Eleven Illinois undergraduates get real-world research experience at Mayo Clinic

9/30/2021 1:27:41 PM

Each year, Mayo Clinic invites approximately 165 undergraduate students from across the nation to participate in their Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program, which gives undergraduates the opportunity to work at the forefront of biomedical research at one of the world’s leading medical centers. As part of the longstanding Mayo Clinic & Illinois Alliance, Mayo Clinic reserves seven spots each year for University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign students, who are chosen by the Mayo Clinic and Illinois Alliance pre-selection committee.

“For the past 10 years, we have had the pleasure to host Illinois undergraduate students in Mayo Clinic laboratories through the Mayo Clinic and Illinois Alliance. The students selected by Illinois have had a remarkable impact on advancing the science in Mayo Clinic laboratories and this year’s students were no exception,” said Bruce Horazdovsky, Ph.D., Mayo Graduate School of Medicine Dean of Student Affairs, Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and SURF Program Director.

This year, 11 outstanding Illinois undergraduates were selected to participate in the SURF program.  For 10 weeks this summer, these fellows worked in the laboratories of Mayo Clinic faculty on small research projects or as part of ongoing investigations, attended weekly seminars, and tested their inclinations toward a career in biomedical research.

“My SURF experience has shown me the power of biology in people's lives, past just the molecular techniques, said Neha Arun, a student in the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology. “Each advancement places researchers a step closer to altering the lives of thousands of people in a meaningful way, which is even more appreciable when realizing how collaborative research is.”

The fellows were given the opportunity to present their Mayo Clinic research projects and share their program experiences during a virtual celebration on September 13, 2021. LeaAnn Carson, Clinical Partnerships Manager at the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Institute and Illinois coordinator for Mayo Clinic and Illinois Alliance educational programs, highlighted some of the cohort’s experiences, and recognized the great work they did this summer.

“Each of these 11 outstanding fellows not only shared their amazing research projects with us, but also spoke enthusiastically about the many additional opportunities that Mayo Clinic offers to fellows over the summer, including workshops, seminars, and shadowing researchers or clinicians,” said Carson. “Many fellows found these experiences valuable when considering their future career path.”

The fellows participated virtually for the first two weeks this summer, then spent the following eight weeks at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. They were able to work side-by-side with researchers, get a glimpse into clinical careers, and connect and get to know other fellows. “The SURF experience has greatly enhanced my abilities as a researcher and allowed me to make connections with people who are leading in the fields I want to work in,” said Sarah Matatov, a student dual majoring in biochemistry and psychology.

Vongai Tizora, a senior studying bioengineering, offered advice to future applicants or participants in the program. “Make as many connections as possible. The people at Mayo are genuinely excited to help you achieve your goals and will be accommodating if you make your interests known,” said Tizora.“

The 2022 Illinois SURF pre-selection application period is now open. Sign up to receive notifications about the SURF program and other Mayo Clinic & Illinois Alliance news.

For more information about becoming a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow at the Mayo Clinic, visit the Mayo Clinic website.