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SPUR Participants and Mentors Describe Their Experiences

This summer, four undergraduates packed their bags and moved across the country (and, for one student, around the world) to spend eight weeks working hands-on in a lab that corresponded to their research interests. These students, Roxie Chuang, Deanna Ibrahim, Maria Escobar, and Precious Hardy, participated in SPSP’s new Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR). SPUR is an intensive internship experience for undergraduates from under-represented ethnic groups.

Roxie’s SPUR Experience: Building Professional Relationships

Feature ImageRoxie Chuang interned in Dr. Heejung Kim’s lab at the University of California, Santa Barbara. For Roxie, the highlight of the summer was interacting with Dr. Kim and her graduate student mentor, Kimin Eom. She credits them with teaching her how to become a good researcher, and with opening her eyes to new research areas and encouraging her to seek out her own study projects.

Roxie was not the only one enthusiastic about the professional relationships formed during SPUR. Dr. Kim noted, “The greatest advantage of hosting a SPUR participant in my lab was to really get to know a truly fantastic student. Once we had our first meeting, it became clear that Roxie is a really gifted student and we have a compatible working style. I found a great student whom I would like to recruit to our graduate program.”

Mr. Eom also appreciated the professional connection he formed with Roxie while serving as her SPUR graduate student mentor. He commented, “Working with such a smart and talented student was a great opportunity for me, too. These students are potentially my colleagues in the future. I found that being a mentor for SPUR is like an opportunity to develop a social and professional relationship with another researcher who can prosper in my field in the very near future.”

For more information on Roxie’s SPUR experience, please read her reflection.

Deanna’s SPUR Experience: Getting Into the Lab as Much as Possible

Feature ImageDeanna Ibrahim interned in Dr. Jay Van Bavel’s lab at New York University. The SPUR stipend covered her housing costs on the NYU campus, a ten-minute walk from the lab. The close proximity of her living accommodations to the lab was helpful in allowing her to become involved with many different lab activities. These included gaining experience with physiological equipment, coding, data analysis, running participants, and designing study aspects.

Dr. Van Bavel agreed that Deanna took away a lot of hands-on experience from the summer. He stated, “Having an excellent student who is around every day allows for a depth of involvement that is next to impossible for a volunteer research assistant. I think our SPUR student learned a lot about experimental design including designing of materials, how to pilot studies, and how to run an organized experiment.”

Deanna’s graduate student mentor, William Brady, also spoke highly of Deanna’s level of involvement, both in the lab and in a research reading group. He remarked, “My student was a top-quality research assistant who aided in experiments, and was also a participant in a bi-weekly reading group that helped me stay on top of the literature in my area of study over the summer. We had a good working relationship and we decided to continue to work together through the fall as she applies to graduate programs in social psychology.”

To learn more about Deanna’s SPUR experience, check out her reflection.

Maria’s SPUR Experience: Becoming an Active Participant in Meetings and Projects

Feature ImageMaria Escobar’s SPUR internship took place in Dr. Cara MacInnis’s lab at the University of Calgary. She most enjoyed attending weekly social psychology and social development psychology meetings, at which she was kept up-to-date about the current and past work of professors and graduate students.

Maria said of these meetings, “I left eager and encouraged to contribute to the growing field of research. Dr. Cara MacInnis helped reassure me of the power and importance of scientific findings. Going to these meetings, hearing about relevant studies, and discussing the findings were definitely the highlight of SPUR for me.”

Dr. MacInnis praised Maria’s contributions at these meetings, which included providing a presentation relating to her upcoming thesis work. From her perspective as a mentor, there were additional advantages to hosting a SPUR student in her lab. She observed, “It can be difficult to find dedicated research assistants during the summer months, so having her in the lab was a great asset. [Maria] collected, re-coded, and scored data, handled the administration of an online study, organized data output into easily readable tables, and created surveys for upcoming studies using online survey software.”

For further information about Maria’s SPUR experience, take a look at her reflection.

Precious’s SPUR Experience: Being Open, Asking Questions, and Enjoying Stimulating Discussions

Feature ImagePrecious Hardy’s SPUR experience was in Dr. Wendi Gardner’s lab at Northwestern University. From the outset, Precious was open to all that SPUR could offer her. She enjoyed adapting to a new community and academic environment, which reaffirmed her ability to be flexible. She also enjoyed conversations with the research team about current events, which she found to be some of the most interesting and mentally invigorating conversations of her life.

Precious’s advice for future SPUR participants is, “You should be a sponge soaking up information when you need to, you should be willing to learn new things, take constructive criticism, and grow from it. Offer what you have to offer. It is not expected of you to know everything and you are there to learn so don’t feel bad if you don’t have all the answers.”

Dr. Gardner, who hosted students from multiple summer programs, remarked that Precious “came in with a wealth of background and interest in social psychology.  Thus, she was eager to read relevant journal articles, could contribute to developing a coding scheme the data we collected, and in all other ways could jump right in to the work we were doing this summer. She was also just a dream to host in the lab -conscientious, smart, and a delight to be around.”

You can read Precious’s reflection to learn more about her SPUR experience.

Participants, mentors, and graduate student mentors all offered positive, enthusiastic feedback about taking part in SPUR. The professional relationships, learning and collaboration opportunities, and advancement of research provided by the program make it a truly unique experience. Additional information is available for prospective participants and mentors

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