DEEPenn STEM Weekend 2023

October 6-8, 2023

Group Photo 2023

Tailored for undergraduates who have limited access to information, research, and opportunities in STEM, DEEPenn STEM is a preview weekend for students attending college in the USA (including US territories) to learn and explore opportunities to pursue an advanced degree in STEM. In 2023, the program saw significant growth and exceeded Year 1 expectations by expanding from 3 to 5 schools, showcasing an even greater variety of pathways to success in STEM. Co-hosted by the Schools of Arts & Sciences (SAS), Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS), Medicine (PSOM), Nursing, and Veterinary Medicine (PennVet), the event offered 69 participants an invaluable opportunity to network with current graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, Penn staff and faculty across the 5 schools, as well as with each other.


Friday, October 6th, 2023
Session name: Keynote Address by Provost John Jackson, PhD

Keynote Address by Provost John Jackson, PhD

Penn Provost John Jackson, PhD

Dr. John L. Jackson Jr., Ph.D. is Penn’s 31st Provost and the Richard Perry University Professor in the Annenberg School for Communication and the School of Arts and Sciences. Prior to his tenure as provost, Dr. Jackson was the Dean of the School of Social Policy and Practice from 2014-2018, and the Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication from 2019-2023. He is the only professor in Penn history to serve as the dean for two Penn schools. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Dr. Jackson obtained his bachelor’s degree in communications with a concentration in radio, TV, and film from Howard University. In the year 2000, Dr. Jackson earned his Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia University and went on to serve as a junior fellow at the Harvard University Society of Fellows before becoming Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University from 2002-2006. 

Since joining the University of Pennsylvania as faculty, Dr. Jackson has authored, produced, and directed several influential bodies of work exploring race, sex, politics, and religion. Dr. Jackson is a founding member of the “Collective for Advancing Multimodal Research Arts”, better known as CAMRA, a Penn-based initiative for creating visual and performative research projects. Working at the intersection of media studies, visual culture, and critical race theory, Jackson has undoubtedly inspired generations to come.

Session name: Dessert Social hosted by Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum, PhD

Participants at the Dessert Social

Students interacting during an icebreaker session

Dr. Valarie Ena Swain-Cade McCoullum, a native Philadelphian who is a graduate of the Philadelphia High School for Girls, has served at Penn since 1977, including 25 years as Vice Provost for University Life. She has held a wide range of positions encompassing such areas as undergraduate honors programs, Commonwealth Programs, graduate academic affairs, and campus space allocation. At other points in her career, she has been Interim President of Cheyney University, Faculty Director of Du Bois College House, and a teacher in both the Philadelphia and Camden school systems, leading to her lifelong commitment to pipeline and college preparatory programs.

As Vice Provost for Student Engagement and Provost’s Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Graduate School of Education, she is charged with aligning goals and approaches, and implementing a comprehensive strategy, for Penn’s K-12, baccalaureate-level, and graduate pipeline and enrichment programs on campus, with the aim of improving students’ experiences and outcomes in these vital programs. She also works with students, faculty, and campus leaders to enhance student engagement in campus and community initiatives, while collaborating with Philadelphia school leaders to support college preparation in Philadelphia schools. At Penn GSE, she partners with faculty to pilot innovative new approaches to educational leadership resiliency while teaching two courses a year in her areas of expertise. (


Saturday, October 7th, 2023
Session name: Personal and Research Statement Overview

Session on Personal Research Statement

Doris Tabassum

Personal statements are different from research statements, but both are common and crucial parts of most applications for graduate school.  In this session, students learn how to articulate their goals and achievements and paint a holistic picture of why they are a great fit for their chosen graduate program.  Additional topics of discussion include: 

  • The “do’s” and “don’ts” when writing personal and research essays
  • Differentiating between the 2 statements and determining what information should be included
  • Common/typical outline and sections to suggested to include in the essays
  • Strengths and strategies of authentic storytelling


Session name: Requesting Letters of Recommendation, Interview Process & CV

Session on Requesting Letters of Recommendation, Interview Process & CV

Christina M. Costanzo

Letters of recommendation are the one part of the graduate school application that a student doesn’t have to write.  Often overlooked and an after-thought, the letter of recommendation is still just as important as all the other components of the application.  Students are introduced to the general “do’s” and “don’ts” when requesting letters of recommendation.  Students also learn about formatting their CVs and graduate school interviews. Additional topics include: 

  • Brief overview and purpose of letters of recommendation 
  • Advice and tips on how to ask for letters of recommendation 
  • Overview of a graduate school interview and how it fits in the graduate school timeline
  • Purpose of a CV and how to tailor it for a PhD application


Session name: Faculty Chat Session & Lunch

Anna Jenkins at the Faculty Chat Session & Lunch

Anna Jenkins

In an informal networking session (“chat session”), students discuss their interests with Penn faculty, current graduate students, and postdoctoral scholars.  Assigned “talking circles” based on discipline and interests provide an opportunity for students to establish authentic connections and relationships with the Penn community.  Topics include: 

  • Interdisciplinarity science within field of study and/or interest
  • Career pathways and exploration opportunities
  • Graduate school at Penn
  • Life in Philadelphia


Session name: Faculty Research Talks 

Dr. DeBroski Herbert, presentation during the Faculty Research Talks

DeBroski Herbert

In this session, participants have the opportunity to attend short scientific talks presented by Penn faculty as a chance to explore some of the cutting-edge research that can be found within SAS, SEAS, PSOM, Nursing, Veterinary Medicine. Research talks were presented by the following faculty: 

  • SAS: Dr. Johannes Burge, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology
    Research Areas:  Computational Models of Visual Processing; Depth Perception; Human Vision; Task-Specific Natural Scene Statistics; Visual Neuroscience
  • SEAS: Dr. Ottman Tertuliano, AMA Family Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics
    Research Areas: nanomechanics, materials science, biomechanics, additive manufacturing
  • PSOM/Vet: Dr. DeBroski Herbert, Professor of Pathobiology and Presidential Professor of Immunology
    Research Areas: Regulatory networks, Immunity, Inflammation, Tissue repair, Mucosal interface, Helminth infection, Lung and intestinal injury, Transgenic mice
  • MD-PhD: Dr. Scott Gordon, Attending Neonatologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
    Research Areas: Immune System, Pregnancy, Mouse models, Human Cells, Innate Immune Activation, Pro-Inflammatory molecules, Viral Infections
  • Nursing: Dr. Antonio Dávila, Assistant Professor CE
    Research Areas: Research Areas: NAD+ metabolism, mitochondrial bioenergetics, immune cells, trauma patients, apheresis platelets (PLT), transfusions


Session name: Overview of the PhD Application Process 

Discussion of the PhD Application Process What is a “PhD” and how do you apply to Penn graduate programs? In this session, students receive a brief overview of Penn, as well as an introduction to STEM graduate programs within five schools (SAS, SEAS, PSOM, Nursing, Veterinary Medicine).  Students will then delve deeper into the application process timeline and learn more about the specifics of preparing a strong application for graduate school (i.e. Letters, statements, TOEFL, GRE, etc.).  Additional topics of discussion include: 

  • How to navigate your interests and choose a school
  • Funding opportunities 
  • Fee waivers
  • Umbrella programs


Session name: How to Navigate the PhD life and Build a Support Network (seniors)

Penn student discusses a day in the life of a PhD student at PennA day in the life of a PhD student!  This session provides students with an opportunity to learn more about the daily life of a graduate student, introducing and emphasizing the importance of creating a healthy work-life balance while in school.  Additional topics of discussion include: 

  • Brief introduction into what is expected of a grad student 
  • Addressing finances, mental health, and community-based support for building a comfortable lifestyle as a PhD student 
  • Additional sources of support for graduate students at Penn 
  • Time management strategies
  • The “hidden curriculum” of graduate school
  • Common options for funding graduate school


Session name:  Is graduate school the route for me? How to gain more research opportunities (sophomores and juniors ONLY)

Penn PhD student  graduate school discusses how to gain more research opportunitiesA session not just about answering questions, but about empowering students to make informed decisions about the next steps in their academic journey.  Delving into the question “Is Graduate School the Route for Me?”, students engage in an discussion with current graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and REU program directors to learn how to determine if an advanced degree aligns with their aspirations and how to elevate their educational experiences in ways that will help  them make that decision (i.e. summer research programs).   Additional topics of discussion include: 

  • Determining factors for deciding to attend graduate school
  • Tailoring the academic journey to match their personal and professional goals
  • Recognizing and seizing research opportunities that align with those goals
  • Building a strong portfolio of experiences to create a compelling application for graduate school
  • Making the transition into graduate school
  • How to maintain a healthy work/life balance
  • Imposter Syndrome
  • Common options for funding graduate school


Session name: Poster Session, Career & Resource Fair

participants hear about resources and support services available at Penn for students At this tabling event and reception, students explore and interact with various campus groups and organizations. Students also have the opportunity to learn about different scientific research topics at Penn and how to get involved through a number of Penn research programs.  Additionally, students:

  • Network with current Penn graduate student, postdoctoral fellows, staff, and faculty 
  • Learn about common career paths in their field 
  • Identify potential areas of interest
  • Learn about science and interdisciplinarity research at Penn
  • Learn about resources and support services available at Penn for students 
  • Discover opportunities to further prepare for applying to graduate school, such as summer REUs and post-baccalaureate programs



Sunday, October 8th, 2023
Session name: Breakfast with Penn graduate students

students are presented an opportunity to eat, share experiences, network, and build community with each other and future peersDuring this informal session, students are presented an opportunity to eat, share experiences, network, and build community with each other and future peers. This is an especially important moment and provides students with an opportunity to ask any lingering questions.


Session name: Graduate Student 1:1 & Lab Tour

participant speaking with a graduate studentHaving a mentor has been identified as  one of the key steps to success.  In this session, each participant is matched with a graduate student based on research interests.  This meeting is a chance for participants to ask questions, receive feedback (ex: CV, personal and/or research statements), exchange information, tour research labs, etc.  Students are encouraged to explore opportunities to grow relationships with the graduate student beyond the event.