Kasey Markell, Applied Human Physiology, Class of ’24

On the verge of graduation, Kasey Markell is focused on helping others. An Applied Human Physiology major and Nutrition minor, Markell recently completed her Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF), with her research focusing on exercise’s effect on symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. SURF fellows come from various disciplines, from the sciences to the arts and everywhere in between, driven by a passion for research and creative activity. Over the Summer break, fellows work alongside a faculty mentor to complete an independent research project, designed by the student and their mentor, which is presented at a showcase at the end of the Summer. 

Working with Senior Clare Thompson, Markell’s SURF experience incorporates multiple methods of research.

Markell’s experience in STEM during her undergraduate work helped prepare her for the fellowship. “I have been interested in this field of research for most of my undergrad, and plan to pursue a career in physical therapy.” In addition to housing and a financial fellowship, SURF is also a way to meaningfully engage with a topic, especially those which impact people in need. “I had the opportunity to learn heaps about living with Parkinson’s Disease, meet many people currently living with PD or caring for someone with PD,” Markell says. 

Researching alongside a professional in the field was a highlight for Markell, who worked with Dr. Rahul Soangra over the summer. “[Dr. Soangra] was able to help me identify where my interests can fit into the world of research,” Markell explained. Professional experience paired with accommodations for research result in experiences like Markell’s, who says SURF equipped her with opportunities she couldn’t have found elsewhere: “SURF was extremely helpful in getting my research off the ground, both in helping fund this research and in getting me in touch with the right people and technology.” 

Rhyan Warmerdam, English, Class of ’24

On the creative side, Rhyan Warmerdam’s SURF research began as a Queer Theory final paper. “This paper sparked my fascination with the genre of queer memoirs,” the Senior English major says, and SURF has allowed them to expand and explore this topic to a massive degree. Research always springs from passion, and before becoming involved in SURF, Warmerdam already had a topic that interested them. “I was drawn to how honest and real and imaginative the queer memoirs were, and I admired the vulnerability of the writers as they conveyed their personal life histories.” 

Warmerdam used their SURF experience to further research a project begun in their undergraduate work.

Over the course of their Summer fellowship, Warmerdam expanded their initial research paper into something much larger in scope. “I ended up designing a virtual exhibit that hosts a summary-analysis of all twelve of the memoirs that I read, photography, quotes, a map, and of course, a theoretical paper.”

One of the benefits of SURF is working with a faculty mentor for an extended period of time. For Warmerdam, this meant the dedicated time and support of Dr. Jan Osborn. “Dr. Osborn really took the time out of their day to sit with me and to understand what I was working on…They even read multiple of the books that I was reading just so they could be of better help!” In addition to faculty support, one of the biggest questions SURF answers for students working on long-term creative or STEM projects is that of funding. The $4,000 financial stipend made a difference for Warmerdam, who says “I didn’t have to get an external job, which resulted in more time and energy that I could spend on research.”

No matter your field of interest, SURF can help kickstart your research and creative activity career. Interested in conducting research or a creative project through SURF? Applications for Summer 2024 are now open, and the deadline to submit is March 1, 2024. Click here for more information on SURF, including requirements, funding, and housing accommodations, and click here to apply!

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