Members of Penn’s alumni community have created a number of grants to support the research and scholarly work of undergraduates in the College of Arts and Sciences. The College Alumni Society currently supports 12 grants, and complete descriptions of these awards are available at the end of this page. Students, however, do not need to specify which grant they are applying for as all use the same application form and deadline. Proposals will automatically be allocated to the appropriate fund.
Due to the generosity of Penn alumni, grants are available in both the Fall and Spring semesters.
- Spring Deadline: March 15, 2024 11:59pm (Applicants notified by April 30)
- Fall Deadline: October 22, 2023 11:59pm (Applicants notified by mid-December)
Applications and all supporting materials, including a Faculty recommendation requested through the application system, are due electronically to CURF by midnight on the relevant application deadline. Applications will be evaluated by a faculty committee designated by CURF. Applications with late material risk not being considered.
Eligibility and Guidelines
The College Alumni Grants are open to all full-time, regularly enrolled 1st-year, sophomore, junior, and 1st-semester senior undergraduates in good standing in the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. Students are not eligible to apply in the semester in which they are due to graduate, even if submatriculating or planning to be on campus post-graduation. International students are welcome to apply but must be eligible to work in the US to receive funding. International students should consult Penn Global’s Office of International Student and Scholar Services if they have questions about eligibility to work in the US. Research in any field is eligible for support, and the maximum award is $1,000. These grants are intended to help offset the costs of research projects proposed by students and supervised by a Penn faculty member. The grants will be administered according to the following guidelines:
- Only students in the College of Arts & Sciences are eligible to apply.
- The project shall represent original research or scholarship allowing the student to make a significant contribution to knowledge.
- The project shall be largely conceived and executed by the student and not simply represent faculty research in which the student assists.
- While students must investigate their projects before applying for funding, grants will be awarded only for projects to be carried out after the proposal has been approved. Decisions will be made in December and April of each academic year for projects that are to be conducted during the following semester or the following summer. Funding may not be used for expenses that have been incurred prior to the award decision.
- These funds will be issued in the form of an award directly to the student. Please note that students receiving awards of $600 or more will be subject to taxes. In limited instances, to facilitate the purchase of restricted items, funds will be issued as a transfer to a research account within the university.
- Each project shall have a faculty advisor who will normally be a member of the SAS standing faculty. In some cases, a qualified advisor from outside the SAS faculty may be appropriate. Please see Letter of Recommendation section below for instructions in cases where a student is working with a post-doctoral researcher as their mentor.
- If several students are applying to work on aspects of the same project, each student must apply individually and describe clearly their independent research project, approach, methods, and evidence. Each student should also note in their individual application that their work is part of a larger project, and identify the other students working on aspects of the project.
Procedure for Application
Prepare your proposal in consultation with your faculty research advisor. If you have previously been awarded a CURF grant, be sure to explain in your current proposal:
- The progress you have made on the project, goals that were met, reasons for continuing AND also outline how this new project is different from your previously funded project. Proposals that are identical to previously funded submissions will not be considered.
- If your current proposal is entirely unrelated to your previously funded project, please explain why you did not continue with the original project. What was your reason for discontinuing that project and moving in a new direction?
Prepare the first six components before proceeding to the Application Form. Also be prepared to request a letter of recommendation from a faculty mentor. Save each document as a pdf.
- Short abstract (~100 words): On a separate page, explain the overall goals of the project
- Proposal (~750 words): Use the following as suggested areas to cover rather than required categories:
- Background: Evaluate existing knowledge and work in the area and briefly summarize/justify the proposed project’s potential contribution to the field
- Objectives: State the objectives and relevance of the proposed work in terms intelligible to an educated non-specialist
- Methodology: Describe the design and procedures to be employed and provide a timetable and implementation plan for completion of the project
- Predicted Outcomes/Future Plans/Statement of Impact or Importance: Discuss some potential results to be generated from the submitted project, proposed next steps for the research, and a statement of lessons to be learned from the undertaking
- Bibliography (no more than one page – limit of 12 items) of key scholarly works (listed in the citation format used in your discipline) providing background for your project. These may be books or articles, and they may be a mix of theoretical and empirical works that inform the project. If desired, a one-sentence annotation may be used to explain a specific item’s relevance to the project, but annotations are not required
- Personal Statement (~250 words): Describe how this project fits with your academic, personal, or career plans for the future, and with your current academic, personal, and career interests and activities
- Budget (Itemized and Total Overall): On a separate page list each budget item in order of priority and justify it in terms of the work proposed. Include the total amount needed to complete the project, even if this is more than the grant limit of $1000. Depending on availability of funds, the amount awarded may be less than the total amount requested. Last year’s awards ranged from $200 to a maximum of $1,000.
- Funding provided should be used to help defray the student’s research costs and should not be a substitute for financial aid nor for the adviser’s research funding.
- Funds are NOT to be used as programming or course costs.
- Funds cannot be used to pay a student stipend.
- Conference travel, registration, poster printing etc. are NOT acceptable expenses.
- Funds may not be used to reimburse expenses that have been incurred prior to the awarding of the grant (December for the fall cycle; April for the spring cycle).
- Types of expenses to which the funds may be applied include travel to libraries, museums, archives, and research sites; living expenses that would enable the student to participate in the project (outside of academic term time), research equipment, and supplies.
- Funds issued to a student that are used for living expenses or to offset living expenses will be taxed. Students may use funds to offset living expenses only during the summer.
- Software and equipment (computers, cameras, digital recorders, etc.) are almost never funded.
- If funds are being sought from other sources, state the source and potential amount of such funding.
- Transcript: Create an electronic "unofficial" version of your transcript by going to Path@Penn —> Academic Records —> Transcript & GPA and print your transcript as a .pdf. If you don’t have Adobe Acrobat installed on your computer, download the free installer or use a Penn computer that has Adobe Acrobat installed. Do not request an official transcript from the registrar's office. Do not upload a "locked" or official transcript.
- Letter of Recommendation: Please see below for further instructions.
Letter of Recommendation
As early as possible, request a letter from your faculty research advisor via the Common Research Grant Application. Completing this form automatically generates an email to your recommender with instructions on how to upload their letter to the CURF site. **If a student is working primarily with a post-doctoral researcher as their mentor, then it is OK for the post-doc to write the letter. However, the supervising faculty member should include a brief paragraph in the letter indicating that they are aware of and support the proposed project.** Please ask your advisor to anticipate the arrival of this email (which is sometimes sorted to junk or spam folders), and inform them whether you have chosen to keep their letter confidential and waive your right of access to it. It is your responsibility that this letter be submitted to CURF no later than midnight on the grant due date. This letter should:
- Discuss the project’s feasibility and the adequacy of the applicant's preparation to complete it
- Review and comment on the student's projected budget
- Make clear the nature and extent of the applicant's contribution in formulating the project and carrying out the project
- Indicate how you will advise the student on any applicable Institutional Review Board or related issues
- Detail what supplies and/or support they are able to provide to ensure project completion
- Outline the active ways in which the student will be mentored during the research process (both over the course of the project and beyond)
Procedures for Receiving Funding and Expectations for Grant Recipients
Students must review CURF’s information on Ethics and Compliance and complete and submit all necessary forms. All CURF-funded student researchers must complete CURF’s Research Experience Checklist and Waiver of Liability. Students conducting research outside the US are required to provide International Travel and Emergency Contact information on the Checklist and register their trip with Penn’s Global Activities Registry. Appropriate Environmental Health & Radiation Safety training modules must be completed, and research involving animals must be approved by the relevant University oversight committees. Students should consult with their faculty research advisors to correctly submit any necessary forms.
Funds will be issued in the form of an award directly to the student. Please note that students receiving awards of $600 or more will be subject to taxes. In limited instances, in order to facilitate the purchase of restricted items, funds will be issued as a transfer to a research account within the university.
Undergraduates receiving this funding are expected to (1) present a poster at a designated CURF event and (2) submit a research summary and photograph suitable for posting on CURF’s website. The summary should describe the project’s goals and content, what the student learned through the research experience and how participating in this research project contributed to the educational experience.
Research Awards Supported by the College Alumni Society
- College Alumni Society Grants
- The Ernest M. Brown, Jr. College Alumni Society Undergraduate Research Grant, for students in the life sciences or preparing for medical school
- The College Alumni Society Board of Managers and Presidents Undergraduate Research Grants
- The Allison Lazo Hallingby College Alumni Society Undergraduate Research Grant, for undergraduates in Architecture.
- The Ruth Marcus Kanter College Alumni Society Undergraduate Research Grant
- The Kelson Family College Alumni Society Undergraduate Research Grant, for projects in environmental studies, theater arts, architecture or Russian studies.
- The Kanta Marwah College Alumni Society Undergraduate Research Grant, for projects in economics.
- The Mary L. And Matthew S. Santirocco College Alumni Society Undergraduate Research Grant, for projects in classics, humanities, or biomedical studies.
- The Cabanne C. Smith College Alumni Society Undergraduate Research Grant, for theater arts.
- The Louis H Castor, M.D., C’48 Undergraduate Research Grant, for students planning careers in family medicine and projects in related disciplines.
- The Goldfeder Family Undergraduate Research Grant, for projects in biological sciences.
- The Dean’s Research Award, for laboratory biomedical research.
- The Millstein Family Undergraduate Research Grant, for projects in psychology or urban studies.
Research Offering Type
Grant, Independent Research