Program Description

The Master’s to PhD Bridge Program reflects the School’s commitment to identifying the most promising students, and training them to become dynamic, doctoral researchers in academia and industry. We value applicant’s diverse cultural and academic backgrounds, and recognize that such diversity is paramount to solving the unique societal challenges to which engineers are especially poised to develop solutions. As such, Bridge program participants will receive advanced laboratory training while enrolled as a full-time student in one of our Master’s programs. Additionally, Bridge students are able to complete the academic requirements of a Master’s and PhD program simultaneously, while receiving individualized mentorship to increase their ability to conduct research independently; essentially, if a Bridge student matriculates into a doctoral program, the student is able to transfer up to 9 Master’s course units to the credits needed to fulfill the requirements of the doctoral program. Unlike our traditional Master’s programs, the Bridge Program requires students to participate in departmental laboratory rotations, engage in faculty-led research, complete a Master’s thesis and, in some cases, act as a Teaching Assistant for undergraduate- and graduate-level courses. Bridge Program participants will also receive a full tuition waiver and an annual stipend to cover personal expenses for up to two years. (Master’s program requirements can be fulfilled within two years of full-time study.)

Eligibility

The Bridge program is intended for graduate applicants who express interest in pursuing a doctoral degree, but require additional mentorship and hands-on laboratory training to excel in one of our rigorous doctoral programs. To be considered for this Program, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  1. US citizens or permanent residents; and, 
  2. first generation college students from low income families, or students whose backgrounds are most under-represented in a specific discipline or field.

A separate application is not required for consideration. Applicants must indicate their interest in the Bridge Program when submitting an application to one of our Master’s or PhD programs. (The application question concerning Bridge Program consideration populates only for those who meet the aforementioned eligibility criteria.) At this time, we are unable to accommodate those who do not meet the eligibility requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Determining Eligibility 

 

I would like to be considered for the Bridge Program, but I don’t see that option on the application.

The question about the Bridge Program is found on page 7 of the graduate application (section title: “Additional Information”). Please note that to see this question, you must identify as a (1) US citizen or permanent resident, and a (2) first generation college student from low income families, or student whose background is most underrepresented in a specific discipline or field. At this time, we are unable to accommodate those who do not meet the eligibility requirements.

Am I eligible for the Bridge Program if I study part-time?

Due to the research intensive mentorship inherent in the Bridge program, participants must be enrolled as full-time students.

Program Details

What’s the difference between the Bridge Program and traditional Master’s program requirements?

Traditional Master’s students commit to sharpening their practical skills in an engineering discipline in order to enter industry after approximately two years of study. The Bridge Program is intended for those who want to pursue research in an engineering discipline (whether in academia or industry) and earn a PhD degree.

What’s the difference between the Bridge Program and traditional PhD program requirements?

Passion for research is what PhD and Bridge students have in common; additionally, each have a goal to earn a PhD degree! Both students may be able to earn a PhD degree within 5 years of graduate study. Bridge students are chosen to start in a Master’s degree program so that they can enhance their research skills and interests prior to starting doctoral research. Bridge students are able to complete the academic requirements of a Master’s and PhD program simultaneously, while receiving individualized mentorship to increase their ability to conduct research independently; essentially, if a Bridge student matriculates into a doctoral program, the student is able to transfer 9 Master’s course units to the credits needed to fulfill the requirements of the doctoral program.

Selection Criteria

When will I know if I’ve been selected for the Bridge Program?

Bridge Program candidates will be informed of their admission decision by April 1, and are asked to accept or deny the admissions decision by April 15. Accepting admission into the Bridge program means that you will NOT be enrolling as a PhD student in your first semester at Penn. You will have the opportunity to (re)apply to the PhD program.

Is it guaranteed that Bridge Fellows Master's students will get accepted into the PhD program of their choice?

While our faculty and staff are committed to providing the training needed for Bridge students to excel in a competitive doctoral program, admission into one of our PhD programs is not guaranteed. Bridge students are required to submit an application to be considered for admission. PhD applications may be submitted after completion of the Master’s program requirements, or earlier at the discretion of the faculty advisor.

Do applicants being considered for the Bridge program have to submit additional materials?

No. Applicants aren’t required to submit any additional materials, but they may be required to interview with faculty before an admission decision is made.

Post Decision Inquiries

When will I receive my stipend?

Stipends are dispensed at the end of each month beginning the first month of the Fall semester (August). Stipends will continue on a monthly basis (for a full 12-month calendar year) for up to two years – the duration of time it takes to complete our Master’s program requirements as a full-time student.

How long are the laboratory rotations?

Your faculty advisor will provide more information about laboratory rotations, which vary by department. You may contact the Graduate Coordinator in your respective department to learn more.

If students are not accepted or do not continue pursuing a PhD, will they face any penalties or have to pay back the awarded fellowship funding?

No. There are no penalties for those who are not accepted into, or choose not to enroll in one of our PhD programs.

Are students typically matched with peer mentors who are also Bridge Fellows?

The 2022-2023 academic year will be the inaugural year for the Bridge Program. Program participants will interact regularly with PhD students conducting interdisciplinary research in a Penn Engineering laboratory.

Are the program mentors limited to being affiliated with the department you enter and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI), or do students have mentors in other programs and offices?

There are mentors from the ODEI Office and also research mentors.  As the Bridge program is housed in SEAS, the research mentors must be faculty in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Are students formally matched to their mentors?

Every incoming Penn student is assigned an academic advisor when starting the program. For students doing research (such as Ph.D. students or Bridge students), we try to assign advisors who are likely to become research mentors based on mutual interest between the student and the faculty. This is not set in stone, and the student can switch advisors later. 

Bridge students will spend their first semester meeting with various faculty and learning more about the research going on, to try to get a good sense of what they are most interested in. During the second semester of the program, they will officially choose a research mentor (based on mutual interest between student and faculty) and begin participating in research. This can also start earlier if the student and faculty choose to do so.