Research Experience for Seniors (REFS)

The application deadline for this program has passed.


Senior Vice President for Research, Lora Weiss, in a letter to faculty on July 10th, 2020, emphasized the involvement of students intending to graduate by summer 2021 in integrated undergraduate/graduate research at Penn State. To respond, we have added a senior research experience program that will begin late fall 2020 and will run through the spring 2021 semester. This one-time program specifically targets rising seniors in need of research experience who may not have had the opportunity previously due to COVID shutdowns.   

Program Details

  • Students begin their internship the week of November 1st, 2020 and end April 30th, 2021
  • Participating students will receive an $800 stipend for the term of November 1st, 2020 through April 30th, 2021. Stipend will be paid in late January or early February 2021.
  • Laboratories may be reimbursed for up to $400 for student related expenses. **Please contact Carol High ( prior to making purchases for approval, and for details on the reimbursement process.

Faculty Mentor Expectations

  • Faculty are expected to mentor their REFS student on a research project in their field for the duration of the experience.
  • Faculty should be in regular contact with their REFS student to make sure they are making progress on their project.

REFS Student Expectations

  • Expected to be in regular contact with their faculty mentors for the duration of the internship
  • Spend ~5 hours per week on their research projects
  • Complete the REFS Research Project Summary during the final month of their research internship.

Program Timeline

  • September 14th, 2020 – REFS applications are available
  • October 1st, 2020 – REFS applications are due
  • October 2nd – 31st, 2020– REFS applications sent to faculty, student matching is completed via email
  • November 1st, 2020 – REFS students start and continue their internship until the end of the spring 2021 semester.



  • Applicant must be a U.S. citizen. Permanent residents are not eligible.
  • Applicant must be a Penn State University Park incoming senior undergraduate student.
  • Applicant must be able to commit to spending five hours per week in research related activities from the start date of the program (Nov 1st 2020 – end of spring 2021 semester)

Application Process

  1. View the list of participating faculty below and review their research laboratory/project descriptions. Select two labs that you are interested in working.
  2. Complete and submit an online application.
  3. In October you will be notified of your interest by a faculty mentor who may choose to interview you (via phone or in person). Be ready to respond to their emails!
  4. Decisions will be made mid-end October. All applicants will be notified by email. If selected, your internship will start right away on November 1st – so be ready!


REFS Participating Faculty

College of Agricultural Sciences

The Corn Genetics Lab: Dr. Surinder Chopra

The Lambert Lab – Modulation of obesity, inflammation, and cancer by natural products: Dr. Joshua D. Lambert

The Schilder Lab: Effects of host plant toxicity on butterfly flight: Dr. Ruud Schilder

Couradeau lab: Soil Microbiome – Microbial Ecology – Geomicrobiology:  Dr. Estelle Couradeau

The Dudley Lab – Genome sequencing of foodborne pathogens for public health: Dr. Edward Dudley

The social behavior lab: Dr. Etya Amsalem

Novel pest control methods for mushroom phorid flies: Dr. Nina Jenkins

Individual differences in food choices and eating behavior: Dr. John Hayes

Kaye Biogeochemistry Lab :  Dr. Jason Kaye

Vegetable Crop Science: Dr. Francesco Di Gioia

College of Earth and Mineral Sciences

Micromet Lab: Dr. Jose D Fuentes

Land-atmosphere Interactions and carbon cycle science: Dr. Kenneth Davis

Electroactive Polymers for Electrical Energy Storage Applications: Dr. Qing Wang

Thermodynamics and Machine Learning: Dr. Zi-Kui Liu

Eberly College of Science

Computational biology for understanding gene regulationDr. Shaun Mahony

Bacterial Oxygen Sensing and Atypical Cyclic Nucleotides: Dr. Emily Weinert

Blazar Accretion Disks: Dr. Derek Fox

Experimental Particle Astrophysics: Dr. Miguel Mostafa

Yingwei Mao Neurobiology Lab Dr. Yingwei Mao

College of Engineering

Diffusion and Reaction Engineering with Advanced Materials (DREAM Team): Dr. Xueyi Zhang

Open Data for Sustainable Transportation: Dr. Elizabeth Traut

Motion Tracking Problems in IoT: Dr. Mahanth Gowda

Tribology, Glass surface, Cellulosic nanomaterials: Dr. Seong Kim

Sustainable bioenergy production systems: Dr. Rui Shi

Sheikhi Research Group: Dr. Amir Sheikhi

College of Health and Human Development

Behavioral Neurogenetics Laboratory: Dr. Helen Kamens

SANDLab: Semantics, Aphasia, and Neural Dynamics Laboratory: Dr. Chaleece Sandberg

College of Information Sciences and Technology

Center for Human-Computer InteractionDr. John Millar Carroll

Human Cognition Modeling: Dr. Frank Ritter

College of Liberal Arts

none at this time


*Please direct questions to Dr. Erin DiMaggio at: