Frequently Asked Questions

Which students and faculty are eligible?

Only full-time undergraduates 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 or ongoing structured mentoring and opportunities such as University Scholars, Engineering’s Rachleff Scholars, the Huntsman program, and the Vagelos family of programs are not eligible for PURM funding.

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 from the standing faculty or can be adjunct faculty, from any school. Because a long-term mentoring relationship is a desired outcome, visiting faculty at Penn are not appropriate mentors.

What is the timing?

Each January and February, faculty members provide up to three project descriptions, which are made available to students who submit applications by March 9. Decisions are made and announced by April 15.

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 it is do-able, and what it might lead to. Students with low 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 are students paid?

Disbursement of funds is handled by each faculty mentor’s business administrator (BA). The student’s stipend is intended for each student’s expenses and will be paid as a monthly paycheck. Once selected as a PURM student, questions about stipend payments should be directed to the faculty mentor’s BA.

Note: The payroll portion of the stipends will be subject to federal, state and city withholding taxes. Most undergraduates will be able to receive the federal wage tax portion back as a tax refund after filing the appropriate tax returns the following spring.

Additional costs for the project – such as transportation, supplies, and other miscellaneous costs – should be paid from the faculty mentor’s research account.

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.

What else is expected?

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 of 2012).

Students whose projects keep them on campus will be required to attend several session to discuss research ethics with faculty and fellow students. This will allow students to meet each other and share progress, problems, ideas, and challenges of their research. The meetings will be arranged by CURF within broad disciplinary areas.

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 of 2014.

Students whose projects keep them on campus will be required to attend several session to discuss research ethics with faculty and fellow students. This will allow students to meet each other and share progress, problems, ideas, and challenges of their research. The meetings will be arranged by CURF within broad disciplinary areas.

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. Examples of these summaries may be found here.

Each PURM student recipient will also be required to present posters describing their PURM research at the CURF Research Open House in September 2014 and the 2015 CURF Research Symposium (dates & times TBD). A lunch with the Provost to talk about benefits of the program will be held in Fall 2014.

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.

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