Research Opportunities Database

Search to find Penn State faculty members looking to fill open undergraduate researcher positions.

A form for faculty members interested in posting an opportunity can be found at Post an Opportunity.

Title Number of opportunities Posted Last Updated
Black Writers of Pennsylvania

The purpose of this project is to develop a comprehensive and concise database of Black literary artists (poets, novelists, dramatists, memoirists, and so on) from or currently working in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, with an emphasis on emerging writers and their work. This resource will serve to increase awareness and understanding of Pennsylvania's rich and living African American literary history and its makers. The database will be of value to students, faculty, scholars, event planners, and community groups who wish to highlight or include the works of regional or local African American writers in their programs and projects. This project is funded by a grant from the Africana Research Center at Penn State University, as part of their initiative "In Pursuit of Social Justice: Recognizing PA Black Artists."

Mentor: Megan Simpson

2 - 3 January 1, 2018 July 24, 2018
Cell Biology of Neurons

Our lab focuses on the basic function and structural organization of neurons at the cellular level. We use Drosophila genetics and live imaging to understand how the architecture of these elaborate cells is established and maintained. We also use the tools and basic knowledge about neuronal cell biology to understand neuronal responses to injury including degeneration and regeneration.

Mentor: Melissa Rolls

typically about 10 undergraduates have independent research projects in the lab. Write to check for current availability. January 1, 2018 July 24, 2018
Center for Childhood Obesity Research

The Center for Childhood Obesity Research (CCOR) conducts interdisciplinary research that contributes to the evidence base needed to inform successful childhood obesity prevention programs that can then be disseminated to public health and clinical practice audiences.

Mentor: Jennifer Savage Williams

varies depending on research projects January 1, 2018 July 24, 2018
Chemical Ecology of Plant-Insect Interactions

Our research goal is to understand the chemical ecology of plant interactions with insects and other organisms to facilitate the development of ecologically sound, environmentally safe, biologically based methods of pest management for agriculture. Included in our area of interest are interactions between insect herbivores and their host plants, multitrophic interactions involving parasitoids and predators of the insect herbivores, and the role of other organisms, like bacteria and fungi in this complex ecosystem. We study chemically guided foraging behaviors of insect parasitoids with the aim of developing methods to increase their effectiveness and reliability for biological control of insect pests. We discovered that volatile organic compounds released by plants under attack by herbivorous insects play a major role as cues that enable natural enemies of the herbivores, such as insect parasitoids, to locate the pests. The knowledge derived from this and subsequent discoveries promises to be particularly valuable in developing new sustainable methods for the biological control of insect pests of agricultural crops. Examples of new approaches to pest management include development of crops that produce stronger signals to attract predators and parasitoids and/or direct chemical defenses when attacked by herbivores. Also, management practices that use naturally produced chemical signals to manipulate pests and their natural enemies have been developed and proven effective in reducing damage to crops. Students working in our lab will gain experience in chemical analyses of volatile organic compounds by using chromatographic and spectroscopic methods. They will also use molecular biology techniques like pcr to determine which plant genes are affected by chemical signals, and they will learn to develop and conduct biological assays to determine the activity of chemical signals.

Mentor: James Tumlinson

1 January 1, 2018 July 24, 2018
Child Health Study

The primary purpose of this study is to learn more about the different ways in which the environment and biology can affect a child’s health.  The information we learn will help us to understand more about children, adolescents and their families. We are looking at the ways in which boys and girls between the ages of 8 and 13 have different life experiences based on the different environments they live in and how these experiences shape child development.

Research assistant applicants must be self-motivated and reliable. Research assistants will help with data collection, data entry, and coding. Additionally, the assistants will interact with the child and the caregiver on various levels from being the first point of contact for the Center on the day of the visit, escorting families to the Center, facilitating art, science, and nutritional activities revolving around healthy choices as well as helping administer questionnaires on an IPAD and paper measures when necessary.

Research assistants must be available a few Saturdays per semester for visits. Research assistants must be able to be at the center by 7:30 am on days of scheduled visits.

Eligible undergraduates interested in also gaining medically relevant experience with respect to processing, storing, and transporting biological samples (specifically, blood, urine, saliva), can receive training on these processes as well.

Deadline to have all requirements completed:

  • Spring research: December 1
  • Fall research:  May 1

Conact Cheri McConnell (, 814-865-2193) if you have any questions.

Mentor: Erin Noll

4 per semester August 23, 2017 August 22, 2018
Chromosome Structure/DNA Damage Resistance

My laboratory is interested in the control of UV and DNA damage resistance pathways at the level of gene regulation in Saccharomyces cervisiae. The main focus of my research is the role of chromatin structure in regulating the expression of DNA damage inducible genes. A secondary interest in the regulation of UV resistance pathways at the post-transcriptional level.

Mentor: Joseph Reese

2 January 1, 2018 July 24, 2018
Cognitive and Social Development Lab Research Assistant

Illustrative projects include (a) studying mother-child interactions in a lab setting as they play with blocks, read books, and do other activities (families are African-American, Mexican American, Dominican American, and Chinese-American); (b) studying the role of gesture and individual’s spatial skills in children’s understanding of spatially-complex science content, such as geology and astronomy; and (c) understanding children’s ideas about gender and the parent and peer influences on children’s gendered behavior. Students typically help to code parent and child behaviors from video recordings and often help in collecting data. In other research we study how children and adults use maps to get around and learn about the environment, and how maps are understood and used in studying various environment-relevant sciences (e.g., geography, geology). Students typically collect data from college students and sometimes from children, and they all help to develop and implement data coding systems.

For more information, please contact Kingsley Schroeder at

Mentor: Lynn Liben

January 1, 2018 July 24, 2018
Cognitive Development Research Project

At the Brandywine Child Development Lab at Penn State Brandywine, we have two main areas of research. First, we ask questions about how kids learn about the world around them by developing fun games to help us explore what kids know about objects, numbers, and language. Second, we ask about the impact of technology on infants, toddlers, and parent-child relationships. We have a number of behavioral studies that examine cognitive development in children from 6 months-5 years. Undergraduates in the lab work hands-on with children in the on-campus lab and at "Living Lab" locations in children's museums and local libraries. Through this lab experience, student researchers obtain a well-rounded understanding of cognitive development research.

Mentor: Jennifer Zosh

1-4 January 1, 2018 July 24, 2018
Collaborative Engineering Design and Sustainability
  1. Global design: interaction, motivation and readiness for multinational collaborative design projects.
  2. Global sustainability in engineering education: knowledge and strategic processing for a multidimensional and global sustainability approach to engineering solutions.

Mentor: Ivan Esparragoza

undefined January 1, 2018 July 24, 2018
College of Engineering Research Initiative (CERI)

During this 15-week program, Penn State undergraduate engineering students work during an academic semester conducting research with a faculty member based at University Park. Students dedicate 10 hours per week to their research project with a PSU faculty member and that faculty member's associated research group. Students also engage in monthly professional development sessions to compliment their personal and professional portfolios. Upon completion of the program, students submit a research paper and also present their research at a poster symposium. The program serves 70 students per academic year, with approximately 30 students in the fall semester cohort, and 40 students in the spring cohort. If you would like more information on the CERI program or to apply, please visit our application website

Mentor: Michelle Hostetler

70 per year May 18, 2018 July 24, 2018