This summer, 20 students will get a leg up on graduate school and careers in research with the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program at the Fralin Life Sciences Institute.

SURF is designed to give students hands-on research experiences during a 10-week program that mimics graduate training. The program gives students the tools to make critical career decisions by providing them not only with research experience but also with professional development and networking opportunities.

"The goal of the SURF program is to acquaint students with what it is like to be a research scientist. Many fellows have come away not only with a better appreciation for the career field, but also with one or more publications in peer reviewed journals," said Dennis Dean, director of the Fralin Life Sciences Institute.

SURF is supported by the Office of Undergraduate Research and the Fralin Life Sciences Institute.

"This year, in addition to their incredible immersive research experiences, the fellows will also benefit from participating in a series of workshops being piloted by the Center for Communicating Science, where they will learn how to effectively share their work with a broad audience. This will give the students valuable skills to take them well beyond the summer and into their professional lives," said Keri Swaby, university undergraduate research coordinator.

Preference is given to applications from rising second- or third-year undergraduates who have a GPA of 3.0 or higher and who have not previously engaged in a full-time summer research experience. Prior to applying, students should identify a faculty mentor in the life sciences.

Students who are selected to receive a fellowship must commit to SURF full-time since it is a 40-hour per week training program. A $4,000 stipend is granted to each Virginia Tech fellow.

This year’s fellowship recipients are:

  • Katherine Berg, majoring in biological sciences in the College of Science. Faculty mentor: Guillaume Pilot.
  • Leor Clark, majoring in biological sciences in the College of Science. Faculty mentor: Brenda Winkel.
  • Erin Collins, majoring in biochemistry in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Faculty mentor: Anne Brown.
  • Tanner DeHart, majoring in biochemistry in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Faculty mentor: Brandon Jutras.
  • Jordan Heiman, majoring in clinical neuroscience in the College of Science. Faculty mentor: Jordan Gilbert.
  • Julia Hudack, majoring in biological sciences in the College of Science. Faculty mentor: John Jelesko.
  • Soonyoung Kim, majoring in psychology in the College of Science. Faculty mentor: Jorge Hernandez.
  • Jiwoo Kim, majoring in biochemistry in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Faculty mentor: Birgit Scharf.
  • Trenton Kite, majoring in microbiology in the College of Science. Faculty mentor: Christopher Lawrence.
  • Austin Murray, majoring in biochemistry in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Faculty mentor: Xiaofeng Wang.
  • Harveen Pantleay, majoring in psychology in the College of Science. Faculty mentor: Lee Cooper.
  • Breonna Runk, majoring in biological sciences in the College of Science. Faculty mentor: John McDowell.
  • Sophia Textoris, majoring in psychology in the College of Science. Faculty mentor: Carolyn Shivers.
  • Taylan Tunckanat, majoring in biochemistry in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Faculty mentor: Kylie Allen.
  • Maria Villafuerte, majoring in clinical neuroscience in the College of Science. Faculty mentor: Sarah Clinton.
  • Kevin Williams, majoring in biochemistry in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Faculty mentor: Dan Slade.
  • Addison Webster, majoring in experimental neuroscience in the College of Science. Faculty mentor: Mark Cline.
  • Rowan Wooldridge, majoring in biochemistry in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Faculty mentor: Birgit Scharf.
  • Grishma Bhattarai, majoring in Biology at Hollins University. Faculty mentor: Kelly Cobourn.
  • Udipta Bohara, double-majoring in economics and mathematics at Hollins University. Facilty mentors: Dana Hawley and Kendra Sewall.

Both Bhattarai and Bohara will join the program as part of the Global Change Center’s partnership with Hollins University to identify future prospects for graduate mentor-mentee relationships.

"Environmental and life sciences are growing in popularity among students at Hollins. Our partnership enables some exceptional students from Hollins to spend a summer working in world-class research labs in Blacksburg, while also providing Virginia Tech with a pipeline of talent as Hollins students consider their graduate school options,” said William Hopkins, director of the Global Change Center at Virginia Tech and professor of fish and wildlife conservation.

SURF fellows will join other summer researchers to present their work at Virginia Tech's Annual Summer Research Symposium, to be held on Aug. 1 in Goodwin Hall. This event is free and open to the general public.

Now in its 11th year, the SURF program continues to propel students along an exciting trajectory in research.

-Written by Tiffany Trent