We are the Undergraduate Research and Fellowships Mentoring Office.
We aspire to enrich the educational experiences of Penn State undergraduates by promoting awareness and understanding of research and fellowship opportunities. Through a centralized location, we not only help shape the intellectual development of undergraduates, but also offer a space for intentional collaboration opportunities throughout the Penn State community.
FAQs about Undergraduate Research and Fellowships Mentoring (URFM)
The University Fellowships Office (UFO) changed its name and expanded its mission to include undergraduate research in 2020. The newly renamed Undergraduate Research and Fellowships Mentoring (URFM) office supports undergraduates at all Penn State campuses in finding and securing opportunities for both undergraduate research and fellowships.
This transformation will allow Penn State to better serve students interested in pursuing undergraduate research. URFM will, for the first time, provide undergraduates with a central University office expressly dedicated to helping them access research opportunities, providing the same level of support that has been available in the realm of fellowships. Furthermore, by combining support for fellowships and undergraduate research in the same office, URFM will be better positioned to highlight the connections between these two areas of endeavor.
What is a fellowship, and what is undergraduate research? What do these two areas of pursuit have in common?
A fellowship is an interest- or merit-based award, often given by an organization or institution, that funds education-related experiences such as research, language learning, and teaching. Undergraduate research is an opportunity to make an original intellectual or creative contribution to a particular area of study through a process of inquiry or investigation. Like fellowships, undergraduate research opportunities are available to all students and in all fields.
Both kinds of experiences (fellowships and undergraduate research) can enhance a student's education by enabling them to apply and extend their classroom learning, and both kinds of experiences can take some work to find and secure. URFM is available to help students navigate the process of locating and landing competitive fellowship and undergraduate research opportunities.
Fellowships and undergraduate research are further connected in that many fellowships look for candidates who have demonstrated a commitment to their area of interest through undergraduate research, and some fellowships involve a significant research component. Students can often make themselves more competitive for fellowships by first building their experience in research. Alternatively, a student may develop an interest in a particular research area through a fellowship and wish to extend this work through additional research opportunities.
By engaging with URFM, students can access a range of resources to help position themselves well for fellowships or undergraduate research experiences. These resources include workshops and information sessions, online tools and resources, one-on-one counseling with program staff, and support from peer mentors. URFM can help students to find fellowship and research opportunities, connect with other students who have participated in the same or similar opportunities, build their resumes in order to make themselves as competitive as possible, develop their application materials, and reflect on their fellowship or undergraduate research experiences after the fact.
Yes. URFM is currently delivering all services remotely through Zoom, given the need for continued social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. The office has always offered remote options to accommodate students across the Commonwealth, though, and this option will continue to be available indefinitely.
Does the University offer programming related to fellowships or undergraduate research outside URFM that students should be aware of?
Yes. While URFM provides a central hub for resources related to undergraduate research and fellowships, many colleges, campuses, and departments also offer resources for their specific student populations. For students who may not know where to begin, URFM can provide a useful starting point and can connect students with the appropriate contact people in their units.
In addition, the Office of the Associate Vice President and Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education sponsors several programs related to undergraduate research, including the Erickson Discovery Grant program, a travel grant program, and the Undergraduate Exhibition. URFM is knowledgeable about these programs and can provide guidance to students who wish to participate.
Absolutely. Graduate students who are interested in particular fellowships in which URFM has expertise, including the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, the Boren Fellowship, the Critical Language Scholarship Program, and the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, can benefit from the support and guidance of URFM staff.
URFM can also help graduate students to include undergraduates in their own research projects. URFM is developing mentoring resources and preparing to offer mentoring workshops that will provide information and guidance to graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty members, and other members of the University community who wish to involve undergraduates in their research.
Each year, URFM also sponsors graduate assistantships that provide graduate students in Ph.D. programs at University Park with experience in the Alternative-Academic (Alt-Ac) landscape, student mentoring, and program administration.