Over 400 students learn about undergraduate research opportunities at annual research fair

Author: Shadia Ajam

FURF 2013 poster presentations
Students listen to poster presentations.

This past Thursday, October 31, more than 400 students gathered at the Jordan Hall of Science for the annual Fall Undergraduate Research Fair to learn about getting involved in undergraduate research at Notre Dame and other locations. The fair began with a research internship information session led primarily by biological sciences students; followed by student poster presentations of summer research projects and information tables of organizations that provide or support undergraduate research; and concluded with an information session for undergraduate research opportunities in chemistry.

At the first information session, four undergraduate biological sciences majors gave presentations about their summer research internship experiences.  Each student discussed how they got involved and provided advice for other students who are interested in applying.

Emily Kunce presents her research at FURF
Emily Kunce presents her research.

Rachel Cotton, '14 opened the discussion by focusing on the several types of research internships that are available, how to go about getting a summer internship, and specific information about the application process. The types of opportunities she mentioned included programs that are fully funded (housing plus stipend) and heavily structured, such as National Science Foundation – Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF-REU); summer programs at Notre Dame like College of Science Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (COS-SURF); minority programs that seek women and ethnic minorities; and “choosing your own adventure" where the application process is less formal but allows more flexibility.

“Getting experience in the lab is a good way to learn about yourself, and develop professionally,” said Cotton.  “It is also helpful for acceptance into medical or graduate school. By moving to a new city every summer I had the opportunity to meet future colleagues. Many of these programs will also pay for you to travel to different areas. Don’t be intimidated.”

Over 400 students attend FURF 2013
Over 400 students attended FURF.

Jeff Hansen,’15 talked about his research on type 1 diabetes (T1D) at the University of Virginia (UVA) and how he wanted to experience the research world before committing to it as a career. Hansen chose to “create his own adventure” and expressed his interest in a summer research opportunity by contacting a researcher at UVA who had placed an ad on T1D research at UVA in a local newspaper. Once the researcher agreed to take him on for the summer, Hansen applied to the College of Science and Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement (CUSE) for funding to support him during the summer.

Hansen closed his presentation with advice and a reference to Newton’s first law. “Create your outside force and put yourself in motion.”

The last two presenters for the session were Joseph Mueller,’16, who conducted marine microbiology research at an NSF funded REU at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla., and Stephanie Terpening,’16, who worked on cancer research at Stem CentRX in San Francisco, Calif.

All students stressed the importance of using the internet to find the program that best fits your interests, especially if you want to choose your own destination. They also all agreed that these experiences yield long-term benefits, such as networking and career opportunities.

After the internship information session, 32 students presented posters about their summer research in the Jordan Hall of Science Galleria. A mixture of research conducted on or off campus was presented. Abstracts of the presentations can be found on the College of Science website. In addition to the poster presentations, several institutions, organizations, and centers were also in attendance to provide advice and answer questions about research opportunities.

For more information about undergraduate research in the College of Science, including available on-campus and off-campus research opportunities, visit the undergraduate research section College of Science website.