Every summer, a select group of students across all disciplines is chosen by the Center of Undergraduate Excellence (CUE) to indulge in an 8-week intensive research program known as the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF). SURF allows motivated individuals to seek out research and creative activity with a faculty mentor of their choice while receiving a paid fellowship. Fellows are required to spend a minimum of 30 hours per week performing research, attending weekly cohort meetings, submitting weekly progress reports, and presenting their culmination of work at the SURF conference in front of friends, family and faculty during their last week.
Projects ranged from “The Relationship Between Norepinephrine Neuromodulation and Stability of Global Brain States Studied Using Electroencephalography and Trans-cranial Magnetic Stimulation”, to studies on how “Post-War radio dramas broadcasted by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) contributed to the development of a classless society with a reawakening of regionalism as a medium to express national unity.” Since the fellows are not bound to any specific topic for their projects, the SURF program welcomes diverse groups of research and creative activity every year.
Due to all of the uncertainties, weekly meetings and the research presentations took a virtual format this summer. Still, local students enjoyed a night out at the Angels game and dinner at President Struppa’s home for some comradery following an isolated year of online school. 2021 Fellow Nat Pendergraft describes meeting their SURF peers in-person at dinner, “I just really bonded with all of my peers that were at my end of the table. It was great getting that opportunity to talk to other people in the program specifically because not only were they really interested in my project, but they themselves had such interesting projects. Being able to field questions, tell stories, and getting to hear about their really cool projects was a really great moment I don’t usually get to experience.”
Although group activities had to be held mainly via zoom, SURF awardees still had the option to go into their laboratories to perform in-person research following Chapman’s strict COVID-19 guidelines. 2021 Fellow Emma Krivoshein describes her in-person experience with her mentors, “We worked on a lot of programming, so we were able to sit around a big table and have it up on the screen to work on together. I was still early in learning that, so having them there to help me hands-on was really helpful. I couldn’t have imagined doing that virtually.”
Despite some fellows being completely virtual, they were still able to come up with creative strategies to perform research from the comfort of their homes. 2021 Fellow Nikki Trippler’s project interestingly aligned perfectly with the virtual research format. Nikki looked at “College student friendships and communication during the COVID-19 pandemic”. She was curious about the different ways college students were communicating and how they have been affected emotionally, physically and mentally during these tough times. She reflects on her experience, “I was able to reconnect with some peers, and through this I learned about their friendships and how college students interact in general. It brought about this new found self-efficacy, as being someone who is out of state and disconnected from others, hearing how others were experiencing the same thing, it made me feel that I was not alone.” Successfully connecting the relevance of the Pandemic and the effects it has had on her life, to her SURF project.
At the annual SURF conference that takes place during the fellow’s last week in the program, over 100 family members, friends, and faculty members were in attendance to hear about the student’s culmination of work. 2021 fellow Nathan Reynoso reflects on his experience at the virtual conference, “Having that moment to discuss my project with everyone present, knowing that they were listening to me, engaged in this dialogue of research analysis, question and answer, that just felt so wholesome and the perfect conclusion I needed to close off my SURF experience.”
For any future applicants in any discipline debating whether the SURF program is for them, 2021 Fellow Lauren Bramlett reflects on her initial thoughts as a researcher in the humanities, “Believe in the integrity and authority of your research, also believe that it is contributing to the world. I know sometimes if it feels like it is lacking a measurable result, it can feel hard to justify why SURF should take you. But I want to let humanities students know that SURF is very open-minded as well as accepting and supportive of our community’s projects so definitely don’t be afraid to propose something just because it isn’t as measurable as others. ”
The CUE congratulates the SURF Fellows for completing their respective 8-week intensive projects despite the ongoing pandemic. We continue to be blown away by the individuality and creativity of our students and their ability to overcome any obstacles thrown their way. Read more about all of the fellows projects here