This past summer, the Center for Undergraduate Excellence (CUE) hosted their annual Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF). SURF is an eight-week, paid, and on-campus opportunity for Chapman undergraduates to conduct research under faculty supervision. For this year’s research cycle, CUE selected five Fowler School of Engineering students to participate in the program.

One of those Fowler Fellows was Shree Murthy, a junior majoring in Computer Science. His research was titled “Patient Length of Stay Prediction Based on Clinical Data.”

 “[SURF] interested me because, up until that point, I didn’t have a lot of experience in the research field,” he said, “especially related to computer science. I was like, ‘okay, that sounds like something I’d want to do.”

Murthy enjoys the practicality of computer science, such as coding projects, but admitted he had limited experience in research. Before applying to SURF, he contacted Dr. Yuxin Wen to be his faculty mentor.

“She had this idea of using hospital data to predict how long a patient could stay at that hospital for, depending on their issues and what they’re there for,” Murthy said. “It was really interesting to me because I really wanted to help out the surrounding community and do research on data that’s out there, and how that can impact the lives around us.”

Once accepted into SURF, Murthy ecstatically began his research under the tutelage of Dr. Wen. The topic motivated Murthy to push forward.

Shree Murthy ’24

“I’ve always heard stories about people being like, ‘oh, I don’t know how long I’ll be in the hospital for, I’m very nervous, and scared.’ All of these things were a big motivator for me because you shouldn’t have to worry about how long you’ll be there [at the hospital], especially after the pandemic.”

For most of the fellowship, Murthy worked on coding projects and writing research reports for his topic. He used new software to analyze patient data and estimated how long they would stay at a hospital, meeting with Dr. Wen weekly.

Throughout the eight weeks, Murthy also met with other researchers on campus, such as Fowler Fellows Samuel Bernsen and Daniel Dinh, acclimating to the social environment while engaging in intensive research.

“My days usually consisted of being on-campus, at Swenson Hall, around nine to five. On those days, I would be working in small groups, mainly with Sam and Daniel.”

SURF also provided social bonding events for the Fellows, such as a trip to an Angels baseball game and barbecue nights. These social events also allowed Murthy to meet other people outside of Chapman.

“There were students from other community colleges in the area,” Murthy said. “I met people who were Biology, Chemistry, and other Engineering-type majors. So, it was very nice to hear all of these different backgrounds come together and how they interpreted research or how they balanced their lives in general.”

However, Murthy did experience some difficulties along the way, time constraints and software.

“The one big roadblock was that I had to download software that I was new to using,” he said. “The toughest part was that it took me two to three weeks to get everything set up and make sure all my connections were correct.”

Murthy mentioned that the new software was fun to use, but due to the eight weeks time limit, he had to ensure all of his time was used wisely. Still, Murthy continued his research. Shortly after, he presented at the annual SURF conference.

“The moment I stood up there, and got ready to present my topic, I felt all of my worries drain out of me,” he said, “and the big reason was because I saw my friends. I saw my family. I saw all of them sitting there, just seeing them made me feel more calm.”

How SURF Prepares Students

Murthy was kind enough to share some advice for students looking to apply for the upcoming SURF 2023 cycle, with its application opening on January 30, 2023. He explained how SURF prepares students for graduate education and work opportunities.

“If you are interested in SURF, it’s a very good program,” he said. “It gives you amazing experience for your resume, and also gives you amazing experience in research. I know a lot of graduate-level courses and schools ask for research, so it’s nice to know that you have this research under your belt.”

He also mentioned how SURF helps students develop professional collaboration skills, time management, effective communication, and networking opportunities with peers, mentors, and alumni.

“There’s a lot more that goes behind the scenes of research that we may take for granted. If you are interested, there is a lot more out there regarding a lot of fields. Don’t be dissuaded from doing SURF just because of your major,” he said.