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SURP-ing up a Pomona Summer

October 1, 2013

Laura and her research associates during the SURP Poster Presentation.

As a child, the first day of school brought many exciting things. There would be reunions with friends I hadn't seen for three months, brand new school supplies, and the one question I could always count on, what did you do over the summer? While I no longer get a fresh box of crayons at the beginning of the school year, I still cannot wait to be asked about my summer and to hear my friends' responses. Thanks to Pomona's Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP), I can guarantee that I will get very interesting answers.

SURP gives Pomona students the opportunity to pursue their interests outside of the classroom by offering grants to work as a research assistant for a professor or to pursue an independent research project. The grants provide both a stipend up to $4,000 for the student and funding for supplies, subjects, or travel. As a result, it gives students the opportunity to answer some of the questions they have been curious about in their studies while also earning a salary over the summer. Interesting research and a paycheck? At least for me, this sounds like a dream come true!

I still remember approaching my professor, Dr. Jessica Borelli, midway through my sophomore year wondering what I should do over the summer. I had just begun working in her lab, so I was amazed when she suggested that I apply for a SURP grant to work with her over the summer. I happily said yes and was thrilled to receive a ten-week grant to work as a research assistant in the Pomona College Child Attachment, Relationships, and Emotion (CARE) Laboratory on a study examining children's reactions to stress. We spent the summer examining how children react to stressful situations alone or in the presence of their mother. I had the opportunity to learn a variety of new skills, from recording EEG data to interacting with participants and finding ways to answer the countless questions children had about our study. Equally importantly, I was much more involved in our lab and had some valuable research experience. I even was able to prepare a poster with my fellow lab members for the Society for Research in Child Development Conference last spring. Overall, it was an incredible way to spend my summer. So incredible, in fact, that I decided to reapply this summer and participate in SURP again.

One of my favorite parts of SURP is the opportunity to focus on research without all of the distractions of the school year. This means that in addition to all of the research, I had more time to connect with the members of my lab. Some of my favorite memories are from the Sunday afternoons when Professor Borelli would invite us over to her house for a pool party. She would also invite other professors in the psychology department, guaranteeing good conversations. Not only did I get to connect with my professors outside of the classroom, but I also bonded with the other members of my lab. Lab became a place I was excited to go to each day, both because of the work we were doing and the people I looked forward to seeing each day.

Participating in SURP has been one of my favorite experiences at Pomona College. I am grateful to have gained so much experience in psychology research while having had a lot of fun along the way. The research opportunities SURP creates are incredible, so if you ever hear a Pomona student mention that they participated in SURP, be sure to ask them what they did last summer.


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