Appendix J



Undergraduate and Medical Student Research Opportunities and Initiatives


State of Undergraduate Research at Penn State

Penn State has a long history of student participation in undergraduate research. In fact, undergraduate research is promoted and supported in every college and on every campus in the university through financial support, promotion of experiences, and research presentation opportunities.

In August 2012 a special Senate Task Force on Undergraduate Research was formed and charged to investigate the undergraduate research scope at Penn State, to identify best practices for undergraduate research, and make recommendations for the future of undergraduate research at Penn State.  The task force completed and submitted an extensive report in April 2013 that defined three possible “Roadways for Penn State undergraduate research.” Attempts have been made to follow some of the recommendations (establishment of a website to serve as a central resource for promoting research opportunities for students, and establishment of staff positions to support students and faculty within units and research institutes) with varied levels of success.

The Special Committee on Engaged Scholarship, established in 2016 and reporting in April 2017, identified undergraduate research as a key opportunity type within student engagement.  The current efforts of the Student Engagement Network (SEN) with the student grant program, the ongoing development of the SEN portal, and efforts to establish an effective and insightful assessment system are significant initiatives that have the potential to enhance the undergraduate research experience for undergraduates at Penn State.

In Winter 2017 Penn State, through financial support of the Offices of the Vice Presidents for Commonwealth Campuses and Undergraduate Education, became an enhanced institutional member in the Council for Undergraduate Research (CUR), the leading undergraduate research organization in the country.  Membership at this level makes it possible for all faculty, staff, students, and administration to access free individual memberships in CUR.  The membership provides the means for participation in the national discussion on undergraduate research through publications, institutes, conferences, and webinars.

In an effort to establish best practices for promotion of undergraduate research, partially in response to the expressed needs of students, the University Fellowships Office and the University Libraries have recently launched new efforts to assist students in  familiarizing themselves regarding undergraduate research and receiving guidance on the process of finding opportunities.  One of the advantages in this approach is the establishment of relationships between students and the personnel of the fellowships office and libraries that have shown to be effective in increasing fellowship award recipients at other institutions.

Penn State does not currently have a means for the collection and reporting of the extensive undergraduate research activities of students on campuses, or within the colleges and institutes.  The identification of students participating in paid research (internally or externally funded) and volunteer research, as well quantitatively establishing projects, are virtually impossible. To address these areas, the Office of Undergraduate Education established a faculty fellowship for undergraduate research for the 2019-2020 academic year.  Lara LaDage, associate professor of biology at Penn State Altoona, has recently been appointed to this position.  In addition to working on these projects, Dr. LaDage will assist in the updating of the undergraduate research website ( and provide additional leadership, in partnership with Caitlin Ting, director of the University Fellowships Office, in developing promotional and informational opportunities for students seeking to learn more about undergraduate research.

2018-2019 Student Participation in University-wide Programs Provided through the Office of Undergraduate Education

Medical Student Research at Penn State

Dr. George Harrell, the founding Dean of the Penn State College of Medicine, established the Medical Student Research (MSR) program as an integral part of the curriculum from the founding of the College of Medicine in 1967. This program was unusual for a medical school at the time, and has served to differentiate the Penn State College of Medicine from the majority of medical schools. The purpose of the MSR program is to promote, through a mentored research project, the development and application of critical thinking and problem-solving skills that are fundamental to the integration of medical science and clinical care.

Each student is expected to participate in a mentored research project sometime during medical school. Students gain an understanding of the research process, limitations and variability of data, and the translation of research and critical thinking skills to clinical practice. We expect our students to be able to articulate a relevant research question, decide on appropriate methods to address the question, collect and analyze the data, reach proper conclusions, and write a scientific report summarizing their work, including implications for further inquiry and/or clinical practice.

Medical students are strongly encouraged to pursue their individual interests in choosing a health related research project. Projects have been performed in education, behavior, quality improvement, health systems science, nutrition, basic science, clinical science and social science using qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods. Each student is required to submit a research proposal that describes the research question, it’s background and significance, and appropriate methods to address some aspect of the research question, as well as a research report that describes their work.

Students find projects by searching for faculty with research interests that match their interests (View the Find Research at Penn State website –, by talking to advisors and other students, and by searching the list of potential projects posted by faculty on the MSR website. Students can pursue projects at any campus of Penn State, as well as at other institutions. We encourage faculty from all campuses to submit potential health related research projects at this site. Most students participate in multiple research projects during medical school. Research can be performed at any time in medical school. Most students pursue research during the summer between their 1st and 2nd years, or as a research elective during their 3rd or 4th years.

Over the past 4 years there has been significant increases in the number of publications with students as authors in the PubMed database, the number of meeting abstracts, and student participation and satisfaction levels. We rank above the 90th percentile for all medical schools for these criteria, and strong research experiences are a contributing factor in students finding the residencies and fellowships of their choice.

The MSR program has a number of fellowships and scholarship awards as well as work study funds to support student research, Travel funds are available to support students who attend meetings to present their research. Please visit the Medical Student Research (MSR) website or contact Dr. Ira Ropson, Assistant Dean for Medical Student Research, for more information.

Slide 1: Introduction (All Text Slide)

Undergraduate Research Opportunities and Initiatives
Alan J. Rieck, Ph.D.
Associate Vice President and Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education
September 17, 2019

Slide 2: State of Undergraduate Research at Penn State (All Text Slide)

  • Long history of undergraduate research participation
  • Senate Task Force on Undergraduate Research (April 2013)
  • Special Committee on Engaged Scholarship (April 2017)
  • Enhanced Institutional Membership in Council for Undergraduate Research (CUR) since February 2017
  • University Fellowships Office and University Libraries
  • Undergraduate Research Faculty Fellow, Lara LaDage

Slide 3: 2019 Erickson Summer Discovery Grant (All Text Slide)

  • 208 total applicants
    • 52 applicants from 14 Commonwealth Campuses (25%)
    • 156 applicants from 12 University Park Colleges (75%)
  • 78 awards of $3500/each offered (72 accepted)
    • 20 awards representing 11 Commonwealth Campuses (25.64%)
    • 58 awards representing 7 University Park Colleges (74.36%)

Total Money Dispersed=$252,000

Slide 4: 2019 Undergraduate Exhibition – April 17 in the HUB (All Text Slide)

3 Entry Events (317 projects, 403 student presenters)

  1. Engagement Experience Poster Exhibition (11 am-1 pm)
  • 26 projects
  • 54 student presenters from 6 UP Colleges
  1. Oral and Performance Presentations (4-7 pm)
  • 11 presentations
  • 12 student presenters
    • From 2 Commonwealth campuses, World Campus, and 5 University Park colleges
  1. Research Poster Exhibition (4-7 pm)
  • 280 posters
  • 337 student presenters
    • From 11 Commonwealth Campuses and 8 University Park Colleges

Slide 5: 2019 Undergraduate Exhibition – April 17 in the HUB (Continued) (All Text Slide)

Undergraduate Exhibition—April 17 in the HUB

124 Volunteer Judges

  • Faculty
  • Emeriti Faculty
  • Graduate Students
  • Qualified Staff
  • Administrators

18 Awards presented by Undergraduate Education
8 Library Excellence in Information Literacy Awards
3 Phi Kappa Phi Awards–Outstanding Presentations by Juniors

Slide 6: 2018-2019 Travel Grants for Student Presentations (All Text Slide)

Matching Funds provided by:

  • Department/Campus
  • College
  • Schreyer Honors College (if applicable)
  • Undergraduate Education

Awards for Domestic Conferences and Presentations

  • From 15 Commonwealth Campuses
    • 115 projects
    • 149 students awarded
  • From 8 UP Colleges
    • 100 projects
    • 112 students awarded

Slide 7: 2018-2019 Travel Grants for Student Presentations (Continued) (All Text Slide)

Awards for International Conferences and Presentations

  • From 5 Commonwealth Campuses
    • 7 projects
    • 10 students awarded
  • From 4 UP Colleges
    • 10 projects
    • 18 students awarded

Total Travel Awards

  • 232 projects
  • 289 students

Total of awards from Undergraduate Education=$67,616
Average award/student from Undergraduate Education=$259

Slide 8: Summary Observations (All Text Slide)

  1. Participation has increased in all programs over past several years
  2. While numbers are encouraging, they represent a very small percentage of the entire undergraduate population
  3. Quantitative and qualitative assessment is needed
  4. Efforts continue to develop ways to support faculty in providing more undergraduate research opportunities, especially for under-served, under-represented, and first-generation students

The Penn State College of Medicine Medical Student Research Program

Slide 1: Introductory Slide – History and Purpose (All Text Slide)

Ira J. Ropson, Ph.D.
Assistant Dean of Medical Student Research
Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


  • Dr. George Harrell, the founding Dean of the Penn State College of Medicine, established the principle that student research is an integral part of our medical school’s curriculum.
  • Starting with the Class of 2017, all medical students must participate in a research project during medical school. Prior to 2017 research performed as an undergraduate could fulfill the requirement.


  • Students participate in the research process, and recognize the limitations and variability of data.
  • Appreciate the application of research to clinical practice.
  • Understand how the practice of Medicine changes, and how research drives those changes.
  • Helps the student stand out in their residency and fellowship applications.

Slide 2: The Medical Student Research Project (All Text Slide)

Students choose a project that interests them! Their research question determines the best data collection and analysis methodology for that research, whether qualitative (hypothesis generating) or quantitative (hypothesis testing) or mixed.

Slide 3: Student Responsibilities (All Text Slide)

  • Select a research question and adviser. Some student research questions are completely original. Most are part of a larger research project that the adviser has been exploring.
  • Submit a research proposal that describes the research question, the background and significance of the question, and appropriate methods that address some aspect of the research question.
  • Complete the research and analyze the data.
  • Write an MSR report in the form of a manuscript that could be submitted to a journal in that field. The report does not need to be actually submitted to the journal. This is research, and the work may not be publishable. It is the effort and the experience that counts!

Slide 4: How do Students Find a Project? (All Text Slide)

  • Projects on our website (search for Penn State and MST) (
  • Students have completed projects at the main campus and other affiliated sites
  • Students have completed projects at other institutions (NIH, CDC, other medical schools, hospitals, clinics or with People they worked with as an undergraduate)
  • Faculty can submit potential projects at the same website

Slide 5: Summary of MSR Outcomes (All Text Slide)

MSR Compiled Statistics

Number of Students in Class – excluding MD/Ph.D.
2014: 130

Students with Exemptions
2014: 28
2015: 28
2016: 33
2017: 10
2018: 5

Students who completed MSR requirements
2014: 102
2015: 97
2016: 104
2017: 117
2018: 135

Students with Publications in Pubmed
2016: 62
2017: 69
2018: 78

Publications in Pubmed for Entire Class
2016: 101
2017: 120
2018: 157

Publications in Pubmed with students as first author
2016: 41
2017: 58
2018: 59

Students who were first authors
2016: 30
2017: 40
2018: 43

Estimated number of meeting abstracts
2016: 200-250
2017: 200-250
2018: 250-300

Graduate Questionnaire Responses (Percentiles)

14b. Research Project with Faculty Member
2014: 83.7
2015: 89.6
2016: 89.7
2017: 97.4
2018: 97.5
National Percentiles 2018: 76.8

14c. Authorship of a Peer-reviewed Publication (could be published abstract)
2014: 47.7
2015: 59.1
2016: 56.3
2017: 72.4
2018: 64.4
National Percentiles 2018: 50.5

14d. Authorship of a Peer-reviewed oral or Poster Presentation
2014: 52.3
2015: 50.4
2016: 58.7
2017: 73.3
2018: 66.1
National Percentiles 2018: 56.7

Counted publications include literature reviews, systematic reviews, case reports, research articles and letters. We rank in the top 15% of all medical schools in research participation, the number of publications and abstracts, and student satisfaction with their research experience.

Contact Information

WEBsite – Just Google MSR and Penn State (

Renee Seibel – MSR Administrator: Email ext. 280809; CG603

Dr. Ira Ropson – Assistant Dean of Medical Student Research: Email: ext. 4064; C5736B


  • Andrew Carleton
  • James DiPerna
  • John Hanold
  • Kathleen Hodgdon
  • Janet Hughes, Vice Chair
  • Kathleen Keller
  • Joshua Lambert
  • Dongwon Lee
  • Siela Maximova
  • Anna Mazzucato
  • Alan Rieck
  • Ira Ropson
  • Gregory Shearer, Chair
  • Mary Shenk
  • Fariborz Tavangarian
  • Baily Thomas
  • Regina Vasilatos-Younken
  • Ming Wang
  • Lora Weiss
  • Candice Yekel
  • Qiming Zhang
  • Arturo Zilleruelo
  • Christopher Zorn