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HDFS undergraduate students have many ways to become involved in research being conducted in the Department. Many undergraduates use research experience to explore interests and possible career paths. Research experience can also be valuable when applying to graduate school.

All HDFS students gain exposure to research through our required research methods course, HDFS 312W: Empirical Inquiry in Human Development, and discussions in 400-level courses. However, some students may want to develop more advanced research skills, especially if they are interested in graduate studies or seek evaluation positions in human services.

Life Span Developmental Science (LSDS) Option

If engaging in research is your career interest, you will want to pursue the Life Span Developmental Science option. A critical component of this option is the research experience. Please see the Degrees and Options page for additional information regarding option requirements.

Identifying Research Opportunities

You will most likely hear about current HDFS research projects in your classes. Also, information about University-wide opportunities can be found at Penn State's Research Opportunities for Undergraduates' site. The Department also maintains a Research website where you can identify particular research projects, research areas, and faculty research interests. Many projects have links to project websites where information regarding undergraduate research opportunities may be found. If you are interested in working on a project or with a particular faculty member on research and are not clear if opportunities are available, it is best to contact the project director (if listed) or the faculty member to discuss these opportunities.

Research Project (HDFS 494)

HDFS faculty members are recognized worldwide for their leadership in scientific research in human development. HDFS students have the opportunity to be involved with faculty in studies of social development in teenagers, the problems of child rearing in dual-earner families, the relations between parents and their infants, improving care in nursing homes, and many other topics. You can work with faculty on their current research projects if they have the need for student help and receive credit for this work through Research Project (HDFS 494). With the faculty member, you must complete a form which is available in 315 HHDev-East Building prior to registering for the Research Project course. This is an excellent opportunity for you to work with and get to know a faculty member. HDFS 494 credits can fulfill OPTION requirements in the 400-level Other Selections of your degree audit (where it says “SEE ADVISER”). However, this requires the approval of your adviser. HDFS 494 is not meant to replace HDFS 400-level courses.

Note: Some research projects require a two-semester commitment for three credits (approximately 10 hours a week) each semester. You may have to be trained for a particular research function one semester and then actually carry out the learned function during the second semester. Be sure you and the faculty member are clear about the commitments expected on any research project.

Independent Study (HDFS 496)

You may also have the opportunity to complete creative projects with HDFS faculty members. These projects may include research or scholarly work which is not covered in regular courses. Independent Study is an opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge in a specific area of interest while working closely with a faculty member and receiving academic credit. With the faculty member, you must complete a form which is available in the HDFS main officeg prior to registering for Independent Study. HDFS 496 credits can fulfill OPTION requirements in the 400-level Other Selections of your degree audit (where it says “SEE ADVISER”). However, this requires the approval of your adviser. HDFS 496 is not meant to replace HDFS 400-level courses.