The Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at the VTC hosted 20 undergraduates this summer for a 10-week experience in two research programs that explore neurobiology and cutting-edge imaging technology to visualize living systems.
Field trips to the world of biomedical research are part of the institute’s Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship (SURF) programs. NeuroSURF deals with research in fundamental and translational neurobiology, and MolVisSURF explores the molecular visualization imaging concepts and technologies used by life scientists to probe the fundamentals of biological processes in health and disease.
In addition, undergraduates learn how to prepare for a future scientific career, benefiting from mentorship from faculty at Fralin Biomedical Research Institute and graduate students from Virginia Tech who themselves conduct research in various laboratories at the institute. of research. Both programs were founded in 2017 with funding from the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute and the Office of the Vice President of Health Sciences and Technologies. The NeuroSURF program then received additional funding from the National Institutes of Health.
“Undergraduates have the opportunity to work closely together under the guidance of some of the world’s most innovative and productive biomedical research scientists at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute,” said Michael Friedlander, vice- president of Virginia Tech for health sciences and technologies and the institute’s executive director. “It is mutually beneficial for students, faculty and other members of laboratory teams to share the enthusiasm, passion and intellectual curiosity of these early career scientists – and physicians – in training. ”
Students attended virtual lectures given by researchers and professors at Virginia Tech in various disciplines and learned to develop and foster creative skills in problem solving, science communication and presentation.
The summer undergraduate research scholarship programs have a 40-hour full-time weekly schedule. Scholarship students, including one or two high school students each summer, receive a stipend, and undergraduates are provided with accommodation as needed.
“It has been truly gratifying to see that we are successfully recruiting applicants from other universities that do not offer the research experience available at institutions such as Virginia Tech,” said James smyth, associate professor at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, who founded the SURF program in molecular visualization. “We receive applications from all over – literally from across the country – demonstrating that the reputation of the program grows as we train more fellows each year.”
The students presented posters illustrating the results of their research at the Virginia Tech Undergraduate Research Symposium in Blacksburg on July 29 as well as at the 2nd Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium on July 30 at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, where they were judged by Virginia Tech Research Institute professors and graduate students. This year’s winner, Simran Gill, graduated in 2021 from Salem High School and Roanoke Valley Governor’s School. Elena Hayday from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, Lilian Byer from Davidson College and Airinés González Velázquez from the University of Puerto Rico were finalists.