Program Overview

When you enter the Penn LENS (Penn Laboratory Experiences in the Natural Sciences) program, you will have the opportunity to join a research lab and take part in current scientific research. Every LENS participant is assigned a mentor and participates in a research project from one of the natural science disciplines, such as biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, linguistics or veterinary science.

Over the course of five weeks, School of Arts and Sciences’ natural science faculty and other lab members will provide guidance and mentorship to aid students in developing laboratory and research skills. Students will meet faculty from a variety of disciplines, participate in workshops to develop essential lab and science communication skills, explore career paths in science, talk to Penn undergrads currently doing research, and present their work at the end of the program.

Penn LENS is in-person and takes place at the University of Pennsylvania.

Eligibility Requirements

This program is open to current 10th and 11th grade (rising 11th or 12th grade) high school students from Philadelphia School District or Charter schools, and students from underserved schools are especially encouraged to apply.

Stipend and Other Benefits

Students selected for the program will receive:

  • a $1500 financial award for completing the program
  • a meal allowance
  • travel expenses

Anyone needing technology assistance (device and/or wifi access) will be accommodated on a case-by-case basis.

Program Dates and Deadlines

The program will begin on June 18th and end on July 19.

Applications are currently open and will be accepted until March 15, 2024.


Our application consists of:

  • the online application form
  • a high school transcript (official or unofficial)
  • a 300-word essay answering the 3 questions provided
  • a recommendation from a science teacher (present or recent)

Sample Research Opportunities 

Dr. Katie Barott (Biology): This lab investigates the effects of climate change on coral animals which expel the single-cell algae that live within their tissues when stressed. 

Dr. Joseph Kable (Psychology): This lab looks at how and why people make decisions, using approaches from psychology, neuroscience and economics. 

Dr. James Petersson (Chemistry): This lab uses chemistry, biology, and computing to study protein folding and interactions, with applications in neuroscience and medicine.

Dr. Ivan Dmochowski (Chemistry): This lab is particularly interested in developing new technologies for biomolecular imaging and the fabrication of functional bio-nanomaterials.

Dr. Mecky Pohlschröder (Biology): This lab looks at the movement of prokaryotic organisms from the kingdom ​Archaea and their formation in our digestive systems. 

Dr. Robyn Sanderson (Astronomy): The research conducted in this lab focuses on ways to infer the dark matter distribution in galaxies by studying the orbits of their stars. 

Dr. Eric Schelter (Chemistry): This lab works on methods to recycle the rare earth metals used in heavy-duty batteries and electronics which are environmentally safe.

Additional Program Information

Students selected for the Penn LENS program will have the opportunity to gain an understanding of what scientific research involves. This will include:

  • assignment to a research group in either the Biology, Chemistry, Earth & Environmental Science, Linguistics, Physics & Astronomy or Psychology Departments for familiarization and mentorship by Penn faculty and graduate students; 
  • an orientation run through the School of Arts and Sciences to help students feel comfortable with what will be expected of them;
  • an individualized research experience and group work, culminating in a final presentation

Example Schedule

The program will run daily from 9:30 am until 3:30 pm, although there will be shorter and longer days at times depending on the activities or schedules of the research labs.

Week 1
Morning SessionNo session, Juneteenth observedIntroductions and campus tourLab presentation and toursLab presentation and toursGroup activity
Afternoon SessionNo session, Juneteenth observedLab safety trainingLab presentation and toursLab presentation and toursIndividual lab time
Week 2
Morning SessionGroup activityLab presentation and toursLab presentation and toursLab presentation and toursGroup activity
Afternoon SessionIndividual lab timeIndividual lab timeIndividual lab timeIndividual lab timeIndividual lab time
Weeks 3–5
Morning SessionIndividual lab time or workshopping presentationsIndividual lab timeIndividual lab timeIndividual lab timeIndividual lab time or group activity
Week 5: Final presentations
Afternoon SessionIndividual lab timeIndividual lab timeIndividual lab timeIndividual lab timeIndividual lab time
Week 5: Final presentations


Any questions regarding the program can be directed to the Director of PennLENS, Lori Spindler at