The Summer Undergraduate Research Fest (SURF) presenters were high school students and undergraduates from UMBC and other colleges who chose to spend their summers conducting research at UMBC. In all, 126 students participated in the event. More than 30 faculty members across five departments and two colleges at UMBC guided the students in their research.
“The experience helped us to think like scientists,” says Olufolake Majekodunmi ’21, biological sciences and psychology.
Participants in the UMBC STEM BUILD Training Program also received training in writing personal statements, analyzing academic journal articles, constructing their resumes and more.
Ewnet Sisay ‘20, Mechanical Engineering, studied zebrafish embryos with developmental biologist Rachel Brewster. “I hope to go for a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering, so I wanted to try biology before committing to a Ph.D,” Sisay says. The result? “I really love it.”
In addition to sharing the benefits of their experiences, the student also spoke to how research can sometimes be an emotional roller coaster, peppered with challenges and failures. But by working through those issues, they came to see failures as growth opportunities, rather than setbacks.
Brett Lucht, a student at Marist College and recipient of an NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates award, found a way to see the positive in the challenges he faced while working with physical chemist Lisa Kelly. “Failures are a part of research,” he says, “and we’ve learned from them, so they were good failures.”
Bill LaCourse, Dean of the College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, which organized the event, took a moment at the research festival to tell the students that although they are still early in their scientific careers, working to answer questions no one has ever answered before is a noble and exciting challenge. He shared his hope that their time as UMBC researchers “lights a flame of passion that will drive you to greater undertakings…with joy and wonderment.”
“It has been our privilege to host you here at UMBC,” said LaCourse. “Your spirit is an inspiration to us all.”
Image: Students explain their research to attendees at SURF 2017. Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.