Many of you are just unpacking your bags and getting to know your new housemates, but it’s already time to start thinking about what you want to do next summer. If you are studying and considering pursuing a career in the biological sciences, spending time in a research lab is one of the most useful ways for you to spend a summer. Carrying out a full-time, focused summer research project will help you to decide if you are interested in continuing your education beyond your undergraduate degree, and many graduate programs expect that their applicants have had a significant research experience.
The American Society of Plant Biologists sponsors a competitive program that provides stipends for summer undergraduate research fellows (SURFs) in plant biology. Application is open to all full-time undergraduate students in a degree-granting program. The program is not geographically restricted, but the mentor must be a member of ASPB. Students currently in their second year are preferred, but well-prepared first- and third-year students who provide evidence of a strong interest in plant biology may apply also.
Students may work with a mentor at their own institution or at another institution. A complete application will include a research project statement and personal statement from the student, a research and mentoring statement from the mentor, a letter of recommendation from another faculty member (not the mentor or in the mentor’s lab), and undergraduate transcripts.
Applications for research in summer 2017 must be submitted in early 2017 (the exact date is yet to be specified), but before then the candidate needs to contact potential mentors, discuss research topics, and write the research proposal. You can find tips and advice from successful SURF awardee Kevin Bird here. One of his top tips is that you provide yourself with lots of time to write you research proposal. Another former SURF recipient, James Thierer, describes how his undergraduate research experience contibuted to his career development here, and Maria Sorkin wrote about her SURF research here. The 2016 SURF fellows are listed here along with their research topics and mentors.
Successful applicants get a stipend to support them during their research period, and the mentor gets some funds to help defray the costs of the student’s research. The successful applicants are also eligible to present their work at the 2018 ASPB Plant Biology meeting that will be held in Montreal, and to receive a stipend to help defray their travel costs.
So during these early days of the semester before the workload gets too heavy, take some time to find out about the research interests of professors at your university, and consider approaching them to see if they’d be willing to be your SURF mentor. You can also ask your departmental faculty for suggestions of potential host labs offsite.
Watch this space for more information, forms, and deadlines for 2017 proposals. Perhaps we’ll see you presenting your research in Montreal in 2018!