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
Molecular simulations of polymers and complex fluids

Our research is focused on microscopic, physical understanding of the unique material properties of polymers and complex fluids. The hallmarks of these "soft" systems are:

  • interplay between entropic fluctuations and energetic tendency to order;
  • exquisite sensitivity of structure to imposed fields, including deformation and flow.

These features of soft systems afford unique opportunities for design of material properties, but also pose theoretical challenges. Material design in the vast parameter space of complex fluids cannot be achieved by a strictly empirical approach, but requires conceptual understanding as well, to exploit the potential of these remarkable materials.

Current research areas include:

  • glassy systems (including dense fluids, polymer thin films, and plasticized polymers)
  • ordering and crystallization (including polymer miscibility, polymer nematics, crystal nucleation in polymers, and flow-induced crystallization)
  • polymer entanglement (including effect of polymer stiffness, entanglement in mixtures)
  • semiconducting polymers (including charge transport in polymers for organic electronics and photovoltaics)

We employ a wide range of theoretical tools to solve problems. Broadly speaking, we use whatever it takes. Our computational methods include:

  • atomistic simulations
  • coarse-grained simulations
  • Monte Carlo simulations
  • self-consistent field theory
  • analytical theory
  • scaling arguments

Since 2008, twelve research undergraduates have worked in our group, resulting in four honors theses and nine published papers, including six with an undergraduate first author.

For more information on recent research in my group, visit my Research webpage at .

Mentor: Scott Milner

1 to 2 August 1, 2018 September 18, 2018
High Performance Engineering Design Teams

In this project, we are investigating how engineering design teams work, with a particular focus on the key factors that lead to high performance. As part of our investigation, we study the interaction behaviors of engineers (what they do, the approaches they take), their cognitive characteristics (who they are, what they know), and the design outcomes of the engineering team (what they create). This is a great opportunity for you to learn about the design process, design cognition, product assessment, and research methods in general. Because this project is a collaboration between Penn State and Stanford University, you will also have the opportunity to meet engineering students and researchers from across the country. You will work with an enthusiastic, multi-disciplinary team of faculty and students to gain valuable research experience that will help you understand engineering design in more depth. Your research experience may include data collection from engineering practitioners or students, coding and analysis of those data, and writing papers for publication at various conferences. We hope you will join us!

Mentor: Kathryn Jablokow

3+ January 1, 2018 September 12, 2018
Data entry and analysis from Grand Teton National Park Visitor Use Study

Selected students will have the opportunity to help with data entry and analyses from park-based visitor use management projects. The focus of this experience will be working on social science data from Grand Teton National Park.

Mentor: Derrick Taff

3 September 4, 2018 September 4, 2018
Polyelectrolyte Solution Rheology

Polyelectrolytes find uses as thickeners for solution coating. DNA is also a polyelectrolyte. The molecular weight of all polyelectrolytes is hard to characterize and we try to develop methods to determine number-average molecular weight from careful measurements of the concentration dependence of solution rheology, coupled with X-ray scattering.

Mentor: Ralph Colby

3 August 30, 2018 August 30, 2018
Ionic Conductivity and Mechanical Properties of Ion Gels

Usually there is an inverse correlation of conductivity and modulus; As modulus is increased conductivity decreases. Recently, a new class of ion gels was discovered by mixing ionic liquids with a rigid polyelectrolyte that still have such a correlation, but at much higher levels of both conductivity and modulus. Hence, GPa modulus with reasonable conductivity is possible with ion gels and that makes them a unique class of materials with many potential applications. We try to understand why the ion gels have such a good combination of properties, using dielectric measurements, mechanical measurements and X-ray scattering.

Mentor: Ralph Colby

3 August 30, 2018 August 30, 2018
Microscopy Technology in Biological Research

The Microscopy Center in Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences is a multi-user shared technology facility where a variety of microscopy technique is used to study structures and morphology of cells, tissues, organs, animals and plants. We are looking for a student from bioengineering, biotechnology, or biology to work in an area of optical microscopy, in particular fluorescence microscopy including high-end confocal and high resolution imaging, image process, 3-D analysis. Other tasks may include work in a chemical lab and histology, and electron microscopy on a daily basis.

Mentor: Greg Ning

1 August 28, 2018 August 23, 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
Promoting Healthy Development/Recipe for Success

The Edna Bennett Prevention Research Center is seeking an undergraduate research assistant to assist with the Recipe 4 Success project. The project examines the impact of lessons regarding healthy eating, sleeping patterns, and self-control skills on toddler development in Early Head Start families.

Mentor: Michelle Hostetler

3 August 20, 2018 August 21, 2018
MIDUS-National Study of Daily Experiences

National Study of Daily Experiences (NSDE)is one of the in-depth studies that are part of the MacArthur Foundation National Survey of Midlife in the United States (MIDUS, NSDE is the largest longitudinal diary study of daily experiences and health in the U.S. It's purpose is to investigate the role of behavioral, psychological, and social factors in understanding age-related differences in physical and mental health.

Mentor: David Almeida

4 August 17, 2018 August 17, 2018
Combatting "superbugs" by reducing unnecessary antibiotic use

Assist with data collection and analysis for studies of doctor-patient interaction and antibiotic stewardship interventions at University Health Service. 6-15 hours/week, credit or paid work both available.

Mentor: Erina MacGeorge

6 August 16, 2018 August 16, 2018