Undergraduate Student Fellows

Undergraduate Student Fellows

Students in the College of the Liberal Arts’ Paterno Fellows Program are eligible to apply for a Rock Ethics Institute Undergraduate Fellowship. These fellowships involve working closely with and assisting Rock Ethics Institute faculty on interdisciplinary ethics projects. Some projects focus on research, while others focus on developing programming and networks related to ethics at Penn State. 

Students selected for a one-semester fellowship will receive a $1,000 award and those selected for a two-semester fellowship will receive a $2,000 award. The expectation is that fellows will contribute 5–10 hours per week to their project. 

Call for Applications

All current Paterno Fellows are eligible to apply. You can apply for up to two fellowships, but can receive one at most. If you apply for two fellowships, rank them in the email with your application materials. Click on the button below to view the PDF application guide for more information.

2022–2023 Undergraduate Fellowships with Rock Ethics Institute
(Deadline to Apply: 8/30)

Students in the Paterno Fellows Program are invited to apply for a fellowship with the Rock Ethics Institute (REI) at Penn State during the 2022–2023 academic year. These fellowships involve working closely with and assisting REI faculty on interdisciplinary ethics projects. Some projects focus on research, while others focus on developing programming and networks related to ethics at Penn State. There are four different projects listed below for which students can apply. Students selected for a one-semester fellowship will receive a $1,000 award, while students selected for a two-semester fellowship will receive a $2,000 award. The expectation is that fellows will contribute 5–10 hours per week to their project.

All current Paterno Fellows are eligible to apply. You can apply for up to two fellowships, but can receive one at most. If you apply for two fellowships, rank them in the email with your application materials. For each fellowship application, submit the following in a single PDF:

(1) Cover letter (one page) that indicates which fellowship you are applying to, why it interests you, your relevant qualifications, and how you would contribute to the project

(2) Résumé/CV

Note: fellowship (4) requires additional materials

Please send application materials to btj7@psu.edu. The deadline to apply is 11:59pm ET on Tuesday, August 30, 2022. Applicants will be notified on whether they were selected in September. If you have questions about the fellowship or application process, please contact Rock Ethics Institute Assistant Director Ben Jones at btj7@psu.edu.

Descriptions of 2022–2023 Fellowships

(1) Experiencing the Modern State (Fall 2022) Faculty Supervisor: Anthony Bertelli, Professor of Public Policy and Political Science

How do we construct our notions of the modern state? What is ethical behavior both by and toward those who exercise the power of the state? There are myriad ways to approach these questions, and each has its own, robust academic literature. The particular focus of this project is on routine encounters between citizens and the state—the license application, the benefits registration, the daily commute on the roads and public transport, the recycling of paper and plastics, the vote—and how these experiences configure and shape the notions of the State and res publica held by both citizens and public officials. The selected student(s) will engage in qualitative research (in the State College area) to illuminate behavior in theoretically important settings where the requirements of the roles of public officials can come into conflict with the interests of citizens (including the official’s own perspective as a citizen). The result of the research will be an essay written for a scholarly journal co-authored with participating student(s).

(2) Attitudes and Ethical Concerns Toward the Use of TMS in Depressed Adolescents: A Qualitative Study of Recipients and Their Parents (Fall 2022 and Spring 2023) Faculty Supervisor: Laura Cabrera, Associate Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics

As a member of Dr. Cabrera’s team, this Rock Ethics Institute Undergraduate Fellow will assist in examining adolescents’ and parental attitudes toward the use of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and theta burst stimulation (TBS) as a treatment method for adolescents with depression. This fellow will receive hands on experience in qualitative research to identify emergent themes in semi-structured recorded interviews, with the use of web-based software. The Rock Ethics Institute Undergraduate Fellow will also have the opportunity to be involved in presentations and assisting with manuscript preparation.

(3) What Will Become of Us: Pandemic Ethics, Structural Injustice, and Social Change

(Fall 2022 with possibility of renewal for Spring 2023) Faculty Supervisor: Jonathan H. Marks, Professor of Bioethics, Humanities, Law, and Philosophy

We all want to forget about COVID-19. But the pandemic is still with us, and the coronavirus continues to mutate. Other infectious diseases have also been identified as being of international concern, most recently so-called “monkey pox.” The World Health Organization predicts that there will be four pandemics this century. How ought we to live in this world? And what can and should we expect of our governments, other institutions, and each other? These topics will be explored in a collection of lyrical essays written for a general audience. You can read more about this project here and more about the advisor (who is also a human rights lawyer). This book is aimed at a general audience so it will not be heavily footnoted. But you will have the opportunity to work with the advisor to build appendices with further reading materials. You will also be assigned discrete research tasks—for example, collating articles from past issues of the New York Times demonstrating the reluctance of the U.S. government to acknowledge the impact of the 1918–19 flu pandemic, and comparing this with the coverage of COVID and monkey pox (among others). In addition, you will be given an opportunity to research other parts of the project that are of greatest interest to you. So please indicate in your letter which pandemic-related topics/issues are of special interest to you, as well as explaining why you wish to work on this project and describing your relevant experience and qualifications. The advisor may also ask you to provide further materials and/or to attend a brief interview to learn more about you and determine if you are a good fit for this project. If you have questions about this project, please email the advisor at marks@psu.edu.

(4) Children, Youth, and Media in International and Global Conflict Zones (Fall 2022 and Spring 2023) Faculty Supervisor: Yael Warshel, Assistant Professor of Telecommunications

The Children, Youth, and Media in International and Global Conflict Zones Initiative explores how media may be used to play meaningful roles in the lives of young people in conflict zones. Given that demographically, children and youth are most impacted by armed conflict, the initiative focuses on exploring best practices for using media (as artifact, intervention, and content) to aid and empower them. Selected Fellows will work in the Children, Media and Conflict Zones Lab under the direct supervision of Yael Warshel, Assistant Professor in the Bellisario College of Communications, Rock Ethics Research Associate, and Affiliated Faculty of International Affairs, Comparative and International Education, and African and Middle East Studies. Involvement in the lab will provide opportunities to learn about major debates surrounding refugee youth, educational access, social media, communication rights, public opinion, social-psychological and biological effects, and

understanding about and practice in research methods. Separate of that, there may also be opportunities to become involved in public outreach. More information about the lab can be found here: https://bellisario.psu.edu/research/centers/children-media-and-conflict-zones-lab. Promising applicants will be called in for a Zoom interview.

In greater detail, selected applicants will assist with projects exploring (1) the role media may play in helping or empowering children and youth in conflict zones internationally, (2) how Sahrawi refugee youth, specifically, use media technologies to navigate their education, displacement, and the Western Sahara conflict within global human rights-based contexts, and/or (3) how media interventions influence conflict zones and/or refugee children’s political opinions, inter-group attitudes, and/or age them biologically. Fellows will analyze secondary literature and related statistical data to provide theoretical frameworks and background for these various lab projects, including to situate primary data. Literature to be analyzed include that about (1) education, media, technology and communication and other human rights, to be used for situating educational, lifestyle, and media-use decisions made by Sahrawi refugee youth, (2) inter-group communication and psychological and biological stress, to quantify the long-term biological effects of growing-up refugee, and (3) comparative international, global, conflict, gender, family, youth and children studies, to map out theoretical frameworks and promote policy and practice about young people, media and international and global conflict. RAs fluent in Arabic, Spanish or French, may be asked to read relevant academic literature in their respective languages and synthesize into English. Those fluent in Arabic and/or Spanish may also be asked to (4) work with primary data collection, e.g. by assisting with translation and transcription of previously conducted interviews with Sahrawis and by helping to conduct future interviews. Finally, RAs may be asked to (5) coordinate lab meetings and/or events to promote policy-relevant outreach.

Required Skills: Excellent (1) English writing and editing skills, (2) organizational skills, (3) ability to understand academic articles and summarize them in written form, and (4) ability to search Online library and other databases and synthesize relevant information retrieved. Additional preferred skills in one or all of the following: (1) fluency in Arabic, Spanish, and/or French (2) ability to make sense of and manipulate basic statistical data, (3) excellent video editing skills, preferably in Final Cut Pro, (4) prior transcription experience, (5) prior translation experience, (6) prior coordination, outreach and/or event planning experience, and (7) background in biology, international affairs, global studies, area studies, political science, ethics, education, geography, communication/s, psychology, and/or anthropology.

To Apply: Please send: (1) short statement of interest, (2) CV, (3) Fall 2022 and projected Spring 2023 course schedule, (4) (unofficial) transcript, (5) names of 2–3 faculty references, and (6) one writing sample (this will be used solely to assess relevant secondary research, reading and writing skills. Writing sample subject matter is not important).

Call for Applications

All current Paterno Fellows are eligible to apply. You can apply for up to two fellowships, but can receive one at most. If you apply for two fellowships, rank them in the email with your application materials. For each fellowship application, submit the following in a single PDF:

  • Cover letter (one page) that indicates which fellowship you are applying to, why it interests you, your relevant qualifications, and how you would contribute to the project
  • Résumé/CV


Note: fellowship (3) requires additional materials

Please send application materials to btj7@psu.edu. The deadline to apply is 11:59pm ET on Friday, September 3, 2021. Applicants will be notified on whether they were selected in September. If you have questions about the fellowship or application process, please submit application materials to  Rock Ethics Institute Assistant Director Ben Jones at btj7@psu.edu.

2021–22 Fellowship Offerings

Faculty Supervisor: Associate Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics, Laura Cabrera

As part of an ongoing effort to support the neuroengineering community, the IEEE Brain Neuroethics Subcommittee (chaired by Dr. Cabrera) is working on a framework for evaluating the social, legal and ethical issues that may arise as a result of the use and development of neurotechnologies for a diverse set of applications (e.g. medical, wellness, entertainment, sport, military). The undergraduate student will help conduct a systematic literature review on current neuroethical guidelines, identifying areas of convergence and guidelines unique to particular documents.

Faculty Supervisor: Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences, Jeremy Engels

When Eric Garner was killed by police, his last words became the slogan of a movement for racial justice and social change: I Can’t Breathe. These words have additional resonance during a pandemic outbreak of a virus that affects the lungs, and as wildfires stoked by global warming torch the Western USA, turning the air acrid and unbreathable. Each crisis—systemic racism, the pandemic, and global warming—is also a crisis of breathing. The question of the breath is at the center of ethical inquiry in the Anthropocene, or so I plan to argue in a new book project. In my new book, The Art of Breathing, I hope to center breathing at the heart of ethical inquiry. I will offer a cultural and political history of breathing, and a philosophy of breathing that uses the breath as an opportunity to contemplate interconnectedness with the human and natural world. The breath, I believe, can help to revitalize the promise of democratic politics. I plan to work on this book project during Fall 2021 and Spring 2022, when on sabbatical. I would love to have an undergraduate student help with the research into the project, specially helping me to recover the breathing discourse related to current racial justice protests, the pandemic, and the wildfires out West.

Faculty Supervisor: Assistant Professor of Telecommunications, Yael Warshel

The Children, Youth, and Media in International and Global Conflict Zones Initiative explores how media may be used to play meaningful roles in the lives of young people in conflict zones. Given that demographically, children and youth are most impacted by armed conflict, the initiative focuses on exploring best practices for using media (as artifact, intervention, and content) to aid and empower them. Selected Fellows will work in the Children, Media and Conflict Zones Lab under the direct supervision of Yael Warshel, Assistant Professor in the Bellisario College of Communications, Rock Ethics Research Associate, and Affiliated Faculty of International Affairs, Comparative and International Education, and African and Middle East Studies. Involvement in the lab will provide opportunities to learn about major debates surrounding refugee youth, educational access, social media, communication rights, public opinion, social-psychological and biological effects, and understanding about and practice in research methods. Separate of that, there may also be opportunities to become involved in public outreach. More information about the lab can be found here: https://bellisario.psu.edu/research/centers/children-media-and-conflict-zones-lab. Promising applicants will be called in for a Zoom interview.

In greater detail, selected applicants will assist with projects exploring (1) the role media may play in helping or empowering children and youth in conflict zones internationally, (2) how Sahrawi refugee youth, specifically, use media technologies to navigate their education, displacement, and the Western Sahara conflict within global human rights-based contexts, and/or 3) how media interventions influence conflict zones and/or refugee children’s political opinions, inter-group attitudes, and/or age them biologically. Fellows will analyze secondary literature and related statistical data to provide theoretical frameworks and background for these various lab projects, including to situate primary data. Literature to be analyzed include that about (1) education, media, technology and communication and other human rights, to be used for situating educational, lifestyle, and media-use decisions made by Sahrawi refugee youth, (2) inter-group communication and psychological and biological stress, to quantify the long-term biological effects of growing-up refugee, and (3) comparative international, global, conflict, gender, family, youth and children studies, to map out theoretical frameworks and promote policy and practice about young people, media and international and global conflict. RAs fluent in Arabic, Spanish or French, may be asked to read relevant academic literature in their respective languages and synthesize into English. Those fluent in Arabic and/or Spanish may also be asked to (4) work with primary data collection, e.g. by assisting with translation and transcription of previously conducted interviews with Sahrawis and by helping to conduct future interviews. Finally, RAs may be asked to (5) coordinate lab meetings and/or events to promote policy-relevant outreach.

Required Skills: Excellent (1) English writing and editing skills, (2) organizational skills, (3) ability to understand academic articles and summarize them in written form, and (4) ability to search Online library and other databases and synthesize relevant information retrieved. Additional preferred skills in one or all of the following: (1) fluency in Arabic, Spanish, and/or French (2) ability to make sense of and manipulate basic statistical data, (3) excellent video editing skills, preferably in Final Cut Pro, (4) prior transcription experience, (5) prior translation experience, (6) prior coordination, outreach and/or event planning experience, and (7) background in biology, international affairs, global studies, area studies, political science, ethics, education, geography, communication/s, psychology, and/or anthropology. To Apply: Please send: (1) short statement of interest, (2) CV, (3) Fall 2021 and projected Spring 2021 course schedule, (4) (unofficial) transcript, (5) names of 2-3 faculty references, and (6) one writing sample (this will be used solely to assess relevant secondary research, reading and writing skills. Writing sample subject matter is not important).

Political Science and Journalism
Film Production and Photography, Women Studies, and Theatre
Economics and Political Science
International Politics and International Affairs
Criminology and English
Global and International Studies and Japanese