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Students should start SURF applications as soon as possible

Summer Undergraduate Research Fund helps students to conduct original research

By Molly Miller
On January 23, 2014

  • Caroline McGuire speaks at a SURF info session. Students interested in applying for a summer researc. Avery Chen/The Daily Campus

Summer is a great time for students to sink their teeth into research projects, but if they want to do so using a SURF (Summer Undergraduate Research Fund) grant, they should start working on their proposals as soon as possible, says Dr. Caroline McGuire, Interim Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research.
SURF awards allow students to probe topics that they're passionate about with the help of a faculty advisor.
"Summer research and creative projects represent opportunities for students to engage deeply with a question or topic of interest to them," says McGuire. "These projects are, at their core, about producing new knowledge and understandings, moving beyond what is already established and known, which is an exciting endeavor!"
McGuire says that summer gives students plenty of free time to take advantage of. "During the summer, in the absence of the classes and other commitments that require attention during the academic year, students can focus more intensively on their projects," said McGuire.
McGuire encourages all students to think about research, including those who aren't majoring in traditional "lab sciences."
"This is an opportunity open to students in all majors and at all UConn campuses," said McGuire. "We encourage students to look at the lists of past awardees that are posted on our website to see the range of projects students have pursued through SURF."
Last year, project titles ranged from "A Study of Amyloid Protein Aggregation Kinetics" to "Natural Knowledge and the Anthropology of Choice."
At an informational session held yesterday attended by about a dozen students, McGuire went over the guidelines for eligibility and proposals. SURF award recipients can graduate no earlier than December 2014, and must agree to present their findings at Frontiers in Undergraduate Research, a research display held every fall and spring.
Students can receive up to $4,000 for their research, including up to $500 in necessary costs (not including travel) and up to $3,500 in a stipend (which can be put towards travel).
McGuire reminded students that the online application is due by 4 p.m. on Feb. 3. The application includes a project proposal that will be reviewed by a faculty committee coming from various schools and colleges at UConn.
According to McGuire, the proposal should demonstrate the applicant's knowledge of the subject, the purpose of the project and why the topic is important
In addition to the proposal, students must submit a budget, a timeline that breaks the project into smaller tasks, phases and milestones and two letters of recommendation, one from the advisor and one from another faculty member.
Applicants receive decisions on their proposals on March 15. The program is fairly competitive; typically about 65 projects out of the approximately 100 that are proposed receive funding.
Krisela Karaja, an 8th-semester English and Spanish double major who is also a former SURF award recipient, said that she used her summer research to springboard her into her honors thesis.
For her project, "Working for and Against the Concept of Nation in Latino and Albania Literature: Junot Diaz and Fatos Kongoli," Krisela traveled to Albania to conduct literary research.
"In your proposal you should show some level of continuity," said Karaja. "Show that this isn't going to be some isolated summer project."
Karaja's biggest piece of advice for those traveling to conduct research as she did is to be as prepared as possible, and to anticipate unforeseen cultural differences. Karaja explained that since she arrived in Albania at the start of beach season, faculty members there weren't as responsive as Karaja was accustomed to.
"It made me be very proactive, and made me appreciate when professors did respond to me," said Karaja.
She is still working on the final product of her research, but said that research she conducted over the summer had a great impact on her honors thesis.
Karaja, who was born in Albania but left when she was young, realized that it would be more "ethical" for her to write about the interpretation of literature by a diasporic population. "I can now talk about it without being so removed," said Karaja. "The cultural knowledge is now there, so I can write without making broad assumptions."
Students who are interested in learning more about SURF grants can do so by visiting ugradresearch.uconn.edu/get-research-funding/surf.
 


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