In addition to the opportunities available at Penn State, you can also participate in research and creative activity off campus. There are opportunities to explore any area of interest all over the world at other universities, national labs and government agencies, private research centers, and more.
Most undergraduates who pursue off-campus research do so over the summer or when they are not also enrolled in coursework. These opportunities are sometimes referred to as ‘research experiences for undergraduates’ or REUs for short.
REUs are often funded and include housing, with also even covering related travel expenses. Because these experiences take place during the summer, you are typically expected to dedicate 40 hours per week on a project, allowing you to experience what it is like to conduct research as a full-time job. REUs also are an excellent opportunity for you to expand your knowledge and training to a new area of interest, as well as your horizons and connections beyond Penn State. Participation in an REU could yield your first presentation or publication, a strong letter of recommendation, or clarity in your career goals.
The first question to consider when searching for an off-campus experience is what you are seeking to gain. Are you new to research and hoping to learn the basics so you can land a research position when you return to campus? Are you looking to strengthen your application for graduate or professional school by exploring a new research area or learning a new technique? Maybe you want a job with the federal government after graduation and would like to explore your options before having to commit.
Depending on your goals, certain opportunities will be a better fit. Below are several opportunities that students from Penn State regularly participate in.
- DAAD Research Internship in Science and Engineering (RISE) – The RISE program provides rising junior and senior undergraduates with a funded summer internship to perform full-time research in science and engineering in Germany.
- National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) – The REU program sponsors undergraduate research in the U.S. in any of the areas typically sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Students receive stipends and, in many cases, assistance with housing and travel.
- Big Ten Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP) – SROP helps prepare undergraduates, particularly from underrepresented groups, for graduate study through intensive research experiences with faculty mentors and enrichment activities. Students receive stipends and, in many cases, assistance with housing and travel.
There are many summer programs beyond the ones listed above. In order to find a program that matches your interests, we recommend performing a search that contains your area of interest and relevant key words. For example, if you are interested in history, you might search “history summer research for undergraduates” or “history summer research program”. Professional societies that maintain job postings can also be a good starting point.
Each opportunity has its own eligibility requirements and application timeline. We recommend you begin your search at the start of the school year prior to the summer in which you want to participate in off-campus research. For example, the deadlines for the various National Science Foundation REU programs range from November – March prior to the summer of the program, whereas DAAD RISE has only one deadline and it is in the middle of December. For these opportunities, you would want to begin your search early in the fall semester so that you can prepare your application in time.