UNIVERSITY PARK, PA – Undergraduates can now make one-on-one appointments with experienced student researchers to learn more about how to get involved in research at Penn State.
The Undergraduate Research and Fellowships Mentoring (URFM) Undergraduate Research Ambassador program began in fall 2020 as the first cohort of student ambassadors was formed to promote undergraduate research at Penn State. Among their responsibilities, Ambassadors attend Penn State classes and organizations, serve as panelists at events, and lead information sessions.
A new feature of the program is individual peer counseling, where undergraduates from across the Commonwealth can schedule appointments via Starfish to speak directly with a peer about how to identify a research interest or topic, how to identify a potential mentor or existing research opportunities, and hear a peer’s experience with undergraduate research. No prior research experience is necessary to initiate a dialogue with an Ambassador. Most meetings are currently held on Zoom, but some in-person appointments are available.
Two of the first ambassadors, Fall Deitrick and Cassidy prince, are both senior undergraduate and senior researchers at Penn State. Deitrick, a senior from Williamsport, Pa., Graduated in civil engineering, and Prince, from Millersburg, Pa., Graduated in microbiology.
Prince said most of the students she has spoken to so far in her role as an ambassador want to know how to get started in research and what types of research grants and scholarships are available. Ambassadors are trained to share their research start-up experience, as well as to present the URFM database and relevant department websites and faculty directories.
Likewise, Ambassadors are trained to share their fundraising experience, as well as to present the Erickson Discovery Grant and other avenues of Penn State funding.
Prince pointed out that the research was not only aimed at students in scientific fields, but also at those in the visual and performing arts, business, and the humanities and social sciences.
âI encourage students of any year who are interested in any field to meet one of us,â Prince said. âWe have a multitude of diverse and unique experiences in many fields and majors. Each Ambassador has a different specialty, so I encourage students to check out our descriptions on Starfish to see which best matches their interests.
URFM has already recruited 33 undergraduate ambassadors in its first year. Everyone had to start somewhere, without any previous experience. Taking the first steps in research can seem daunting, Deitrick said, and many students don’t know how the processes work when they start out as undergraduates.
âTalking to my peers who were already involved in research helped me see myself as a researcher, and the Ambassadors are there to do just that,â Deitrick said. âAs Ambassadors, we hope to reassure, motivate and guide students in their research and their understanding of how research can fit into their undergraduate experience. “
Some students who are interested in research, or who are already involved in research, may want to use their experiences to create an application at competitive prices, such as national scholarships. Last year, Deitrick was one of two Penn State students to win a Goldwater Fellowship, a competitive national award for undergraduate researchers or undergraduates pursuing research careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
âApplying for scholarships and other opportunities can be intimidating for students who are more advanced in their research careers,â she said. âMany Ambassadors have experience applying for various scholarships and are also happy to provide advice on navigating these processes. “
Apply to become an undergraduate research ambassador
Students interested in volunteering to become an undergraduate research ambassador can find guidelines and application here. Students must be enrolled full-time at Penn State and have good academic standing. Applicants should also have a GPA of 3.0 or higher, be able to commit to a full academic year, have participated in undergraduate research for at least two semesters or a full summer. The full list of requirements can be found on the website.
URFM director Caitlin Ting said the new program has already received a strong response through requests for presentations to student organizations and classes, and peer nominations are an exciting new avenue to connect with students. future researchers.
âWe are delighted to have brought together undergraduate researchers from different disciplines and campuses,â Ting said. âThe value of hearing about undergraduate research from a peer cannot be understated and we look forward to seeing students take advantage of this new service. “
The undergraduate research and fellowship mentorship is part of the Penn State Office of Undergraduate Education, the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination of university-wide programs and initiatives in support of the undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about undergraduate education at undergrad.psu.edu.