Smithfield, RI – This summer, teams of Bryant students working in the fields of applied psychology, molecular biology, and chemistry took advantage of an invaluable opportunity to build skills and conduct research alongside their professors through the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program, organized jointly by RI NSF EPSCoR/RI C-AIM and RI-INBRE.
“I’m running my lab as if it is in a graduate program,” says Associate Professor of Science and Technology Christopher Reid, Ph.D.
SURF offers paid research positions for undergrads to do real work on real projects. “I’m running my lab as if it is in a graduate program,” says Associate Professor of Science and Technology Christopher Reid, Ph.D. “The students are learning how to take what they learn from class and use it in a professional setting.”
“This is an opportunity for students to gain professional-level experience,” affirms Associate Professor of Applied Psychology Heather Lacey, Ph.D. “They’re genuine collaborators on this research."
“They’re genuine collaborators on this research,” affirms Associate Professor of Applied Psychology Heather Lacey, Ph.D.
Exploring uncharted areas
“When you’re working on a lab assignment in class, you’re following a set procedure that everybody has done before and has been laid out for you,” says Lauren Rochefort ’19, who spent her summer researching and developing antibiotics. “Here, we make the process our own and it’s cool to be able to say ‘nobody else has done this before.’”
The summer research program has proven results. Previous SURF students have gone on to success in graduate programs, research labs, medicine, and industry. “The research you do is important, but just as important is learning how that research is done,” notes John Belval ’20. “The scientific method, understanding data, developing the mindset of approaching problems and trying to solve them in novel ways – that can help no matter what profession you’re in.“
The summer research culminated with the annual SURF conference, which brought together more than 400 faculty, students, researchers, and administrators from schools across Rhode Island. During the conference, students presented their work to each other and to experts in the fields. “Learning from each other is the best way to grow our skills and knowledge,” says Caroline Forest ’18, who presented her work on the factors affecting human decision making. “I think that’s the best kind of exposure you can get.” That sense of fellowship permeates the program, as the students form close working relationships with each other and with their professors, who also help them explore their field and their professional options.
“It’s a great environment to be in because you’re learning from each other,” says Prerna Dayal ’19, who has become good friends with her fellow researchers. “You help each other throughout the whole process.”