SURF Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program
The SURF Experience n 1992, the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) launched its Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program, designed to introduce pharmacology research to undergraduates through a 10-week summer laboratory experience. Since its inception, the SURF program has had two tracks: the institutional program, which offers groups of faculty from the same institution funding to support a summer research program on their campus, and the individual program, which provides funding to individual students who may lack access to an institutional program. The goal of the SURF program is to use authentic, mentored research experiences in pharmacology to heighten student interest in careers in biomedical research and related health care disciplines. We
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particularly encourage participation by students traditionally underrepresented in the biomedical sciences. Fellows have opportunities to: • Investigate the latest issues in biomedical research • Get hands-on experience with laboratory techniques • Collaborate with faculty and other students • Develop their professional skills, including communication, teamwork, and critical thinking • Build and expand their professional networks • Learn about careers in biomedical research and related disciplines At the time the SURF program was established, the beneﬁts of participating in undergraduate research were still emerging. Now, those beneﬁts have been widely established. Research experiences for undergraduates can enhance content learning,
attract and retain students in scientiﬁc disciplines, and prepare them for careers in science.1 Students who have engaged in research experiences report improvements in their technical and personal skills as well as increased conﬁdence in their research skills.2 Research experiences are also poised
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to help diversify the workforce: students from underrepresented groups are much more likely to pursue graduate studies if they have participated in research as undergraduates.3 For many students, these research experiences provide their ﬁrst opportunity to work independently in a laboratory and to engage in real scientiﬁc inquiry. Students say that these experiences help them learn how to think like scientists, which can include dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty,
Fellows at Rutgers University
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SURF participant David Brown presenting his poster at the ASPET Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology 2006
formulating hypotheses, designing experiments, communicating their ﬁndings, and collaborating effectively with both peers and mentors.4
Participating faculty often ﬁnd that students are motivated to continue their research projects beyond the initial summer research period. In some cases, SURF programs also end up serving as avenues for graduate program recruitment, with undergraduates opting to continue on in doctoral programs in the same laboratory or department. ASPET’s SURF program now has a rich network of alumni, with some former participants serving as mentors to the next generation of researchers. The following data and stories from alumni provide a snapshot of ASPET’s SURF programs, highlighting their potential as transformative experiences.
Achieving these beneﬁts relies on more than just research experience. Mentoring, collaboration, social activities with peers, and other enrichment opportunities all contribute to a meaningful experience. Many of ASPET’s SURF programs organize ﬁeld trips, picnics, and other outings to encourage more interaction among participating students and faculty. Community-building and social time with peers and scientists are particularly important for students from underrepresented populations.5 Seminar series, lab meetings, poster presentations, and discussion groups help reinforce and enhance what students learn in the lab. Students present their ﬁndings at the end of the University at Buffalo students at Cave of the Winds summer, often at a department-wide research seminar. Many of them go on to present at the ASPET Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology.
1 Lopatto, D. (2007). Undergraduate research experiences support science career decisions and active learning. CBE - Life Sciences Education 6: 297–306. 2 Russell, S. H., M. P. Hancock, and J. McCullough. (2007). Beneﬁts of undergraduate research experiences. Science 316: 548–49. 3 Eagan, M. K., S. Hurtado, M. J. Chang, G. A. Garcia, F. A. Herrera, and J. C. Garibay. (2013). Making a Difference in Science Education: The Impact of Undergraduate Research Programs. American Educational Research Journal 50(4): 683-713. 4 Hunter, A., Laursen, S. L., & Seymour, E. (2007). Becoming a scientist : The role of undergraduate research in students’ cognitive, personal, and professional development. Science Education 91(1): 36-74. 5 Carpi, A., Ronan, D. M., Falconer, H. M. and Lents, N. H. (2016). Cultivating minority scientists: Undergraduate research increases selfefficacy and career ambitions for underrepresented students in STEM. Journal of Research in Science Teaching. doi:10.1002/tea.21341
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SURF by the numbers 2240 students from 532 institutions have participated
Students have come from 44 states
Program data shows that over 90% of students stay engaged in the biomedical sciences.
Where do fellows go after they graduate? 32%
5% MD/PhD programs
9% Other NonBiomedical Biomedical careers careers
Fellows 1992-2016 n=1262
In 2015, 30 SURF students published their research in peer-reviewed journals
An average of 100 students are supported each summer
89 institutions have hosted SURF students
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SURF alumni share their memories of the program have fond memories as an undergraduate researcher supported by SURF in the laboratory of Thomas Davis at the University of Arizona, Department of Pharmacology. This experience allowed me to “cut my teeth” as a scientist and solidiﬁed my curiosity and interest in science and pharmacology. This laboratory environment became my classroom and future training facility as a scientist. I was fortunate to be immersed in an active research environment and the training I received over the next 8 years in the Department of Pharmacology and Davis Lab honed my skills to be a successful, independent scientist. To this day, I continue to collaborate with many of the fellow students and trainees that I worked with at University of Arizona. I am extremely grateful for the scientiﬁc opportunities provided by this training and the SURF program was a major catalyst. I am now happy to be able to provide this type of mentorship and support to young scientists, so they can be afforded the same opportunities.
I Tom Abbruscato Participation year: 1992 Fellowship type and location: Institutional, University of Arizona Current title: Chair and Professor, Pharmaceutical Sciences at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
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s a biopsychology major at the University of Michigan, I was fortunate to receive a SURF fellowship my junior year, working in a pharmacology lab that was studying a new opiate agonist, buprenorphine. I was exposed to bench research as well as animal studies, working alongside graduate students. This experience led to my love of research and drug actions in the body. I knew I wanted to pursue career opportunities after graduation that focused on medicines and their beneﬁts as well as risks to patients. After college I progressed from lab work, to clinical research, and now am a director of global safety and pharmacovigilance at a leading contract research organization. I lead teams of professionals contracted by pharma companies to process reports of adverse events and drug side effects for regulatory reporting, ensuring the safety proﬁles are maintained for therapies brought to market. I think what made my experience so memorable was that I was able to get ‘hands on’ in an area I was studying and previously only able to read about -- in the lab I could actually see it in action. This summer of research is deﬁnitely one academic college memory that has stuck with me.
A Nadia Tayeh Participation year: 1996 Fellowship type and location: Institutional, University of Michigan Current title: Director, Global Safety and Pharmacovigilance, inVentiv Health
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had a great experience in a molecular genetics lab at the University of Cincinnati, and I learned numerous technical skills and scientiﬁc principles that made my undergraduate and graduate studies both richer and easier. Dr. Miller ran a strong program, and one of his grad students was brilliant and wonderful at using analogies to explain ideas. She felt that, since our work was partially taxpayer funded, it was also our responsibility to be able to explain it to “everyday folk”, and to be able to both justify and demonstrate the value of our work. I have kept this idea with me throughout my own career, and as a captain in the US Army Veterinary Corps, I make sure that my work translates well both with my soldiers and for the people we try to help. My experience in the ASPET SURF program helped me realize that I am not destined to be a PI, but I still love the basic research world, and after my current deployment cycle I will begin to pursue a board certiﬁcation in Laboratory Animal Medicine.
I Scott Dudis Participation year: 2007 Fellowship type and location: Institutional, University of Cincinnati Current title: Captain, US Army; Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), US Army
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hen I started the SURF program, I didn’t really have a clear vision of what I wanted my career to look like. I just knew that I want to do research that helped people. During my tenure as a SURF student at UAMS, I learned about the importance of research to patient care and different pathways to accomplish this translational research. Ultimately, I decided I wanted to pursue both a PharmD and a PhD in pharmacology, so that I could understand both the clinical and basic science aspects of therapeutic pharmacology. At that time UAMS did not have a dual PharmD/PhD degree program; however, through the connections I had made as a SURF student, I was able to work with faculty and administrators in the UAMS College of Pharmacy and UAMS Graduate School to develop a unique curriculum for a combined PharmD/PhD program for which I am the ﬁrst student to complete the coursework, clinical experiences, and dissertation research necessary to graduate. Throughout my graduate career I have continued to focus on translational research and developed collaborations across multiple departments on campus. In the last summer of my program, I was even able to mentor a SURF student myself. It was exciting to give back to the program and watch the curiosity of my student blossom. This mentoring experience along with several teaching experiences within the College of Pharmacy helped me realize that I also want to educate young scientists. So my current career goal is to become faculty in an academic healthcare institution, where not only can I do research that helps people, but I can also educate future clinicians and scientists who will go on to help people themselves. It was my participation in the SURF program at UAMS that helped set the course for this career path.
W Amanda Stolarz Participation year: 2008 Fellowship type and location: Institutional, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Current title: Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS)
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cannot imagine how different my life would be if I did not have the opportunity to participate in a SURF program at the UC Denver Pharmacology Department in 2010. I started the summer in Tatiana Kutateladze’s lab with an intent to gain research experience in preparation for medical school. With no prior experience performing biomedical research, the program introduced me to the exhilarating world of science through faculty seminars and journal clubs, culminating with our summer research presentations for the department. By the end of the 10-week program, I was hooked to the thrill of biomedical research. A year later, I trusted my instincts to pursue a career in scientiﬁc research and I entered a PhD program at UC Berkeley in Jennifer Doudna’s lab. Six years after participating in SURF and now a postdoc at UCSF, I am excited as ever to be part of the biomedical research community and the important impacts we contribute to society. Looking back, I always point to the SURF program as the turning point of my career and I am forever indebted to the program for providing opportunities to curiousminded young people who are eager to participate in scientiﬁc research. Cheers to another 25 years and more!
I James Nunez Participation year: 2010 Fellowship type and location: Individual, University of Colorado Denver Current title: Postdoc, University of California, San Francisco
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he SURF program was one of the most insightful and motivating experiences on my road to pursuing medicine. The fellowship allowed me to see how the work done in the laboratory affects patient care. It truly solidiﬁed how medicine and research work hand in hand when caring for humanity. I received support and mentorship from faculty and fellow students. My love for patient care and investigation were cultivated during the summer experience. It exposed me to the scientiﬁc method, how to apply classroom knowledge into the world of research and helped me develop leadership skills such as public speaking. Even ﬁve years after this experience I carry with me the wisdom and skills that I was taught and incorporate them as I continue to pursue a career in medicine. It was one of the best summers of my life and I am honored to be part of the SURF family.
T Gloria Felix Participation year: 2011 Fellowship type and location: Institutional, University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences Current title: MD student, Michigan State University
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the SURF program at UTHSC is one of the greatest highlights of my undergraduate career, as I spent a summer learning and growing in the research ﬁeld. I worked in a neuroscience lab under Dr. Fu-Ming Zhou and was given the project of comparing the brains of two different types of mice that vary in their levels of functioning dopamine. The fact that this lab centered on Parkinson’s disease connected the idea of science to people, and I enjoy having a sense of the bigger picture. After this, I applied for the Summer Research Scholars program and got to spend my second summer of college back at UTHSC. I was placed in a Vision Sciences lab under Dr. Jablonski and investigated a potential mouse model for age-related macular degeneration. After my experience with SURF, I have visited the lab I worked in multiple times because of the friends I made there and the inﬂuence they had on me. I went into SURF unsure about research, but since I was able to be a scientist, and because my PI was so encouraging, I left the program thinking like an investigator and eager to do more. I presented my ﬁndings from that summer at the SouthEastern Medical Scientist Symposium. My abstract was accepted and a travel grant was provided for this conference, and I have to attribute that success to the people in my lab, as they helped me throughout the process of applying. Overall, my SURF experience was amazing because of the people that I engaged with and the open-minded atmosphere that I was in. Thank you to everyone that made this possible; I am a changed student because of my experience with SURF.
T Surabhi Rao Participation year: 2013 Fellowship type and location: Institutional, University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) Current title: undergraduate student, University of Alabama Birmingham
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s I ﬂew back to Missouri from Washington after my SURF experience, I was deep in thought, reminiscing over the experience I had just left behind. Ten weeks prior, I had felt uncertainties and high expectations, fueled by 3 years of undergraduate education that was yet to provide a clear career path. Nevertheless, I knew my interests gravitated towards the health sciences. I had been involved working in hospital, pharmacy, and laboratory settings, but the SURF experience instilled in me that research was my right ﬁt. Now, I felt enlightened; I felt equipped; I felt found. My ten-week summer research in 2014 at the Washington State University (WSU) College of Pharmacy had taken me across the bridge from uncertainty to resolution. Just before I left Nigeria to come to the U.S. for my undergraduate studies in 2011, I helplessly watched as my grandfather lay on his death bed in pains from pancreatic cancer. I wished that I could do something to alleviate his suffering but I couldn’t, and neither could the doctors. The continuous re-play of my last moment with my grandfather impressed upon me the desire to make a contribution to ﬁght cancer, and research in pharmaceutical science was a great prospect to accomplish that. During my time at WSU, I experienced the remarkable “togetherness” of the faculty and students, and supportive values held by the graduate program. My mentor for the summer, Dr. Travis Denton, provided a ﬂexible learning environment that afforded me the opportunity to take initiative, and I began to comprehend what working with a passion meant. It was fun and exciting. The SURF program made a huge impression on me and consequently, I returned to the home of my SURF experience to pursue my PhD. It was an easy decision.
A Panshak Dakup Participation year: 2014 Fellowship type and location: Institutional, Washington State University Current title: PhD student, Washington State University
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More information for Students: If you are interested in applying for a fellowship, please visit: https://www.aspet.org/ awards/SURF/. Students may apply directly to programs with current institutional funding, or to ASPET for individual fellowships.
Faculty: Groups of faculty from the same campus who conduct pharmacology-related research including, but not limited to, scientists representing departments of pharmacology, toxicology, pharmaceutical sciences and/or biological chemistry are encouraged to apply for funding to establish a SURF program on their campus. More information is available at: https://www.aspet.org/awards/SURF/institutional/
SURF students at University of Cinncinatiâ€™s mini symposium
2016 SURF students at University of California San Diego
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Support the future of SURF Donors: Programs like SURF are not possible without continued support from our members. Funds are used solely for student support in the form of stipends and housing during the summer research period. To donate, please visit: https://www.aspet.org/donate/
Funding Acknowledgments: These awards are funded in part through the Anthony and Theresa Zannoni Scholarship Fund, the Gerald J. Dalton/Vincent G. Zannoni Fund, and the Glenn E. Ullyot Fund. The late Vincent Zannoni established the Anthony and Theresa Zannoni Fund in honor of his parents through a bequest in his will. The late Mildred Marie Dalton established the Gerald J. Dalton and Vincent G. Zannoni fund through a bequest in her will. Dr. Ullyot provided his fund to support stipends for the education and training of students at the undergraduate and graduate levels in the chemical and biological sciences. We gratefully acknowledge these funders for their generosity.
American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics 9650 Rockville Pike | Bethesda | MD | 20814 (301) 634-7060 (p) | firstname.lastname@example.org (e) www.aspet.org
Published on Mar 27, 2017
The ASPET SURF program is designed to introduce pharmacology research to undergraduates through a 10-week summer laboratory experience. ASPE...