The Penn Physics & Astronomy Department offers a variety of research opportunities that brings students of a range of academic levels to Penn. Additionally, there are many community events and programs with which Penn physicists and astronomers are actively involved. These events span performing physics demos at science festivals to giving talks at local community centers to working with Philadelphia area schools.

Below we describe most of these community events and research opportunities Penn either leads or participates in. If you would like to partner with the Penn Physics & Astronomy Department for an event or talk, please contact us!

You can also follow Penn Physics & Astronomy on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news, events, and photos.


The Philadelphia Science Festival

Each year the Penn Physics & Astronomy Department participates in the Philadelphia Science Festival, which typically happens in April and involves a week of science events throughout the city, culminating in a large carnival full of booths doing science demos and activities. We are always looking for more volunteers to help out!

You can learn more by visiting their website Philly Science Festival. To volunteer with groups in physics and astronomy at Penn, contact penn.phys.astro.epo@gmail.com

Summer Camp at the Franklin Institute

Every summer, the Franklin Institute offers 12 weeks of science-themed summer camps for children in the Philadelphia area for ages 5-14 years. The Penn outreach team coordinates closely with the summer camp and every Friday leads a self-planned morning activity as "visiting scientists” based on that week's science theme. The summer camp coordinators are very enthusiastic about Penn's involvement, and make a big effort to provide whatever materials might be needed for that week's activity.

If you're interested in getting involved, contact penn.phys.astro.epo@gmail.com.

Night Skies in the Observatory

Night Skies at the Franklin Institute is one of the most exciting ways, as an astronomer, to present your research to the public.  On the first Thursday of every month there is reduced admission to the Franklin Institute, where they open the roof to telescopes, give planetarium shows, and a guest speaker talks about their research. Since 2015, Penn students and faculty have served as guest speakers, and Night Skies has only become more popular since then!

If you're interested in giving a talk, email penn.phys.astro.epo@gmail.com or Jane Horwitz  (janeh@sas.upenn.edu).

Veterans Upward Bound Tutoring

Since 2013, graduate students in the physics department have been involved in helping tutor Veteran’s Upward Bound (VUB) students here at Penn. VUB is a program that provides a high school equivalent curriculum to prepare veterans for returning to school to get their college degree. While the program provides tutoring for students during the week, it cannot provide services on weekends for the many veterans who work 9-5 jobs. The VUB Tutoring group is made mostly of graduate students who take turns tutoring once a week on Saturdays from 10am-12pm to help veterans with their classes in math and statistics.

For more information about VUB or to join the tutoring mailing list, email penn.phys.astro.epo@gmail.com.

Access Science Physics

As a part of the University’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships, the Access Science Physics program pairs undergraduate and graduate student volunteers with classrooms in West Philadelphia. Students transport equipment from the Penn Physics Department and spend approximately 2-3 hours per week performing hands-on experiments in small groups. Started in 2015, the program currently operates at three schools: Sayre High School, West Philadelphia High School, and Comegys Middle School.

Interested volunteers and work-study applicants should contact Paul at pmasi@sas.upenn.edu.


Every year, the Nano-Bio Interface Center (NBIC) hosts NanoDay, a public event in which research from Penn labs in physics, chemistry, and materials science are highlighted. High school students engage in research-related demonstrations with Penn graduate students, postdocs, and professors. Other events include lab tours, a keynote address from the annual NBIC Award recipient, and the exciting annual high school science fair.

For more information & contact info, click here


Penn astronomers occasionally hold astronomy nights advertised through #Popscope. #Popscope is an urban movement that aims to reconnect diverse communities to the night sky and to each other by hosting free, “pop-up” astronomy nights in public spaces.

Check out Popscope for more information. Follow Philly Popscope on Twitter and Facebook to hear about upcoming events.


Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) is a program sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and is organized at Penn by the Laboratory on the Research of the Structure of Matter (LRSM) and by the Singh Center for Nanotechnology. Check out their websites for more information about the program and how to apply.

Penn Summer Science Academy (PSSA)

PSSA Physics is a three-week program that focuses on modern physics with an emphasis on hands-on experience and laboratory work. There is no requirement of a previous physics course, although typically about half of our students have taken one prior to attending PSSA.

Physics 137 (Community Physics Initiative)

Physics 137 is an Academically Based Community Service Course (ABCS). It will be aligned to the Philadelphia School District curriculum in introductory physics at University City High School (UCHS). The UCHS curriculum roughly parallels the contents of first semester introductory physics (non-calculus) at Penn.

We will also be working with the Physics class at Horace H. Furness High School in South Philadelphia.  The curriculum for Furness students who will be visiting Penn at the rate of about 1 day a month can be found here.