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Professorial Assistantship (PA) Program

Each year, approximately 200 entering college 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.



Students whose academic records place them in the top 1 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. There is a limited number of PA offers available; capacity in the program may be reached at any time. It is possible that capacity may be reached prior to the November 1 MSU scholarships deadline.

In January each year, all admitted MSU students who have also been invited to join the Honors College will be considered for a Professorial Assistantship offer. A select number of students invited to the Honors College who have GPAs that place them in the top 5% of applicants to MSU from their respective schools will be invited and offers extended. International students and homeschooled students will be reviewed and invited to the Professorial Assistantship program on an individual basis after a holistic review of their academic records.

Compensation and Scholarships

Professorial Assistants work an average of eight to ten hours per week and are paid a stipend of approximately $3,600 for the academic year. Those who perform satisfactorily are re-appointed for a second year at a higher stipend.

In addition, as long as funds allow, PA-eligible students receive either a STATE Scholarship, Honors Excellence Scholarship, or a Tuition Grant.

PA Experiences

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 help 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 Professorial Assistants work in areas closely related to their major fields, students may choose to work in other areas of interest to them.


High School Senior:

  • Winter – Offer letters mailed by Honors College
  • May 1 – Deadline to accept by responding to Honors College invitation
  • May – Complete placement survey emailed by Honors College
  • End of August – Tentative placement identified; connection via email

First Year at MSU

  • September – Initial meeting and placement confirmation
  • March – Reappointment discussion with mentor (confirm placement or seek new one)
  • April 15 – Reappointment form due to Honors College
  • Summer – Academic review for eligibility; GPA > 3.2 required

Second Year at MSU

  • September – Resume research
  • May – PA appointment complete

Additional Information

High school students looking for more information about the Professorial Assistantship Program should contact the Honors College admissions staff.

Current Professorial Assistants looking for more information should contact Justin Micomonaco, Ph.D., at or 517-355-2326.

For more general information about opportunities for research and creative activities at Michigan State University, visit

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