uri to host 9th annual ri surf conference

College and university students from across Rhode Island will present their summer research work Friday, July 29, 2016, when they gather for the 9th Annual Rhode Island Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows (SURF) Conference — the state’s largest exhibition of undergraduate research.

Co-sponsored by Rhode Island IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (RI-INBRE) and Rhode Island NSF Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (RI NSF EPSCoR), the conference will feature about 150 scientific posters in the biomedical and life sciences and draw more than 400 faculty, students, and administrators from across the Ocean State.
The University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI, hosts the event, which begins at 8 a.m. with a continental breakfast, registration, and poster set-up. Welcoming remarks take place at 9 a.m., followed by the poster session at 9:30 a.m. Lunch for those who register will begin at 12:30 p.m.

The projects include biomedical research, such as the synthesis of new drugs for Alzheimer’s disease and the development of nanoparticles for the treatment of lung cancer. Or, they focus on environmental science, such as investigations into how climate change and human-generated pollutants impact the sea life in Narragansett Bay.

Jim Lemire, RI NSF EPSCoR coordinator of undergraduate research said the SURF program provided students with the chance to experience what it is like to be professional scientists: “Through their academic-year coursework, students learn content and some skills in weekly labs, but summer research shows them that science is much more than facts and lab techniques.”

The students work under the guidance of faculty mentors and along side their peers. The process emphasizes communication and analytic skills, and exposes students to the many career opportunities available for scientists, from the ground floor of new research to the production of biodiesel and pharmaceuticals or writing about science to convey the importance of breakthroughs.

With this summer’s class, RI-INBRE has engaged 775 Rhode Island undergraduates in scientific research since 2004; RI NSF EPSCoR has supported nearly 300 since 2007.

For 10 weeks, full-time, the INBRE and EPSCoR SURF programs immerse students in their projects, researching relevant background information, designing experiments, troubleshooting problems, redesigning experiments, getting frustrated with troublesome data, redesigning experiments again, getting excited about unexpected results, interacting with and learning from colleagues, attending seminars and workshops, and, ultimately, presenting their work at the conference.

“The SURF experience is much more than going to class, doing your work, and then going home,” explained Lemire. “Students are introduced to the culture and lifestyle of science. Ten weeks may be a blink of the eye in the career of a scientist, but it is represents 350-400 hours of intense scientific training that most students have not had and is an important step for undergraduates as they chart the course of their own future careers.”

The annual conference marks the culmination of the collaborative SURF program, which this year involves 103 RI-INBRE students and 36 RI NSF EPSCoR students. Acceptance to the program is based on a competitive application process run individually by RI-INBRE and RI NSF EPSCoR. With this summer’s class, RI-INBRE has engaged 775 Rhode Island undergraduates in scientific research since 2004; RI NSF EPSCoR has supported nearly 300 since 2007.

URI Associate Professor Brenton DeBoef, RI-INBRE SURF coordinator, noted that this year’s INBRE student numbers were the highest in the program’s history and the selective nature of the application process draws the some of Rhode Island’s best and brightest undergraduates.

“These students are the future Ph.D. and MD scientists that will drive the knowledge economy of our state,” DeBoef said. “And, the research projects that these students conduct span the biomedical spectrum, from new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease to the study of environmental toxins.”

The conference provides undergraduate students from the University of Rhode Island, Brown University, Bryant University, Providence College, Rhode Island College, Roger Williams University, Salve Regina University, and Community College of Rhode Island with the unique opportunity to present their summer research findings to their peers and to the larger Rhode Island community.

All Rhode Island students who are actively participating in scientific research are welcome to register for the conference and present their work, even if they are not formally a part of the SURF program. There is no charge to participate or attend.

Exhibitor space for potential employers, graduate schools, core facilities, and other programs is available. The deadline to register and submit abstracts is 4:30 p.m., Thursday, July 14, 2016. To register for the conference, submit an abstract and find more details about the event, please visit the event website (http://web.uri.edu/surfconference/).

For questions about the RI-INBRE program, contact Brenton DeBoef | (401) 874-9480 | bdeboef@chm.uri.edu

For questions about the RI EPSCoR program, contact Jim Lemire | (401) 254-5718 | jlemire@rwu.edu

 RI INBRE logo 3.25.15 jpgRI Map 9.2.15