Inside USD

URISE Adds Summer Fun to Student Research

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sitting in the “all-you-can-eat” seats down the right-field line at Petco Park last Friday, nearly 50 USD students, faculty and staff enjoyed hot dogs, popcorn, peanuts and soda, an 11-2 San Diego Padres victory and even a post-game fireworks show.

The visible smiles on the students’ faces who, by day, are focused on summer research projects with faculty members in various academic departments, was a good reminder to Noel Salunga why the Undergraduate Research Inspired Student Engagement (URISE) program at the University of San Diego exists.

“It’s a chance during the summer semester for students to get together, get away from the research a bit and just have some fun,” said Salunga, URISE’s summer coordinator and director of USD’s McNair Scholars program.

The program is hosting 78 students, including those in the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE), Pre-Undergraduate Research Experience and McNair Scholars. Students from USD’s connection with San Diego’s Mater Dei Catholic High School science program and a group of visiting students from Western Washington University are also attending URISE events. Support for the URISE program is provided through external funding from individual faculty grants.

Social networking and fun activities drive URISE’s programming and Salunga said they’re useful to “create a community of USD summer research scholars,” which has student representation from both College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Business Administration’s Engineering Programs.

Luis Rodriguez, who graduated from USD with a biology degree in May, is back for his second go-around with URISE as he works on a research project involving the creation of a chimera by mixing two proteins and comparing their activity. This project, which enables him to gain experience in molecular biology, is taking place in the USD lab under the direction of Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Kimberly Matulef, PhD.

But Rodriguez took time away from his research to attend a URISE lunch workshop on Wednesday that provided “professional development” with basic information and a forum for students to ask questions about applying for graduate school. John Mosby, USD’s associate director of graduate admissions and SOLES instructor, gave a presentation (pictured, above), shared his personal graduate school experience and offered tips to a full classroom of students.

“It’s really about fit,” Mosby said, simply. “Find the place where you match.”

Rodriguez will be applying for a graduate clinical laboratory scientist certification later this year, but is taking a few prerequisite courses at other institutions. He attended Mosby’s talk and appreciated what he learned regarding follow-up on letters of recommendations, personal statements and more.

Offering workshops — a second lunch program is scheduled for July 20 with USD Career Services Associate Director Alan Farber on tips for developing a curriculum vitae — is an important aspect of URISE’s presence, but expanding the social networking between students who might otherwise not meet on campus is a win-win situation.

“Working in the science department and the lab with a few others, we have our own little circle and we can’t really expand our networking,” Rodriguez said. “But URISE is a good opportunity to talk to other students about their research in sociology, history and engineering. But there’s also salsa dancing and I can’t say enough about the good food they provide. It all makes for a fun environment. It’s not all work, work, work.”

Salunga said URISE activities this time are a mix of old and new experiences from past summers. The Padres game and the Aug. 4 San Diego harbor cruise are two repeat events. New to the schedule is a Torrey Pines hike organized through USD’s Experiential Learning and Outdoor Adventures program and the aforementioned salsa dancing and tacos night.

There are also events designed specifically for URISE students living in on-campus housing this summer. Activities, including a breakfast night, ice cream sundae making, movie night and cookies and conversation, are being coordinated by USD Residential Life and URISE’s Community Development Resident Advisor, Urzula Milewicz ’12.

The final URISE event is an all-day summer research conference held Aug.11 at the University of California, San Diego. Salunga said he’ll be taking USD students to the event, which will include presentations by students from several local institutions.

— Ryan T. Blystone

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