Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate Research Opportunities 

Undergraduate research opportunities take several forms. If you are an honors student or a Paterno Fellow, you are required to conduct your own research as part of an honors thesis. But research opportunities are available to many students. If you have an idea for an independent research project you can enroll in PL SC 494. If you want to get involved with a faculty member’s research there are opportunities for that as well.

Working on a research project

Faculty regularly employ undergraduate students to work on various research projects. Not all faculty are hiring research assistants at any given time but opportunities to be a part of a research project are regularly available for diligent students. Some examples of jobs include data collection and data input, coding, developing web surveys, and writing literature reviews of material in professional journals.

If you are interested in working on a research project, and you are a current Penn State student, please use the research application form to apply. If you qualify for work-study benefits, why work at the library shelving books or cleaning dishes in the dining hall? You could be hired to get involved in some research project that would be of greater academic benefit to you. Furthermore, these projects often have flexible working hours, allowing you to work on them whenever it best fits your schedule and to work anywhere you have access to a computer.

Students may be paid for the hours worked or receive course credits. If you partake in the research for course credit, faculty expect a greater commitment to work than standard volunteers. For example, if you were to enroll in PL SC 494 for three credit hours, faculty would expect you to work eight hours per week on the project and to do some independent work based on the project.

Students typically go through some training period, then work on their own and give regular reports on their progress. Faculty usually hold regular meetings to discuss problems, track progress, and keep everyone involved. The work tends to be computer- and internet-based.

Faculty are particularly interested in hiring students with an interest in continuing their studies in graduate school, who might want to do a thesis related to any of ongoing research project, who'd like to stay involved for a while, or those with some particular technical skills. No one has all these things simultaneously, so if you're not sure, please apply anyway.

How to apply

Please complete the research application form for consideration.

Faculty who need assistance with ongoing research projects will be forwarded your application and contact you. If you have previously discussed joining a particular project, there will be an opportunity to indicate this on the application and your application will be directed to that faculty member.