curf - Center for Undergraduate Research & Fellowships



Current Students


The University Scholars Council is a committee of faculty which is dedicated to advising and mentoring students in the University Scholars Program. Students work closely with Council members to pursue research in a variety of fields and interests. Each freshman University Scholar is matched with an advisor on the Council who aids the student in developing specific research questions. The Council and the Scholars together form the University Scholars community, a community of diverse interests, with a unified vision of intellectually oriented opportunities.


Roger Allen
Professor of Arabic Language and Literature

Roger Allen received his D. Phil. from Oxford University. He has specializes in two major areas: Arabic literature, with particular reference to narrative and drama; and Arabic language pedagogy. Besides a major study on the Arabic novel and an anthology of critical writings, entitled Modern Arabic Literature, he has published over thirty articles on Arabic literature. He has produced a number of translations of modern Arabic narrative, including Najib Mahfuz’s Mirrors and Autumn Quail, Jabra Ibrahim Jabra’s The Ship, Abd al-rahman Munif’s Endings, and collections of short stories by Najib Mahfuz and Yusuf Idris. As guest-editor of many of journals he has also encouraged the publication of a large number of other translations.

Dr. Allen’s web site

Frances K. Barg
Assistant Professor of Family Medicine and Community Health
Assistant Professor, Anthropology

Dr. Barg received her PhD in Medical Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania in 2000. Her current research interests include health disparities in breast cancer and colorectal cancer, sociocultural aspects of depression in older adults, shared decisionmaking and medical professionalism. She is a director for the Guatemala Health Initiative, where students and faculty collaborate with community leaders and members to affect health in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. Dr. Barg teaches courses on Anthropology and Public Health, Medical Anthropology, Cross Cultural Approaches to Health and Illness and Cognitive Anthropology.

Rita Barnard
Associate Professor of English
Director of the Program in Comparative Literature

Rita Barnard received her Ph.D. from Duke University. Her first book, The Great Depression and the Culture of Abundance, was published by Cambridge University Press and she has published articles in such journals as American Literature, South Atlantic Quarterly, and Novel. Rita Barnard teaches courses on a variety of topics in twentieth-century literature, including modernism, postmodernism, and colonial and postcolonial literature.
Dr. Barnard’s web site

Maja Bucan
Associate Professor of Genetics in Psychiatry

Maja Bucan’s research concerns the characterization of large chromosomal regions, homologous in mouse and humans, using a combination of genetic and physical mapping approaches. The ultimate goal of these studies is the identification of mouse mutations that are potential models for human genetic diseases. Her research falls into two main lines. One concerns the generation of functional chromosomal maps of the mouse genome while the goal of the second project is the localization and identification of genes underlying behavior in mammals.
Dr. Bucan’s web site

Robin Clark
Associate Professor of Cognitive Science
Faculty Member of the Institute for Research in Cognitive Science

Robin Clark received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles. His research interests include mathematical linguistics, formal semantics and learnability.

Dr. Clark’s web site

Thadious Davis
Gerealdine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought
Professor of English

Thadious Davis received her Ph.D. from Boston University. Her research interests include African American literature and Southern literature with an emphasis on issues of race, region, and gender. She has published two books on William Faulkner, most recently Games of Property: Law, Race, Gender and Faulkner’s Go Down, Moses. Her current interests are interdisciplinary: geography and African American writers; photography and southern women; film and literary modernism; visual culture and the Harlem Renaissance; civil rights law and narrative fiction. Her biography, Nella Larsen, Novelist of the Harlem Renaissance, reflects her interest in life writing. She is co-editor of the book series “Gender and American Culture.”

Dennis DeTurck
Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
Davidson Kennedy Professor of Mathematics in the College of Arts and Sciences

Dennis DeTurck received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. His research interests include partial differential equations and differential geometry.

Dr. DeTurck’s web site

Warren Ewens
Professor of Biology, Emeritus

Warren Ewens received his Ph.D. from Australian National University. His research interests cover all areas of mathematical, statistical and theoretical genetics. One of his main areas of interest is evolutionary population genetics, in particular, statistical and mathematical aspects of the population genetics theory. One specific field is phylogenetic tree reconstruction Another field of interest is the statistical theory arising from the recognition of the stochastic, or random, aspect of gene replacement processes.

Dr. Ewens’s web site

Peter Fader
Frances and Pei-Yuan Chia Professor
Professor of Marketing

Pete Fader’s research focuses on using data generated by new information technology, such as retail point-of-sale scanners and the Internet, to understand and forecast repeat purchasing patterns in a variety of different domains. Recent projects include predictive and explanatory models for electronic commerce (e.g., forecasting models for website usage and purchasing behavior) consumer packaged goods industries (e.g., models of trial and repeat for new products), and the music industry (e.g., understanding the role of radio airplay in generating album sales).

Dr. Fader’s web site

Antonio Feros
Associate Professor of History

Dr. Feros received his Ph.D. in European history from the Johns Hopkins University. He teaches courses in political, cultural, intellectual and imperial history. Dr. Feros has written on subjects ranging from ethnic relations in the early modern Spanish empire to ideas and images of kingship, and political and court cultures in early modern Europe. He is the author of Kingship and Favoritism in the Spain of Philip III, 1598-1621 (2000) and is currently working on two new projects: national and ethnic identities in the early modern Spanish World, and the constitution and construction of the Spanish empire.

Richard James Gelles
Dean, School of Social Policy and Practice

Richard James Gelles holds the Joanne and Raymond Welsh Chair of Child Welfare and Family Violence in the School of Social Work at the University of Pennsylvania. His expertise is in child welfare and domestic violence. He was influential in the passage of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997.

Dr. Gelles’ web site

Herman Gluck
Professor of Mathematics

Herman Gluck received his Ph.D. from Princeton University. His research interests include differential geometry, dynamical systems, and topology of manifolds.

Dr. Gluck’s web site

Sarah Barringer Gordon
Professor of Law and History

Sally Gordon received a JD and MAR in ethics from Yale University, and a PhD in history from Princeton. She works in the law, religion and history, on topics ranging from abortion to polygamy, prayer to zoning. Her first book, The Mormon Question was published in 2002. She is currently at work on a second book on law and religion in the twentieth century.

Greg Guild
Professor of Biology

His current research focuses on the cell biology of cellular shape. Polarized actin filaments are common in eukaryotic cells and provide the scaffolding for cell movement and cell shape. The Guild lab uses Drosophila bristle cells as a model system to investigate actin bundle assembly and cell shape architecture by employing molecular and genetic tools to modify actin bundle assembly and confocal and electron microscopic techniques to evaluate the cell biological consequences at high temporal and spatial resolution.

Dr. Guild’s web site

Ruben Gur
Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry
Director of the Brain Behavior Laboratory

Dr. Gur received his B.A. in Psychology and Philosophy from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, in 1970 and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Psychology (Clinical) from Michigan State University in 1971 and 1973, respectively. He did Postdoctoral training with E.R. Hilgard at Stanford University and came to Penn as Assistant Professor in 1974. His research has been in the study of brain and behavior in healthy people and patients with brain disorders, with a special emphasis on exploiting neuroimaging as experimental probes. His work has documented sex differences, aging effects, and abnormalities in regional brain function associated with schizophrenia, affective disorders, stroke, epilepsy, movement disorders and dementia. His work has been supported by grants from the NSF, NIH, NIMH, NIA, NINDS, private foundations (Spencer, MacArthur, EJLB) and industry (BioLogic, Novo, Pfizer).

Dr. Gur’s web site

Amy Hillier
Assistant Professor in City and Regional Planning, School of Design

Amy Hillier is an Assistant Professor in the Department of City + Regional Planning and the faculty advisor for the Master of Urban Spatial Analytics program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design. She holds a secondary appointment in the School of Social Policy and Practice. She teaches courses on the application of geographic information systems (GIS) in city planning, urban studies, social work, and public health. Her research has focused on GIS applications in historical redlining and housing discrimination, affordable housing, and public health. Her dissertation, funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), considered the impact of the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation on lending in Philadelphia during the 1930s and 1940s. She has also written about partnerships between researchers and community activists, community information systems, housing abandonment, and religious congregations. Her current work focuses on developing an interactive mapping system based on W.E.B. Du Bois’ classic, The Philadelphia Negro and on public health applications of GIS. She and colleagues at Penn are evaluating the impact of the WIC voucher changes on low-income neighborhoods and she is working with a team of programmers to develop a cell phone application for children to map their route to and from school and identify their food purchases (Food and Exercise Diaries for Urban Places, FED-UP).

Nancy J. Hirschmann
Professor of Political Science
Graduate Chair, Department of Political Science

Nancy J. Hirschmann received her PhD from The Johns Hopkins University. She is the author of Gender, Class, and Freedom in Modern Political Theory (Princeton University Press, 2008), The Subject of Liberty: Toward a Feminist Theory of Freedom (Princeton University Press, 2003), which won the 2004 Victoria Schuck Award for the best book on women and politics from the American Political Science Association, and Rethinking Obligation: A Feminist Method for Political Theory (Cornell University Press, 1992). She is also co-editor of several collected volumes and author of numerous articles in journals and books. She has held fellowships from the ACLS, The Bunting Institute, The Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Princeton University Center for Human Values. Currently, she is writing on the political theory of disability.

Dr. Hirschmann’s web site

A.T. Charlie Johnson, Jr.
Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy
Secondary Appointments in Electrical and Systems Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering
Member of the Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter and the Institute of Medicine and Engineering

Charlie Johnson received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1990. His main research interests are novel transport phenomena that emerge in nanometer-scale systems and materials, and nanotechnology in general. Projects include carbon nanotube electronics, bio-inspired molecular electronics, and carbon nanotube-based biomolecular detectors. His honors and awards include a David and Lucille Packard Science and Engineering Fellowship, an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, and a Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation Award for distinguished teaching at Penn.

Dr. Johnson’s web site

Sarah H. Kagan PhD, RN
Professor of Gerontological Nursing
Secondary Faculty, Department of Otorhinolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery Clinical Nurse Specialist, Abramson Cancer Center

Sarah Kagan is a practicing gerontological nurse whose research and scholarship focuses on the experience of illness, particularly cancer, for older adults. In addition to faculty appointments in the Schools of Nursing and Medicine, Professor Kagan practices in the Abramson Cancer Center and enjoys an ongoing collaboration with the School of Veterinary Medicine. She received her PhD from the University of California, San Francisco where her training including social and behavioral science and qualitative methods. Her current research employs variations in narrative, interactionist methods to develop understandings of public and private identity in women over 50 who have cancer, embodied aesthetics in young and old women and men who have oral tongue cancer, and the meaning and experience of pet ownership for cancer survivors.

Dr. Kagan’s web site

Devesh Kapur
Director, Center for Advanced Study of India (CASI)
Madan Lal Sobti Associate Professor for the Study of Contemporary India

Devesh Kapur is Director, Center for Advanced Study of India (CASI) and Madan Lal Sobti Assoc. Professor for the Study of Contemporary India, University of Pennsylvania. Prior to his current position he was a faculty member at Harvard and University of Texas, Austin. He is a Non-Resident Fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington D.C.. He is the author/coauthor of The World Bank: Its First Half Century; Give us your Best and Brightest: The Global Hunt for Talent and Its Impact on the Developing World; Public Institutions in India: Performance and Design. His most recent book is _Diaspora, Democracy and
Development: The Impact of International Migration from India on India_ (Princeton University Press). His current research focuses on India’s governance and human capital challenges (especially higher education and skills development), the effects of economic liberalization on historically marginalized groups, and its changing geopolitical engagements. He has a B. Tech and M.S. in chemical engineering and a Ph.D. in Public Policy from Princeton University. He received the Joseph R. Levenson Teaching Prize awarded to the best junior faculty, Harvard College, in 2005.

Howard Kunreuther
Cecilia Yen Koo Professor
Professor of Decision Sciences and Business and Public Policy
Co-Director, Risk Management and Decision Processes Center

Dr. Kunreuther received his Ph.D. from MIT. His current research interests include studying ways that society can deal more effectively with problems of managing catastrophic risks, especially in determining the siting of noxious facilities. He is also concerned with how insurance can be utilized to deal with natural hazards and environmental risk more effectively through a better understanding of the concepts of insurability.

Dr. Kunreuther’s web site

Ann Kuttner
Associate Professor, History of Art

Ann Kuttner received her B.A. (1978) in Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology from Bryn Mawr College and Ph.D. (1987) from the Group in Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology at the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Kuttner was Associate Professor in Univ. of Toronto’s Dept. of Fine Art before arriving at Penn in 1992. Her research and teaching interests lie in Hellenistic, Roman and Late Antique socio-political history, visual language, and material culture. She also advises projects in the Renaissance rapprochement with the Roman legacy and ancient North India’s absorption of Greco-Roman paradigms. Long interested in luxury arts as domestic display, and public sculptural decoration and architectural programming, she has in the last years expanded research to include landscape architecture, painting, the character of the Roman domus and villa, and relations between textual production and visual language.

Professor Kuttner’s web site

Ponzy Lu
Professor of Biological Chemistry
Chair, College Biochemistry Program
Director, Roy and Diana Vagelos Program for the Molecular Life Sciences

Dr. Lu pursed doctoral studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and received his Ph.D. from there in 1971. His current research is on macromolecular complexes involved in gene regulation at transcription through molecular biology and molecular spectroscopy. Both nuclear spin labels and fluorescent chromophores are being employed for proteins and DNA recognition sequences. In addition to the biochemical and genetic methods, there is a major use of chemical synthesis of defined DNA sequences and analogs.

Dr. Lu’s web site

Max Mintz
Professor of Computer and Information Science
Co-Chair of the University Scholars Council

Dr. Mintz’s research program focuses on developing robust algorithms for decision-making under uncertainty with applications to machine perception and robotics. Recent and current research topics include: robust fixed-geometry confidence regions for multivariate location parameters; algorithms for robust multisensor fusion; algorithms for set-valued state estimation with performance guarantees; applications of confidence sets in mobile robotics and computational vision.

Dr. Mintz’s web site

Benjamin Nathans
Ronald S. Lauder Endowed Term Associate Professor of History

Dr. Nathans received his PhD in history from the University of California at Berkeley. His research and teaching concern the history of Russia and the Soviet Union, modern Jewish history, and the history of human rights. He is the author of Beyond the Pale: The Jewish Encounter With Late Imperial Russia and is currently working on a book entitled Human Rights, Legal Thought, and Dissent in the Soviet Union after Stalin.

Dr. Nathans’ web site

Anne Norton
Alfred L. Cass Term Professor of Political Science and Comparative Literature

Dr. Norton’s most recent books are Bloodrites of the Poststructuralists and the forthcoming 95 theses on Politics, Culture, and Method. She has also written Republic of Signs: Liberal Theory and American Popular Culture, Reflections on Political Identity and Alternative Americas: A Reading of Antebellum Political Culture. She is always in interested in revolution, and is now working on questions of time, ethics and politics, and on Muslim political thought.

Alain Plante
Associate Professor and Undergraduate Chair, Department of Earth and Environmental Science

Alain Plante received his Ph.D. in Soil Science from the University of Alberta, in Canada. His research interests lie in the field of terrestrial carbon biogeochemistry. He works to characterize the mechanisms and process that act to stabilize and de-stabilize organic carbon in surface soils, and the links between the soil carbon balance and the broader global carbon cycle. Dr. Plante has developed several novel ways of characterizing soil organic matter and has worked on soils from all over the world. He teaches a large introductory course in environmental Earth science, and courses in sustainability, biogeochemistry, the Anthropocene, and soil science.

Daniel Raff
Associate Professor of Management

Daniel Raff received his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His principal area of research is economic and business history. His early work concerned the economic history of various American heavy manufacturing industries. One major current project is a study of the evolution of channels of distribution for books in long twentieth-century America. A second, complementary one involves contributions to the history of the Oxford University Press, currently in progress. A third concerns developing business history methodology suitable for evolutionary environments. He currently teaches courses on American business history (open to all) and on the economic logic of complex transactional structures (open to Wharton and Law School final year postgraduate students). He coordinates the University economic history seminar, the Wharton School Seminar on the Evolution of Organizations and Industries, and a reading group for University Standing Faculty now nearing the end of its second decade of operation.

Harvey Rubin
Associate Professor of Medicine

Dr. Rubin’s research focuses on a general model for the mechanism of inhibition of serine proteases by serine protease inhibitors (serpins) based on site directed mutagenesis, atomic resolution crystal structures and NMR spectroscopic analyses. The model has led to a general description of necessary and sufficient criteria for the design of specific interactions between the inhibitor and the enzyme. In order to study the serpin/enzyme system his lab has developed cloning and expression systems for human serine proteases and protease inhibitors. The researchers are now in the position to carry out detailed investigations of the structure and function of both components of this system.

Dr. Rubin’s web site

Paul K. Saint-Amour
Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Department of English

Professor Saint-Amour (Ph.D. Stanford, 1997) has taught Victorian and modernist literature at Penn since his arrival here in 2007. His first book, /The Copywrights: Intellectual Property and the Literary Imagination/, won the 2003 MLA Prize for a First Book. He is currently writing a book about modernism and total war and co-editing the new Modernist Latitudes book series for Columbia University Press. His research interests include law and humanities; visual culture studies; and trauma studies.

Dr. Saint-Amour’s web site

Casim A. Sarkar
Assistant Professor of Bioengineering

Casim Sarkar received his PhD in Chemical Engineering from MIT and did his postdoctoral work in Biochemistry at the University of Zurich. His interests span protein engineering, synthetic biology, and systems biology. Using tools from biology and engineering, his research group constructs new biological molecules and circuits, both to provide greater insight into fundamental biological processes and to create new therapeutics for biomedical applications. He is also the faculty advisor for the Penn iGEM team, an interdisciplinary group of undergraduates from across campus that designs new biological systems as part of a worldwide competition.

Dr. Sarkar’s web site

Maurice Schweitzer
Professor of Operations and Information Management
Cecilia Yen Koo Professor

Maurice Schweitzer’s research focuses on emotions, ethical decision making, and the negotiation process. Among other topics, his work investigates how trust can be restored, why people engage in unethical behavior, and how anxiety influences decision making and the negotiation process. He has published in Management, Psychology, and Economics journals such as the Academy of Management Journal, the Journal of Applied Psychology, Management Science, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Psychological Science, and the American Economic Review.

Dr. Schweitzer’s web site

Larry Silver
Farquhar Professor of the History of Art

Larry Silver (Art History; Ph.D. Harvard, 1974) has been at Penn for eight years, coming from earlier stints at Berkeley and Northwestern. He specializes in old master paintings and prints, especially from the Netherlands and Germany, and his new book (2005; Penn Press) discusses pictorial types,e.g. landscapes, emerging within the early art market. He has also been active in researching modern Jewish artists, and produced an exhibition at Penn on this subject in 2001. Current research projects include a book on Rembrandt’s religion and research on Bosch and Bruegel. He also delights in teaching the departmental intro class, “The Rise of Modern Visual Media.”

Rogers M. Smith
Professor of Political Science

Rogers M. Smith is the Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. He teaches American constitutional law and American political thought, with special interests in issues of citizenship and racial, gender, and class inequalities. He has published over 100 essays and five books. His 1997 book Civic Ideals: Conflicting Visions of Citizenship in U.S. History received six “best book” awards and was a Finalist for the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in History. Smith received a B.A. degree from James Madison College, Michigan State University in 1975 and a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1980.

Robert St. George
Associate Professor of History

Robert St. George teaches in the History Department, and has been on the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania since 1989. He is also a member of the graduate programs in the History of Art, and Historic Preservation. Among his publications are The Wrought Covenant (1979), Material Life in America, 1600-1860 (1988) Conversing By Signs (1998), and Possible Pasts: Becoming Colonial in Early America (2000). He has held fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mellon Foundation, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. American Things will be published by the University of Chicago Press next year. He teaches courses on cultural history, ethnography, and material culture.

Sherman C. Stein
Clinical Professor of Neurosurgery

An undergraduate at Penn, Dr. Stein received his M.D. degree from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Author of over 150 publications, his interests include comparative effectiveness, decision analysis and cost-effectiveness research in neurosurgery. He supervises neurosurgical residents and medical students in clinical research and teaches an undergraduate course on the subject.

Jan van der Spiegel
Professor of Electrical Engineering
Chairman, Department of Electrical Engineering
Director of the Center for Sensor Technologies

Professor Van der Spiegel received his Ph.D. from the University of Leuven in Belgium. His research interests are in analog and digital integrated circuits for intelligent sensors, data acquisition and sensory data processing systems. His sensor work focuses on new approaches to vision sensors that are able to detect certain features such as motion, line orientation, line stops, and polarization difference. He is currently also working on acoustic-phonetic feature extraction for automatic speech recognition. A related aspect of Dr. Van der Spiegel’s research is low-power, low-voltage and low-noise integrated circuits for sensors and data acquisition systems. Dr. Van der Spiegel is also interested in introducing web-assisted learning, in particular in the laboratory.

Dr. van der Spiegel’s web site

Michael Zuckerman
Professor of History

Dr. Zuckerman received his Ph.D. in American Studies from Harvard University. He is still incorrigibly committed to coming at History that way. He teaches courses in popular culture, national character, human nature, and religion. He has written on subjects from democracy to family life to business, from American identity to the Constitution to religion, from the university to children’s rights to race to the role of ideas in history, and on people from Thomas Jefferson to P. T. Barnum to Oliver North, from Horatio Alger to Lewis Mumford to Doctor Spock. He is now finishing the editing of a collaboration of historians and developmental psychologists on the history of childhood from the middle ages to the new millennium.
Dr. Zuckerman’s web site

Ex-Officio Members

William Schilling
Director, Student Financial Aid

Eric Furda
Dean, Undergraduate Admissions

Harriet Joseph
Director, Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships
Associate Director, University Scholars

Linda Wiedmann
Associate Director, Benjamin Franklin Scholars

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