Research Experience for Undergraduates site in Interdisciplinary Mind & Brain Studies at the University of Pennsylvania

Supported by the National Science Foundation (Award # 2050803)

This program offers an integrated paid ten-week summer research experience for eight (non-Penn) students that combines the opportunity to work on a research project in an established lab at an R1 university with an introductory workshop on brains and behavior and ongoing programming to support student development and well-being.


Run by MindCORE (Mind Center for Outreach, Research and Education)—the school-wide hub at the University of Pennsylvania for studying human intelligence and behavior— MindCORE’s animating philosophy is that building an understanding of human intelligence and behavior requires bringing to bear tools and insights from multiple disciplinary traditions. To achieve this goal, MindCORE brings together faculty with diverse approaches to the study of the mind and brain (e.g., Biology, Neuroscience, Psychology, Linguistics, Philosophy, Computer Science) that cross multiple schools in the university (e.g., Arts & Sciences, Medicine, Engineering, Communications, Business).


Program Overview

This program aims to attract and support students from diverse backgrounds to the field of cognitive science. Under the supervision of faculty and program staff, students participate in:

      • 1 week introductory workshop on interdisciplinary research in cognitive science
      • 9 weeks of mentored research experience
      • research ethics training
      • technical training
      • lab tours
      • professional development opportunities with the aim to prepare participants for pursuing advanced education and careers in related fields of research
      • guidance toward creating a final poster or presentation of the student’s summer research work

The research project that students embark on with their respective mentors will be shaped as much as possible by the students’ interests. They will be matched to faculty based on their research interest and mentor preference. Learn more about potential faculty mentors here.



During the research experience students will convene 3 times weekly for the following:

      • an informal group check-in on research progress and journal club with a (graduate student or postdoc) step-ahead mentor (every Monday)
      • research seminars led by MindCORE faculty (every Wednesday), and
      • lab tours or professional skills sessions
      • The ten-week research experience will conclude with a conference-style poster presentation where each student will present their summer work. All lab staff, faculty mentors, key staff, and campus and community leaders will be invited to attend.

Eligibility Requirements

This program seeks talented undergraduate students early in their college career, ideally rising sophomores, who are first-generation, low-income, or from an underrepresented group in STEM, or students with disabilities or students from academic institutions with limited research experiences available in the study of mind and brain. To be eligible, each student must fulfill the following requirements by the start of the REU program:

      • be a U.S. citizen or non-citizen permanent resident
      • be enrolled as a full-time student at an accredited college or university leading to a baccalaureate degree
      • demonstrated interest in aspects of cognitive science as reflected in introductory coursework in related fields
      • be at least 18 years of age, ideally rising sophomores
      • have an overall GPA of 3.30 or higher (exceptions are possible)
      • have at least one semester of undergraduate school remaining before graduation (eligible applicants may not be graduating seniors)
      • be able to travel to and live in Philadelphia for the 10-week duration of the program

Stipend & Other Benefits

Eight student fellows are selected for the program each year and provided with:

      • A stipend of $600 per week / $6000 for the 10-week program, paid monthly
      • 10 weeks of on-campus housing at Penn
      • Meal allowance
      • Travel expenses to Penn’s campus and a return to the home or home institution at the program end
      • Travel expenses to attend the Annual REU meeting

Program Dates and Deadlines

The 10-week program takes place each summer from early June to mid-August.


Required Application Materials

Applications are submitted online and include:

Florian Schwarz, PhD
Associate Professor; Undergraduate Chair, Department of Linguistics
Associate Director of Education, MindCORE
Member of the Graduate Group in Psychology
University of Pennsylvania

Co-PI: Joseph Kable, PhD
Baird Term Professor, Psychology Department
Director, MindCORE
University of Pennsylvania


Faculty Mentors

Kathryn Davis’s research uses neuroimaging and invasive neurophysiology to localize epileptic networks in medication refractory epilepsy patients. She hopes that improved seizure localization will enable epileptologists to better treat epileptic networks and guide individual patients to the most effective therapies, such as seizure control devices, resective surgery, or continued medical management.

Emily Falk’s lab takes an interdisciplinary communication neuroscience approach to link neural activity to behaviors at the individual, group and population levels. Specific lines of work in the lab include predicting behavior change following exposure to persuasive messages and understanding what makes successful ideas spread (e.g. through social networks, through cultures). At present, much of the research in the lab focuses on health communication, and the design of better interventions, programs and policies.

Josh Gold’s laboratory studies basic neural mechanisms that link arousal, learning, and decision-making to better understand how our brains support flexible, adaptive behaviors in a dynamic world.

Roy Hamilton’s laboratory employs noninvasive brain stimulation techniques such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to further elucidate structure-function and network-function relationships in the brain that relate to cognition, and to use these discoveries to advance novel neuromodulation-based therapies in patients with neurologic diseases.

Joe Kable’s lab seeks to understand how people make decisions, and to trace out the psychological and neural mechanisms of choice. They employ an integrated empirical approach to tackle these questions, drawing on methods and ideas from experimental economics, psychology of judgment and decision making, and social and cognitive neuroscience. They aim to draw links across these different levels of analysis, and to build explanations of decision-making that account for both people’s choices and the neural mechanisms underlying those choices.

Allyson Mackey’s lab studies how changes in the brain give rise to changes in the mind, both as development unfolds, and in response to experience. Developing brains must strike a balance between plasticity/vulnerability and stability/protection. They are interested in the mechanisms by which environmental factors tip this balance to shorten or shift windows of peak plasticity. Ultimately, they plan to leverage progress in basic science to develop new interventions to help children learn.

Michael Platt’s lab tries to understand how the brain makes decisions and motivates behavior. Their work is motivated by ethology, evolutionary biology, and economics, with a focus on how specific features of the physical and social environment have shaped the biological mechanisms that help us make decisions. They are especially interested in the processes that allow people and other animals to make decisions when the environment is ambiguous or complicated by the presence of other individuals.

Marc Schmidt’s laboratory forms part of an interdisciplinary team of computer scientists and biologists working to create automated methods for understanding how social networks develop in groups of birds housed in an outdoor aviary at Penn.

Florian Schwarz’s lab investigates the comprehension of natural language meaning in context, combining tools from formal linguistics and experimental psycholinguistics to explore the interplay of linguistic representations and domain-general cognition in piecing together linguistic and contextual information to account for the various inferences comprehenders arrive at, as well as their properties.

Kathryn Schuler‘s lab studies how children learn languages. The lab is especially interested in why children seem to be better at language learning than adults are, with a goal of finding out whether there is something different about the way children learn or the way their brains are organized that makes language learning come naturally to them.

Meredith Tamminga’s lab is situated at the intersection of sociolinguistics and psycholinguistics. Lab members work on a broad range of topics that are tied together by shared aims of modeling the mental representation and processing of inter- and intra-speaker linguistic variability; integrating experimental and naturalistic linguistic data across diverse populations; and relating individual and group-level linguistic behavior and phenomena.

Lyle Ungar’s research focuses on developing scalable machine learning methods for data mining and text mining, including deep learning methods for natural language processing, and analysis of cell phone and social media to better understand the drivers of physical and mental well-being.


Schedule Examples


One-Week Introductory Workshop Schedule Sample


6:00-8:00 PM

Welcome Dinner


8:30-10:00 AM

Penn Public Safety & Violence Prevention Presentation

10:30-12:00 PM

Topic 1: Perception

12:00-1:00 PM



Topic 1 Group work/discussion: Perception

2:30-4:30 PM

Research Skills Tutorial: R

6:30 PM

Optional Philadelphia Fun: Chinatown Visit


8:30-10:00 AM

Living Labs: Communicating Science to Non Scientists, Outreach and Advocacy

10:30-12:00 PM

Topic 2: Learning (including work on growth mindset)

12:00-1:00 PM



Topic 2 Group work/discussion: Learning

2:30-4:30 PM

Research Skills Tutorial: Experiment Design

6:30 PM

Optional Philadelphia Fun: West Africa in West Philadelphia


8:30-10:00 AM

Reflection & Discussion: Responsible Conduct of Research

10:30-12:00 PM

Topic 3: Decision-Making

12:00-1:00 PM



Topic 3 Group work/ discussion: Decision-Making

2:30-4:30 PM

Research Skills Tutorial: Python OR R cont’d

6:30 PM

Optional Philadelphia Fun: Spruce Street Harbor Park


8:30-10:00 AM

Reflection & Discussion: Getting Started with Research, Brannon Lab

10:30-12:00 PM

Topic 4: Communication

12:00-1:00 PM



Topic 4 Group work/ discussion: Communication

2:30-4:30 PM

Demonstrations: Explorations of tools and techniques used in research of the mind and brain including TMS, fMRI, eye-tracking, mTurk, optogenetics

6:30 PM

Optional Philadelphia Fun: Boat House Row


8:30-10:00 AM

Reflection & Discussion: Neuroscience and Society, Martha Farah, Psychology

10:30-12:00 PM

Topic 5: Social Behavior

12:00-1:00 PM



Topic 5 Group work / discussion: Social Behavior

1:30-4:30 PM

Field Trip: Looking, Perceiving, and Communicating: Lessons from the Barnes and a One-Hour Observation of a Single Work: Zab Johnson, Wharton Neuroscience Initiative

6:30 PM

Optional Philadelphia Fun: Game Night


Draft Professional Development & Lab Demonstrations (alternating Thursdays weeks 2-10)

Week 2

Professional Development: Best Practices in Open Science

Week 3

Lab Demonstration: Laboratory for Cognition and Neural Stimulation with Roy Hamilton (transcranial magnetic stimulation in adults)

Week 4

Professional Development: Applying to Graduate School

Week 5

Lab Demonstration: The Changing Brain Lab with Allyson Mackey (fMRI brain imaging in children)

Week 6

Professional Development: Poster Session 101

Week 7

Lab Demonstration: Schmidt Lab with Marc Schmidt (machine learning technology to record avian behavior)

Week 8

Professional Development: Presenting Your Research

Week 9

Lab Demonstration: Abdus-Saboor Lab with Ishmail Abdus-Saboor (assessing pain in mice)

Week 10

Professional Development: Attending Conferences

Summer 2021 Summary of Student Evaluations


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Click here to return to the main MindCORE Summer Fellowship Program page.