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Research: Your First Two Years

Many students on their first coming to Penn don't realize how many research opportunities there are in your first two years.

First- or second-year students interested in English might begin with a Freshman Seminar. These are numbered English 015 or 016, and taught by our best faculty; we offer several in the fall semester and a few in the spring. They offer newer students small seminars and the chance to conduct research on a given topic.

This said, whether introductory or advanced, nearly every English course offers either a research component or the potential to do research for a longer essay or creative project. Students should consult syllabi and speak to professors, the earlier the better. These courses also can serve as building-blocks to further research. The vast majority of students who undertake independent studies and research projects, after all, do so with a professor under whom they've already studied. In short, if you find yourself in a great class and want to keep going with it, the best thing to do is begin by talking to your professor about next steps. And if you find these experiences enjoyable and fruitful, then you should consider registering for a section of English 4950-4998 (The Junior Research Seminar) in the spring semester of your sophomore year (though you can take the JRS anytime).

In addition, there exist a wealth of research opportunities designed specifically for freshman and sophomores. Some are special programs, some internships, some research grants, and some a combination of these. The most efficient way to find out what's available is to speak to your professors, and to Wallace Genser at the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (call 215-746-6488 or write to for a research consultation appointment).

Some opportunities you should consider, however, are:

Penn Undergraduate Research Mentoring Program (PURM) grants, which offer first- and second-year undergraduates the opportunity to work as a research assistant for a Penn faculty member during the summer.  PURM students receive a $3,500 stipend and valuable mentorship for working full-time for 10 weeks.

College of Arts and Sciences Summer Internships, which offer students first-hand experience working at local Arts organizations.

The University Scholars program, which provides ongoing support for students who intend to be significantly involved in research while at Penn and are planning a career in research and scholarship. The program is open to freshman and sophomore students engaged in a research project; juniors must speak with the University Scholars program Director no later than September 30 of the Fall of their junior year and apply by November 1.

English Undergraduate Research Grants offer students up to $500 to support costs associated with a specific research project.

Freshmen and sophomores are also eligible for the Hassenfeld Foundation Social Impact Research Grant, which provides support to undergraduate students in the College of Arts and Sciences who are undertaking innovative research or social entrepreneurship projects or internships with potential for real-world outcomes and significant social impact.

The College House Research Fellows Program

Penn Humanities Forum fellowships offer undergraduates funding coupled with the opportunity to engage with faculty and graduate students exploring projects on a related theme.

CWIC Emerging Scholar GrantsThe Class of 1971 Robert J. Holtz Fund

Finally, the College maintains a Finding Research Opportunities page that is well worth your time.