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WISER: Women in Science and Engineering Research


The WISER application is closed. Click here to apply online.

Application Deadline: November 12, 2014

WISER provides first-year women students at University Park with research opportunities and mentoring. It was created in 1993 as a means to retain women in the traditionally male-dominated fields of science and engineering. You can work in Penn State's most exciting and prestigious research labs in the Colleges of Earth and Mineral Science, Education, Engineering, Health and Human Development, Liberal Arts, and Eberly College of Science.

This is your opportunity to do research for pay, now, in your first year. Over the past 14 years, over 500 first-year women have been able to investigate various fields of study through the WISER program. WISER offers you a low-risk chance to do research before making any life-changing decisions about your major. WISER provides you with a learning experience that most closely duplicates how science and engineering are done professionally.

If you are a female student at Penn State majoring in Science, Agricultural Science, Earth and Mineral Sciences, Education, Engineering, Health and Human Development, IST, Liberal Arts (Psychology or Anthropology) or DUS, you may apply for WISER. WISER candidates must be full-time students.  You must be a U.S. citizen, freshman, and be able to work at least five hours a week in the lab.

WISER is a one-year research experience program. Upon selection, research occurs in the Spring and Fall semesters (summer semester is optional). A $400 stipend is provided both Spring and Fall semesters.

During your WISER assignment, you will work closely with the people who work in a research setting. You’ll learn how to work in a research lab safely and efficiently under the guidance of a faculty advisor or graduate student.

You'll learn the language of research and how to use high-tech equipment. You'll acquaint yourself with technical sub-specialties, such as the use of the Electron Microscope Facility, Hybridoma and Cell Culture Laboratory or the Flow Cytometry Facility.

You'll attend lab meetings, participate in discussions, collect data, review technical papers or prepare posters and other presentation materials. You may even attend professional conferences or travel to do field work. And you will find out how those chemistry and physics formulas you learn in class are useful in our Nation’s research agenda.

You will discover that science isn't only listening to lectures, but teamwork, which requires communication skills, initiative, imagination, patience, and creativity.

This is not just bottle washing or busy work - WISER students often have their own projects or work closely with graduate students to collect important data for the lab. Nor is this necessarily a one-way street. You may already have skills which make your expertise valuable to the lab.

After two semesters of research experience with WISER, you'll be well qualified to pursue new research opportunities in any field.

Read a first hand account of a woman student at Penn State doing research as an undergraduate! Ying Feng's blog talks about how she got started in research as an undergraduate and how she is working with Dr. Jason Wright to create an interactive database of exoplanets.

Application Process

The first step of the application process is to read the descriptions of available laboratory research opportunities posted here. You can select up to three labs that match your interests. The more labs you select, the better your chance of being accepted into the WISER program. Once you have read the descriptions and decided on your lab selections, you can apply using the online application. Participating faculty will be notified of your interest and may choose to interview preferred candidates. If selected, you will work in one research lab for both spring and fall semesters.

Decisions will be made by the end of Fall 2014 semester.

The listing of available research laboratories can be found here: WISER research laboratories

The WISER online application can be accessed here: WISER Application

Application Deadline: November 12, 2014


The principal funder for WISER is NASA through The Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium Office.

Please contact us for more information.

Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium
Penn State University
2217 Earth-Engineering Sciences Building
University Park, PA 16802
Phone: 814-863-7688
Fax: 814-863-9563

"WISER is the best opportunity a freshman could possibly receive. How else can you get your foot in the door so early in your college career?"

"My experience with WISER research was the best part of my Penn State experience.

"I have gained valuable experience and knowledge that cannot be taught in any classroom"