OUR Staff Spotlight
Each year, students who win Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURFs) have the chance to conduct projects of their own design with faculty mentorship and often with graduate student co-mentorship. Not only is this a fun way to spend the summer, but students also get the chance to “test drive” possible careers. I know how important this can be through my own experience as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (yes, I did root for Carolina on 11/30, but I also wore a small Bucky Badger pin…).
For me, the most influential person at the start of my career was my graduate mentor. I looked up to her, and did everything she told me to do (a summer course at Woods Hole, Yale Biology for graduate school, even seeing if I could work in Joe Gall’s lab for my Ph.D., which I did). We lost touch over the years, but reconnected last March, and picked up right where we left off. She is a professor at U. Southern California, and I STILL look up to her (even though now we are on the same level). When I had the opportunity to become the founding director of the Office for Undergraduate Research in 1999, I jumped at the chance. By then, I had mentored over 50 undergraduates in my own lab, which only reinforced my view of how important these opportunities can be for the Carolina experience. Two of these former undergrads are now my faculty colleagues at Duke and at Carolina!
Being Associate Dean for Undergraduate Research has enabled me to interact with amazing faculty and students in all disciplines on our campus, and help to connect faculty and students with similar interests. Students who receive SURFs and conduct research are also really valuable to the campus community. They share their experiences during CTOPs, volunteer to serve as Peer Advisors and Office for Undergraduate Research Ambassadors, and contribute to panel discussions in Modes of Inquiry (where those amazing faculty come to tell their stories and describe their research). I look forward to seeing reflections from these campus student leaders on this blog: how has YOUR research experience contributed to your Carolina education?