SURF Spotlight: Helen Lee Helen Lee '23 explores how emotions affect health outcomes

January 26, 2023

Helen Lee ’23

As an undergraduate student majoring in Psychology with a minor in Disability Studies, Helen Lee ’23 participated in the 2022 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF), where she explored the Implications of Affect Variability on Cortisol and Sleep. “Specifically, I looked at how emotion variability might relate to daily cortisol output and physical health outcomes,” Lee ’23 explains. SURF allowed her to dive deeper into this topic and discover remarkable findings. Co-faculty mentor Dr. John Hunter explains, “she found that less variability is better! In other words, being consistently “kind of happy” is better for your health than having a ‘roller coaster of high happiness and low happiness,'”

Lee ’23 researches the associations between emotion variability and various health-related indices.

SURF is a paid, on-campus eight-week summer program for Chapman University undergraduate students to experience hands-on research and creative scholarship mentored by expert faculty. This was definitely a unique opportunity for Lee ’23, as she explained the benefits of receiving professional mentorship from two faculty mentors and the chance to dive deeper into a topic that interests her. “One of the highlights of my experience was that I got to collaborate with a group of professional researchers to co-author multiple journal manuscripts. This experience allowed me to develop strong communication and scientific writing skills and gain a more comprehensive understanding of the research publication process.” As a student previously involved in research, Lee ’23 explains that the unique experience of SURF heavily contributed to her future career goals. “While I’d already been involved in research before then, it was through SURF that I got to solidify my future career interests, which ultimately led to my decision to apply for research-oriented graduate programs.”

Helen Lee ’23 and faculty mentor Dr. John Hunter

Dr. Hunter further explains the benefits that undergraduate students interested in research can receive from participating in the SURF program. “I believe that SURF is like a sneak peak of what a Ph.D. graduate school experience is like for many people. You work directly with a professor, and they expect you to have a certain level of independence and professionalism. It is a great opportunity for those wishing to pursue a career in research.” Unlike conducting research over the semester, as most undergraduate researchers do, Dr. Hunter explains that “[SURF] is more than just exploring research ideas in a group setting. This is independent. This is in-depth. This is professional-level research.”

Lee’s co-faculty mentor, Dr. Brooke Jenkins, recommends SURF even for students who may not want to pursue research as a career. “Even students who don’t want a career in research, SURF is great. Research teaches you critical thinking skills, problem-solving, organization skills, working with someone, which are all important skills for anyone.” Lee ’23’s advice for interested undergraduate students is to apply for SURF! “I believe that the intensive research experience that SURF offers will help students from all disciplines to freely explore their interests and grow as future scholars.”

Feel inspired to apply for the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship?  Applications for the summer of 2023 open on January 30th! The deadline to submit is February 24th. More info can be found on our CUE website regarding the application, eligibility, and deadlines.

Interested in applying for other future fellowships, scholarships, and grant opportunities? Make sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for updates and more information.  View our website or email us at





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