The Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP)

The Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) enables students to conduct extended, focused research in close cooperation with a Pomona faculty member. Research projects, which receive funding from Pomona and from public and private foundations, take place both on campus and in the field. Although the natural sciences account for the largest number of projects, the humanities, social sciences and interdisciplinary disciplines are also well represented.

The strength of our program lies in its rigor, accessibility, and strong and active participation of our students and faculty on faculty-driven projects (faculty research) and student-driven projects (independent projects). Although the latter are usually carried out beyond Claremont's borders, these participants are actively mentored by Pomona College faculty. The summer is an excellent time for students to focus on experiential learning in the laboratories and in the field for a sustained period of time. The lack of interruption from our usual college activities gives students and faculty the luxury of time and the opportunity to ponder great thoughts, plan intricate studies and disentangle the many variables that affect our scholarship/research.

SURP engages about 200 students each summer. A large number of students carried out research in the laboratories of their faculty mentors and a significant number of students also participated in projects away from Claremont in various locales such as Oregon, Maine, Colorado, Illinois and international sites such as Botswana, Ghana, Russia, Tanzania, Egypt, Pakistan, France and the Cook Islands.

As a culmination of their efforts, students make a presentation of their work to the College community at the Pomona Summer Poster Conference each September and may apply for College support to present their project at a national conference. While projects are rarely completed in the summer, they have laid the critical groundwork for continuing study. For many of our seniors, these projects often “morph” into senior theses. Research work may also result in co-authored articles in peer-reviewed journals.

2018 Museum SURP

Vivienne Yixuan Shi (2019); Mentor: Kathleen Howe

Mutuality in Dichotomy: Photography from the Permanent Collection

“Mutuality in Dichotomy: Photography from the Permanent Collection” is curated by Vivienne Yixuan Shi (PO '19). It is the fifth in a series of exhibitions developed by student curators under the Benton Curatorial Internship and Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) at the Pomona College Museum of Art. The exhibition will be accompanied by an illustrated brochure.

2017 Museum SURP

Dmaia Curry (2019); Mentor: Kathleen Howe

Establishing Justice: Selections from the Permanent Collection

“Establishing Justice” explores one facet through which we construct justice in the United States—the criminal justice system. The artworks in the exhibition explore the mechanisms by which the criminal justice system operates and take us through the often-closed doors of the jails, courtrooms, and police departments that encompass our justice system.

Funding Provided by: Janet Inskeep Benton

2016 Museum SURPs

Romario Ramirez (2018); Mentor: Rebecca McGrew

Project Series 51: Incendiary Traces

“Project Series 51: Incendiary Traces” presents artist Hillary Mushkin’s newest project. Incendiary Traces is an experimental art, research and media initiative investigating how landscape imagery is used in international conflict. It brings groups of artists, scholars, and students to active, local militarized sites to draw, observe and otherwise “trace” locations that have included the 29 Palms Marine Corps Base, the US/Mexico border, San Clemente Island Naval Weapons Testing Range, among others.

Funding Provided by: Janet Inskeep Benton


Andy Starr (2018); Mentor: Kathleen Howe

Now Screening: Andy Warhol Prints

“Now Screening: Andy Warhol Prints” explores changes in technique and subject matter in Warhol’s screen prints and features a recent gift of seven prints from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts as well as other Warhol works from the permanent collection.

Funding Provided by: Janet Inskeep Benton

2015 Museum SURP

Davis Menard (2017); Mentor: Rebecca McGrew

R.S.V.P. Los Angeles: The Project Series at Pomona

“R.S.V.P. Los Angeles: The Project Series at Pomona” celebrates the milestone of 50 Project Series exhibitions by connecting the extraordinary artists who have been part of the program with a new generation of artists based in the Los Angeles area. The exhibition features seven artists—Justin Cole, Michael Decker, Naotaka Hiro, Wakana Kimura, Aydinaneth Ortiz, Michael Parker and Nikki Pressley

Funding Provided by: Janet Inskeep Benton

2014 Museum SURP

Zoë Jameson (2015); Mentor: Kathleen Howe

Project Summary: I’m researching contemporary Native American artists to prepare for a Pomona College Museum of Art exhibition that will happen in about 3 to 5 years. A contemporary native artist will come in and show their art side-by-side with objects from the museum’s Native American collection, which is really big and full of things from the late 1800s and early 1900s. This exhibition will enliven the collection and make sure it’s still getting seen. I’ve read a bunch of books and done tons of Googling, trying to find younger artists whose work might be particularly interesting. In the last week or so, the options narrowed down to a group of about 10 people. Because I’m graduating this year, I won’t be the one who’s here when final decisions are being made, so I’m making sure that whoever is doing this job in the future isn’t going to have to redo all my research or go digging through sloppy notes that are in six different places. Full Interview

2013 Museum SURPs

Nidhi Gandhi (2015); Mentor(s) Terri Geis, Kathleen Howe

Resonant Minds: Abstraction and Perception

Abstract: Abstract art in all its forms - from expressionism to minimalism - echoes neuroscientific theories about how the brain works. Whether exploring a precise order or practicing more chaotic techniques, the subtle aspects of abstraction provide a platform for questioning how the brain processes our perceptions. It can provide a window into the mind's unceasing efforts to make sense of the human experience. Abstract art may be viewed in relationship to theories and explorations of the mind, as we consider how it prompts the viewer to interpret the unexpected and indeterminate. Abstract artists often based their artistic premises on theories about how subtle shifts in form and color alter our absorption of an artwork. Similarly, neuroscientists have explored perception from different perspectives, investigating how impressions received while viewing images can trigger neuronal impulses and unconscious reactions. Resonant Minds: Abstraction and Perception explores different ways in which our perceptions of abstract art reveal our mental processes, and asks us to reflect on the ways we perceive.

Funding Provided by: Janet Inskeep Benton


Benjamin Kersten (2015); Additional Collaborator(s): Kathleen Howe; Mentor(s): Frances Pohl; Rebecca McGrew; Steve Comba

Pages: The Poetry of Mirella Bentivoglio

Abstract: Despite an early career as a verse poet, Mirella Bentivoglio’s prolific career spans many artistic genres. A poet, sculptor, performance artist, concrete poet, and visual poet, she explores the relationship between language and image using a critical approach and wry humor to challenge the given meanings and systems of authority in our society. Bentivoglio has achieved international success; however, a retrospective of her multimedia practice from the past five decades will fill a gap in the scholarly material available in the United States. My work followed key steps in the process of preparing an exhibition. The first included reading past materials, including the exhibition proposal written by Professor Pohl and key articles in order to prepare for a visit to Bentivoglio’s home and workplace in Rome. Over the course of our visit, we collected information on specific works, including interpretations and installation instructions. I also compiled answers for an interview that will be published in the accompanying catalog. Back at the museum, I photographed, accessioned, and entered new works into the museum database while cleaning up the exiting archive. This public information will be necessary for constructing an exhibition layout and checklist. Bentivoglio’s subversive work draws connections between the language and images of everyday life, falling in line with significant and experimental art that blurs lines between disciplines and power structures.

Funding Provided by: Pomona College SURP

2012 Museum SURPs 

Zoë Jameson (2015); Additional Collaborator(s): Steve Comba; Gary Murphy; Mentor(s): Kathleen Howe

Making an Exhibition – Marking/Remarking: Aerial Photographs by Marilyn Bridges

Abstract: This SURP was an eight-week internship, culminating in the mounting of an exhibition,"Marking/Remarking: Aerial Photographs by Marilyn Bridges," at the Pomona College Museum of Art. The exhibition complements the Mellon Elemental Arts Initiative: this year's theme is Earth. The photographs included examine marks left on the earth by ancient and modern civilizations as well as geologic processes, while giving each mark equal weight through an impartial aerial view. Offering an alternative to the ancient-natural/modern-intrusive dichotomy, "Marking/Remarking" investigates the necessary cooperation between land and civilization as marks on the earth are made, erased and altered. From ancient geoglyphs to industrial farmland and impressive volcanoes, the photographs of Marilyn Bridges provide a different view of the earth, its history and our marks upon it. During my eight weeks, I learned about Marilyn Bridges and her photographs and about museum processes. I was given a lot of freedom with the project, in both analysis and action. I was primarily responsible for research and the selection and sequencing of images for the exhibition. I wrote the wall texts, press information and a short essay that details my analysis of Bridges's photographs, which we published in an exhibition brochure. My work with the exhibition acquainted me with each step of the curatorial process as well as various other museum tasks and functions, such as installation and collections management.

Funding Provided by: Janet Inskeep Benton


Hannah Pivo (2014); Mentor(s): Rebecca McGrew

Adam Overton, The Bureau of Experimental Speech and Holy Theses, and Social Practice

Abstract: The essay “Adam Overton, The Bureau of Experimental Speech and Holy Theses, and Social Practice,” represents the culmination of my research project. As the Pomona College Museum of Art’s curatorial assistant, I contributed to the conception and planning of the upcoming exhibition with Los Angeles artist Adam Overton, entitled Project Series 44: The Bureau of Experimental Speech and Holy Theses. This project explores issues of speech, power, and performance through weekly participatory events for museum visitors led by Overton and his collaborators. Overton engages in “social practice,” a term describing the recent emergence of trans-disciplinary art practices that focus on social interaction as a means of community involvement and public engagement. Social practice is currently thriving in the Southern California art scene,and in the past ten years many Los Angeles area art museums have begun to collaborate with artists and organizations engaging in social practice. Through research, personal interviews, and by working with Overton during the planning of his project at Pomona, it became clear that this type of collaboration poses many challenges to the artists and the institutions involved, yet it also represents some of the most experimental and innovative activity in the art world today. The essay will be published in the Museum of Art’s forthcoming exhibition catalogue in November 2012.

Funding Provided by: Graham “Bud” ’55 and MaryEllen ’56 Kilsby Endowment Fund for Student Interns at the Pomona College Museum of Art