Skip to main content
Open to US citizens and non US citizens
Deadline: 03/15/2024

General Information

Penn’s Climate Action Plan aims to keep Penn at the forefront of addressing global climate change by supporting undergraduate research in any academic field related to sustainability. Projects that lead to environmentally sustainable programs and policies, contribute to scientific innovations related to sustainability, or deepen our understanding of the social, cultural, artistic, and humanistic aspects of sustainability are encouraged.  Projects in other related fields that support the goals outlined in Penn’s Climate Action Plan are also welcome.


Applications and all supporting materials, including a Faculty recommendation, and a Statement of Willingness from any external site supervisors, are due electronically to CURF by 11:59pm on Friday, March 15, 2024 (applicants notified by April 30).Applications will be evaluated by a faculty committee designated by CURF.  Applications with late material risk not being considered.

Eligibility and Guidelines

Full-time, regularly enrolled 1st year, sophomore and junior undergraduates in good standing at any of Penn’s undergraduate schools are eligible. 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. 

Proposals representing any disciplinary field are welcome. Grants will support students during the summer to conduct independent research under the guidance of a Penn faculty member. Students may be engaged in this work at Penn or elsewhere, and grants can range anywhere from $500 to $5,000, depending on the needs of the project.

Guidelines for the Penn Undergraduate Sustainability Grants are intentionally open-ended to permit students to define their projects in innovative ways that support twenty-first century solutions to the challenges facing the planet. Prospective applicants are strongly encouraged to speak with potential faculty mentors as early as possible, and applicants are invited to discuss their ideas with Dr. Kerry Milch, Associate Director for Undergraduate Research, or with Dr. Ann Vernon-Grey, Senior Associate Director for Undergraduate Research, at the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (CURF).

Procedure for Application

In consultation with your advisor(s), prepare the following six components in this order before proceeding to the Application Form.  You must request a Letter of Recommendation as part of this process. The information you enter about your recommender on the application form does NOT serve as a recommendation request, though you can link to the recommendation request form through the application. If you will be working with an external organization or local affiliate, you must also request a Statement of Willingness from a representative of that organization. 

  1. Short abstract (~100 words): On a separate page, explain the overall goals of the project
  2. Proposal (~750 words): Use the following as suggested areas to cover rather than required categories.  If the proposal is based on participation as an intern, the applicant must still describe their individual/specific responsibilities during the internship and provide a complete description of how much and when they will work.
    1. Background: Evaluate existing knowledge and work in the area and briefly summarize/justify the proposed project’s potential contribution to the field
    2. Objectives: State the hypotheses, objectives, and relevance of the proposed work in terms intelligible to an educated non-specialist
    3. Methodology: Describe the design and procedures to be employed and provide a timetable and implementation plan for completion of the project
    4. Predicted Outcomes/Future Plans/Statement of Impact or Importance: Discuss some potential results to be generated from the submitted project, proposed next steps, and a statement of lessons to be learned from the undertaking
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. Budget (Itemized and Total Overall): On a separate page list and justify each budget item in order of priority, including the total amount needed to complete the project.
    • 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.
    • 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. 
    •  Reimbursement of living expenses may be taxable. Software and capital equipment are almost never funded.  Items that cost $500 or more with a useful life of one year or more must be purchased with a University purchase requisition and will remain the property of the University. 
    • If funds are being sought from other sources, state the source and potential amount of such funding.
  6. Transcript: Create an electronic "unofficial" version of your transcript by going to Penn In Touch —> 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.

Fill out the application form at Common Research Grant ApplicationYou must submit all these materials in .pdf format. No other format will be accepted. 

Letter of Recommendation (and Statement of Willingness)

Please follow all instructions for requesting letters from both (1) your faculty advisor and (2) your local project affiliate (where appropriate). 

(1) As early as possible, request a letter from your faculty research advisor via the Recommendation Request Form. 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 student’s contribution in formulating and carrying out the project
  • 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 in summer and beyond)

(2) If you will be working with an external organization or local affiliate, you must also request a Statement of Willingness from a representative of that organization.  For example, this can be obtained from your supervisor at an external organization, a local affiliate contact, a staff member at an archive, a faculty member at another institution, a governmental representative, etc. Please note that while the Statement of Willingness utilizes the same "recommendation request" form, it need not be equivalent to a recommendation letter. Rather, the statement of willingness is written acknowledgement that the student will have access to necessary materials and support while on location.

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(link is external) 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 photographs 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.

Funding Type


Research Offering Type

Grant, Independent Research


USA, United Kingdom, International (Not UK), Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, Middle East

Undergraduate School

College, Engineering, Nursing, Wharton



Contact Information

Dr. Kerry Milch, Associate Director for Undergraduate Research
Email Dr. Milch
Schedule an appointment with Dr. Milch

Dr. Ann Vernon-Grey, Senior Associate Director for Undergraduate Research
Email Dr. Vernon-Grey
Schedule an appointment with Dr. Vernon-Grey