The Undergraduate Experience

I have had the benefit of working hands-on with samples and machines that many of my fellow students only dream of seeing. I met some incredible people on the cutting edge of their fields, and they welcomed me with open arms.

- Anthony Diaz-Huemme, junior materials science and engineering major

This experience has given me a greater understanding of my field and how very little of materials science would be possible if not for characterization methods like electron microscopy.

- Bevin Harbinson, junior materials science and engineering major

2021 Undergrad Student Experience 


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Materials Research Institute (MRI) Undergraduate Fellowship

Now is your time to get graduate-level experience in materials characterization!

Introducing the Materials Research Institute Undergraduate Fellowship

The Materials Research Institute (MRI) Undergraduate Fellowship provides students with an immersive hands-on laboratory experience in the state-of-the-art Millennium Science Complex. We are currently taking applications for this one-of-a-kind position that offers undergraduate students the kind of hands-on, real-world work experience that will propel your college career and prepare you for your future.

Apply Today!

Why apply?:

  • Unprecedented undergraduate access to cutting-edge, advanced instrumentation in the Materials Characterization Lab (e.g. XRD, FTIR, SEM, TEM, etc.)
  • Opportunity to work on a wide range of research projects in a top ranked materials science research program
  • A head start on building a foundation for your career or pursuit of an advanced degree.
  • Professional development opportunities beyond instrumentation, including concise reporting, data management, lab notebook strategies, strategies for effective reviewing of scientific literature, multi-technique design of experiment, and sustainability/waste management.
  • This is a paid position! Earn an incredible experience point for your resume that will make you stand out from your peers.

The details:

  • Priority will be given to student applicants currently in their first or second years at Penn State.
  • Fellows will work under the direction of a Materials Characterization Lab staff member.
  • This is a one-year program that runs from May 9, 2022, to May 5, 2023 (full-time in summer, part-time rest of the year).
  • Requires the following commitment: 40 hours a week for a minimum of 13 weeks over the summer and approximately 10 hours (maximum 15 hours) a week during the fall and spring semesters.
  • Work may include electron microscopy, molecular spectroscopy, x-ray scattering, optical microscopy, electron/ion spectroscopy, surface analysis, surface metrology, thermal analysis, particle analysis, electrical characterization, mechanical analysis, porosimetry, furnace lab, sputter coating, and sample preparation.

Got Questions?
Contact Max Wetherington at, or call 1-814-863-1249.

The Penn State Materials Characterization Laboratory (MCL) is an analytical facility within MRI that:

  • Enables faculty research with $30 million in state-of-the-art instrumentation and approximately 1,000 researchers from 45 Penn State departments.
  • Educates through experiential learning, with more than 20 full-time research staff to support training.
  • Stimulates interactions with our more than 100 external organization partners, including those in industry and higher education.

To learn more about MCL, visit

Apply Today!


Is this a paid position?

Yes. You will be paid $15 per hour with full-time status over the summer (40 hours per week) and part-time the rest of the year (a maximum of 15 hours per week). No additional housing stipend is provided.

When does the job start?

The position starts May 9, 2022, and ends May 5, 2023, with an option for renewal of the one-year contract.  

Can I take vacation?

With the exception of Memorial Day, you are required to work 40 hours per week contiguously from May 9 through June 17 to maximize your training opportunities. After June 17 you may take a one-week vacation (unpaid) at any time through the end of the summer. Additionally, you can take a vacation during the week of August 15 if necessary to prepare for the fall semester.

What criteria are used to select applicants?

Applicants are expected to submit a CV and a cover letter addressing your qualifications and scientific interests. Additionally, you will need to provide contact information for three references that can speak to your character and qualifications.

Can I choose my area of training and research?

We will do our best to align your interests with the technique areas, research, and staff available for the fellowship program. It is advisable to include specific research/technique interests in your cover letter as well as your reasons for such an interest.

Is there an application deadline?

No. But, you are strongly encouraged to apply before MARCH 18, 2022.