The Professorial Assistantship (PA) Program
Each year, approximately 200 freshmen are appointed as Professorial Assistants (PAs). PAs work with regular members of the teaching faculty on tasks directly related either to scholarly research or to innovative teaching.
"The PA program was an incredible opportunity. No other university guaranteed me a research position in high-energy physics as a freshman."
Jeris Stueland, Physics and History
See a student-produced YouTube video about a PA experience here.
Students whose academic records place them in the top one percent of entering college freshmen nationwide are offered the opportunity to participate in the Professorial Assistantship program. Students learn about their eligibility for the PA program when they are invited to join the Honors College or as soon as eligibility is established thereafter.
To qualify for the PA program, a student must be invited to the Honors College at Michigan State University and satisfy ONE of the following criteria:
- SAT combined total of 1500 (Reading and Math)
- ACT composite of 33, or
- Semifinalist status in a National Merit program
Compensation and Scholarships
PAs work an average of eight to ten hours per week and are paid a stipend of approximately $2500 for the academic year. Those who perform satisfactorily are re-appointed for a second year at a higher stipend.
Professorial Assistants take part in projects as varied as
- Scripting, directing and producing a series of video lectures to be used at MSU
- Developing software to enable utility companies to avoid blackouts
- Analyzing large genome sequences
- Studying MSU varsity athletes in the Human Energy Resource Lab
- Researching genetic determination of purebred dogs
- Combining linguistic and neuropsychological research in the study of Broca's area of the brain
- Studying the effects of the Asian economic crises on the computer and electronics industry
- Verifying historical architecture inventories in areas of high urbanization
Although most PAs work in areas closely related to their major fields, students may choose to work in other areas of interest to them.
"In my experience, students have honed important research and technical skills, developed new insights and interests, even made career decisions as a consequence of opportunities to work closely with committed faculty. I know I have benefited greatly from students' energies and contributions. This is a wonderful program."
Kenneth Waltzer, Director
Integrative Studies in Arts and Humanities
Professor, James Madison College
"The PA program was the major reason why I chose MSU, and it was an incredibly rich opportunity. I was able to experience the research aspect of being a professor: conducting library research, performing data abstraction and analysis, writing a grant proposal, and even supervising graduate students."
Teresa Heinle, Spanish
"I gained experience in organic synthesis and doing theoretical calculations that I couldn't have done until I was a senior at other colleges. My PA was not so much an instance of earthshaking research as a lesson in humility--and proof that chemistry is the right field for me."
Robin Stein, Chemistry
North Hollywood, CA
"I think the research that I was involved with as a PA, the assistantship that it led to, and the personal bonds it has created with faculty members have been the best academic experiences I've had at MSU. The PA has shaped my education and interests, prepared me for a good graduate school, and it's a great way to make a big university a lot more personal."
Robin Pulford, Psychology
"My PA mentor has been a great part of my years at MSU. He has supported me at every step of the way, giving me diverse opportunities to learn new techniques and try out new ideas."
Scott Ross, Biochemistry
Sterling Heights, MI
"I have worked with over a hundred students in the program and nearly all have found the experience to be highly rewarding. The faculty value the experience because they can work one-on-one with students on projects that can spark the student's interest. In many cases, PA students working in a laboratory develop research projects that continue past the first two years and result in publications and even undergraduate theses."
Estelle McGroarty, Associate Dean
College of Natural Science
Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
"The PA has a chance to make personal contact with a faculty member in an area that is of interest to them. During their time in the laboratory, our students are involved in data collection, processing and analysis. The PAs also have contact with our industrial partners, attend meetings, and are introduced as staff members. We try to integrate the full research experience into their stay with us."
Tamara Reid Bush, Research Specialist
Materials Science and Mechanics
College of Engineering
"The advancement of my courseware was a direct result of my PA's efforts. The not so obvious aspect of the PA/faculty relationship is how much we both learned about topical areas where we had previously had no interest, contact, or in some cases, awareness. The breadth and depth of my PA's involvement was refreshing and much appreciated."
Michael L. Kasavana, Professor
Eli Broad College of Business
For more information about Professorial Assistantships at Michigan State University, the Honors College admissions staff.
For more information about opportunities for research and creative activities at Michigan State University, see www.urca.msu.edu