Since its inception in 2007, Penn has supported undergraduate research through the Penn Undergraduate Research Mentoring Program (PURM). PURM provides students completing their first or second undergraduate year the opportunity to spend a summer conducting cutting-edge research under the guidance of a standing Penn faculty member. Previous years' projects: 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023
Scroll down for Information for Faculty, Information for Students, Frequently Asked Questions, Benefits and Expectations, and Timeline.
2023 Applications are now closed.
Because PURM is a matching program rather than a funding vehicle, faculty members should not have identified/engaged students prior to submitting an application.
Standing faculty members in any discipline from any of Penn’s twelve schools are encouraged to apply. Applications from faculty from underrepresented groups are particularly welcome.
Standing faculty members should describe a project(s) through which they could provide meaningful mentorship for undergraduates for ten weeks during the summer. Faculty should only submit one application but can outline multiple projects or distinct parts of a single project therein. Projects may also include curricular development. Given the importance of student interest in determining faculty recipients, faculty should include the academic and professional skills, experiences, and benefits a student would derive from their mentorship.
One of our primary goals is to support the development of close mentor/mentee relationships. By exposing them to all phases of the research process, PURM aims to introduce students to the realities of academic scholarship early in their undergraduate years. PURM-supported research can be carried out on Penn’s campus, on other campuses, or at collections, archives, field sites, or other locations throughout the world.
Current funding levels do not allow CURF to fund all faculty who submit PURM projects. Historically, ~35-40% of faculty who apply have received a PURM award.
Faculty can choose to participate in one of two ways:
- One student will be funded entirely by PURM. The student will receive a $5,000 award via a ClinCard. Faculty who elect to mentor one student may opt in to receive an additional $1,000 to offset research-associated expenses. Opting out of this PURM research fund will enable CURF to support additional student participants. The optional $1,000 research award is paid into the faculty member’s research account and cannot be taken as salary.
- Faculty may mentor two PURM students by forgoing the PURM research fund to engage a second student. If faculty choose this option, each of the two students will receive a $5,000 award provided entirely by the Provost's Office. Requests to mentor two students are strongly encouraged, but dependent upon available funds.
Faculty Eligibility, Application, and Selection
Only standing faculty members are eligible to receive PURM funding. While applications involving more than one mentor are acceptable and encouraged, the application must be submitted by a member of the standing faculty. Clarification on standing faculty definitions can be found here.
- Preference will be given to faculty who have not previously received PURM funding.
- Student interest is a major factor in selection, as determined by the number and quality of students who apply to be mentored by a particular faculty member. Submissions with no mentee applicants will not be funded, thus we encourage prospective faculty mentors to describe the academic and professional skills, experiences, and benefits a student would derive from their mentorship.
- Diversity of projects and faculty are also weighted heavily, since each year PURM seeks to include faculty from as many different Penn schools and departments as possible.
- Faculty occasionally receive PURM funding in consecutive years, but never three years in a row.
- Because PURM is a matching program, faculty selected to be PURM mentors are strongly encouraged to mentor new students, rather than students they are already mentoring.
- PURM mentors are encouraged to select mentees from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in their disciplines.
- While in-person research is preferred when possible, it is not required to be eligible for these applications. You will be asked to indicate whether the research can be (a) done entirely remotely, (b) modified to accommodate remote activities even if initially proposed in-person, or (c) completed only on-campus/in-person.
PURM students gain an understanding of the research process, conduct cutting-edge research in a variety of fields, and develop a one-on-one relationship with a Penn faculty member. Past participants have noted that participating in PURM allowed them to experience the triumphs and challenges of advanced research, while honing their analytical skills and providing them with deeper knowledge of research in their field.
Selected students will receive a $5000 award and must be available to participate in their PURM project for ten full weeks during the summer. In many cases, PURM research relationships continue during the academic year through informal collaborations, independent study, or departmental or university-funded research grants.
Since PURM participants will be fully engaged during their 10-week experience, selected students should not be involved in any other activities (eg employment or internships) that will interfere with their capacity to participate successfully in the program. Based on past student experiences, enrollment in summer courses is strongly discouraged. The exact dates that students will conduct their research should be determined in conjunction with their PURM Faculty Mentor.
Full-time, regularly enrolled undergraduates in good standing, with a GPA of 3.0 or higher 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 such as University Scholars, Engineering’s Rachleff Scholars and the Vagelos family of programs are not eligible for PURM funding.
Students may only participate in PURM one time.
PURM Application and Selection Process Overview
Faculty submit a description of a project(s) through which they could provide meaningful mentorship for undergraduates here: https://curf-upenn.smapply.io/prog/purm_faculty_proposal_2023/.
The 2023 project directory will be available shortly after faculty applications close on January 20.
Once the project directory is available, students apply to be mentored by up to three faculty members, indicating their first, second, and third choices. To maximize the chances of moving forward, students should apply to be mentored by 3 different faculty members. IF YOU DO NOT RECEIVE A CONFIRMATION EMAIL, YOUR SUBMISSION WAS NOT RECEIVED. Late submissions will not be considered.
PURM mentors will be selected based on criteria outlined above under "Faculty Eligibility and Selection." Because there are always more applications submitted than funding available, not all faculty will be selected as PURM mentors.
After potential mentors have been selected for funding, all eligible student applications will be forwarded to them. Students are asked to notify CURF if their application status changes (ie, they would no longer like to be considered for a PURM match). Faculty members are strongly encouraged to interview students prior to making mentee selections.
Students are asked NOT to email potential PURM mentors until contacted for an interview or the PURM selection process has been completed.
Should I submit an official transcript?
Please DO NOT USE AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT. This causes processing delays for the entire applicant pool, and costs you money unnecessarily.
Which students and faculty are eligible?
All 1st and 2nd year, full-time, regularly enrolled undergraduates in good standing, with a GPA of 3.0 or higher from Penn’s four undergraduate schools are eligible. International students must verify with Penn’s Office of International Programs that the PURM award will not conflict with their visa status.
Prospective faculty mentors can be standing faculty members from any school. Applications involving more than one mentor are acceptable and encouraged, but the application must be submitted by a member of the standing faculty. Because a long-term mentoring relationship is a desired outcome, visiting faculty at Penn are not appropriate mentors.
What is the timing?
Faculty applications are due Friday, January 20. Descriptions are posted online as shortly thereafter as possible. Students submit applications by midnight on Sunday, February 19. Decisions are made and announced by April 15.
PURM takes place in the summer and is expected to extend for 10 weeks. Students and faculty mentors negotiate the precise logistics between themselves, taking into account the needs of the research.
Which students and projects do or don’t get selected, and why?
Projects that receive no mentee applicants will not be funded. Prospective faculty mentors are therefore encouraged to make clear the academic and professional skills, experiences, and benefits a student would derive from their mentorship. Students with GPAs under 3.0 average are unlikely to be selected.
Because the goal of PURM is to create new mentor relationships, students already conducting research with a particular faculty mentor are less likely to be chosen. Such students 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 do students receive their funds?
Selected students will receive a $5,000 lump sum award. Specific instructions on how to receive the award will be issued after acceptance. Please note that the award will not be taxed by the University unless the student is a foreign national. If they are a foreign national, the student will typically be taxed at 30% dependent on the tax treaty with the student’s home country. Students will be responsible for reporting their award on their individual tax returns. Failure to fulfill the PURM obligations may result in being required to return part or all of the award.
Additional research expenses – such as transportation, supplies, and other miscellaneous costs – should be paid from the faculty mentor’s PURM research grant.
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, based on past student experiences, enrollment in summer courses is strongly discouraged. Students considering enrolling in a summer course should discuss this possibility with their potential PURM mentor during the interview / selection process. Final determination of whether a PURM student can enroll in a summer course must be agreed upon between the mentee and mentor.
What about housing for the summer?
Not all PURM research is conducted simultaneously nor is it all located on campus. Therefore, students are responsible for making their own housing arrangements. 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.
- One of the opportunities for you will be to attend Carpentries workshops on May 11-12th. Participation will be on a first-come-first-served basis for up to 50 students. Attendance at the entire event is mandatory for those who register. The Carpentries is an international network of data scientists and technical specialists who provide training in a wide range of data skills including Python, R, data management, and much more. The two-day workshop (from 10am-3pm, with additional hang-out and Q&A until 5pm) will be taught by data specialists from academia and industry brought in exclusively for PURM students. Students will be introduced to OpenRefine, a tool for data management, and Python, the primary programming language for most data scientists. From data analysis with pandas to data visualization with matplotlib, the session will prove useful to add to your technical toolkit for academic research, further studies, and beyond. Participants will be using a real-world data set to learn and practice skills that can be applied to any research area. Moreover, participants will gain access to Penn Libraries data specialists who can assist students throughout their research and time at Penn. This event is co-sponsored by the Penn Libraries, Center for Undergraduate Research & Fellowships, Data Driven Discovery Initiative, in association with Carpentries. Swag, certificates of project completion, food, and beverages will be provided.
- Access to an exciting array of Professional Development Seminars. You will be expected to attend at least 5 of these sessions over the course of your summer, which will generally be held at 12noon. They will include sessions like: Networking and Creating Connections, Public Speaking and Presentation Skills, How to Attend a Conference, Library Research Fair, Research Ethics, How to Develop an Elevator Pitch, Making a Research Poster, and more!
- Conduct cutting-edge research in a variety of fields, gain an understanding of the research process, and develop a one-on-one relationship with a Penn faculty member.
- Experience the triumphs and challenges of advanced research, while honing your analytical skills and providing you with deeper knowledge of your field.
Before PURM funds are disbursed, students and faculty mentors are required to review and abide by all guidelines set out on our website at https://www.curf.upenn.edu/research/need-to-know/ethics-compliance. In accordance, in addition to any specific training required for your PURM group, you will be required to complete a Research Experience Checklist and Waiver of Liability and an online Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training module. The forms will be accessible through Survey Monkey Apply after you accept your position.
Since PURM students will be engaged with their research full-time during their 10 week PURM experience, selected students should not be involved in any other activities (e.g. employment or internships) that will interfere with their capacity to participate successfully in the program. The specific dates of your experience should be worked out with your mentor, but they must occur during the summer.
At the conclusion of your PURM experience, each student must submit (1) photos and (2) a brief reflection on your experience in conversational and accessible language (suitable for posting on the CURF website and social media) that conveys the benefits of the experience itself, such as skills/lessons learned, personal/intellectual/professional development, mentorship opportunities, etc.
Each PURM student recipient will also be required to present a poster describing their PURM research at the CURF Research Expo in September.
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.
- Friday, January 20, 2023– Faculty applications due electronically to CURF
- Note: Student applications will open mid-week following the faculty deadline, after faculty submissions are posted
- Sunday, February 19, 2023– Student applications due electronically to CURF
- Early March 2023 – Faculty notified of award decision & receive student applications
- Mid March 2023 – Notification of student award decisions begin
- April 15– All faculty and students will be notified of decisions
Research Offering Type
College, Engineering, Nursing, Wharton
Dr. Kerry Milch, Associate Director for Undergraduate Research
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Schedule an appointment with Dr. Milch
Dr. Ann Vernon-Grey, Senior Associate Director for Undergraduate Research
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Schedule an appointment with Dr. Vernon-Grey