Summer Research Program closes with poster session

Aerial view of Poster Session in Icahn Laboratory Atrium

As part of the continued effort to support diversity in our graduate programs, each summer the Graduate School partners with select departments to invite undergraduates to come and explore graduate education at Princeton up close.

On August 9, the 2018 Mol Bio/QCB Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) concluded with its Annual Poster Session. Each year, students visiting from other universities and Princeton students spend the summer alongside faculty mentors performing research in various labs in Molecular Biology or Quantitative and Computational Biology. This summer, more than 80 students presented posters describing the scientific research they performed to an audience of Princeton faculty, staff, and students, as well as their family and friends. This was followed by a closing dinner to celebrate the end of the program.  As SURP partners, the Graduate School’s Access, Diversity, & Inclusion (ADI) unit and the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics provided support that brought 16 visiting students from institutions across the country to spend the summer at Princeton. “The SURP summer experience is invaluable and creates an opportunity for visiting underrepresented minority students interested in pursuing the Ph.D., a unique chance to learn from and engage with leading Princeton faculty in their prospective fields,” said Renita Miller, associate dean for access, diversity, and inclusion in the Graduate School.

Each visiting student was selected through a competitive application process that identified: those whose participation will add to the diversity of researchers in the sciences; those whose interests lie at the boundary between biology and the computational sciences (including physics, chemistry, computer science and engineering); and those who are from institutions that do not have large research programs.

In addition to research, all students participated in a number of other activities. They attended research talks given by faculty members, and participated in workshops and discussions on topics, such as increasing efficiency in research and preparing posters. They also participated in roundtable discussions and symposia about the graduate school experience here at Princeton, tips for applying to graduate school, and exploring post-graduation career possibilities. Additionally, students were mentored in regular small-group meetings with Princeton postdoctoral researchers.

For the visiting students, the experience was a great opportunity to access the outstanding resources Princeton has to offer, while working alongside Princeton faculty and graduate students. All visiting students reported learning valuable lessons from their time in SURP. In addition to gaining confidence and experience in various science techniques, they also learned more broadly applicable lessons about being a good collaborator, networker, strong professional and science communicator. Leon Chen, a rising senior from Howard University, said, “By pairing individual students to a graduate mentor, this program basically provides a two-month tutorial on what it is like to be in graduate school. Based on this hands-on experience, students can decide whether or not this is the life and education path they want to pursue.” Another visiting student, Sara Shatela, a rising senior from the University of California at Riverside said, “After this experience, I definitely see graduate school at Princeton as one of my options. The environment is very supportive, inclusive, and fosters success.” 

The summer program also was supported by Assistant Dean Vanessa Gonzalez-Perez and Joel Boggess, coordinator for diversity initiatives in the natural sciences, from the Graduate School’s Access, Diversity, and Inclusion team, as well Melissa DiMeglio, undergraduate administrator in the Department of Molecular Biology. This was the third year that the Graduate School has supported visiting students in conjunction with the Mol Bio/QCB SURP Program.

Applications for next summer’s program will be available in fall 2018.