RI-INBRE originally organized the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) in 2001 as a summer research experience for undergraduates at the University of Rhode Island. In 2008 RI-INBRE transformed the program into the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) Program encompassing the summer undergraduate research experiences held throughout the RI-INBRE network institutions. That same year, the Rhode Island Experimental Project to Stimulate Competitive Research (RI NSF EPSCoR) established their own statewide SURF Program among their participating institutions. RI-INBRE and RI NSF EPSCoR then formed a collaboration and developed a common calendar of events meant to expose students in both programs to various facets of the biomedical and life sciences. The Annual RI SURF Conference has become the highlight of this collaboration.
The modest beginnings of the Annual RI SURF Conference included approximately 30 RI-INBRE faculty and summer undergraduate fellows gathering in a classroom for platform presentations and a few scientific posters taped to the walls. Over the years the event steadily grew requiring larger venues on the University of Rhode Island’s Kingston campus. By 2008, when RI-INBRE and RI NSF EPSCoR began their collaboration, attendance grew large enough to warrant the use of The Ryan Center. Then in 2012, as the two programs sought to improve upon the quality of the Welcoming Remarks, the event was moved to the Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences in order to utilize it’s auditorium. The following summer the new College of Pharmacy Building opened next door and the event spread to both buildings. Welcoming remarks now include government representatives such as the Rhode Island Governor and Lieutenant Governor, the URI President, administrators from various institutions throughout the state, and former Summer Research Fellows. Average attendance is now well over 300 and more than 100 scientific posters are presented annually in Behavioral Science, Cell Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science, Genetics, Marine Science, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology.