Inside USD

URISE Students Mix Fun, Serious Research

Friday, July 16, 2010

Sylvester Luu isn’t taking a vacation from his education this summer. Instead, he’s enjoying the adventures he did sign up for at the University of San Diego.

The USD junior chemistry major is researching the metabolic intensity of an Eared Grebe, a unique diving water bird that USD biology professor Hugh Ellis has done significant research on over the last few years. Luu, who has medical school aspirations, said working with Ellis, who was his faculty freshman preceptor, has been an important experience as he looks ahead to his future.

But enjoying the present, Luu notes, is equally important. That’s why he wants to have some fun and meet new people while he’s learning in the lab.

Enter USD’s Undergraduate Research Inspired Student Engagement (URISE) program.

Thanks to a multi-year grant from Arizona’s Research Corporation and sponsored by USD’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, URISE provides opportunities for students who share Luu’s sentiment.

“URISE provides an open forum and host of social activities geared toward allowing USD summer research students, SURE (Student Undergraduate Research Experience), PURE (Pre-Undergraduate Research Experience), and McNair Scholars a chance to connect with each other and faculty staff during the summer research months,” said Noel Salunga, director of the TRiO McNair Scholars Program at USD.

Julia Schafer, an adjunct chemistry faculty member, leads the program, consisting of nearly 60 students, including Luu, who is in the McNair Scholar program. More specifically, students doing summer research projects in social sciences like sociology, psychology, international relations and ethnic studies are connecting with those studying science subjects such as chemistry, biology and computer science.

The URISE summer kickoff party was held in Frank’s Lounge in the Hahn University Center last month with food, games and flat-screen TVs showing World Cup soccer games. A beach luau in Mission Bay gave several students a chance to go kayaking for the first time.

“The food at the luau was great; it catered to all types of diets, too,” Luu, who is a McNair Scholar, recalled. “It was cool to be in Mission Bay and to be active. It was cool to see the professors who were there, enjoying their time with us and their families.”

Earlier this week, URISE students had lunch and participated in team-building games (pictured, above) and had exercises that discussed time management and goal-setting. Later this month, the group will attend a San Diego Padres baseball game. The final URISE summer event is a San Diego harbor dinner cruise in August.

“If students are more engaged, chances are their research also improves,” Schafer said. “URISE is a great way for students who are doing research to meet other students, learn more about what research others are doing and to have fun.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

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