University of Dallas science majors are having an outsized impact at research institutions across the country this summer. Close to 50 students are conducting research, and many of them have been awarded highly competitive positions at external institutions. Others are conducting important research with University of Dallas faculty.
“Twelve REUs [Research Experience for Undergraduates], two SURPs [Summer Undergraduate Research Program], two SURFs [Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships], and the quality of the other opportunities represent an outstanding showing for our science majors getting in summer research. Other science majors are doing research with UD faculty. I think it is probably one of the best years ever for UD students with respect to science research opportunities’” said Dr. Sally Hicks, Chair and Professor of Physics.
Dr. Hicks said that research can be an invaluable part of any science major’s education. “These opportunities allow students to attend a research institution, conduct cutting edge research and learn more about the scientific investigative process,” she said. Dr. Hicks also said that the experience can help students discern whether they want to go to graduate school, become a research scientist, or pursue another path.
MacKenzie Warrens (Physics ‘17), said that her two summer research experiences helped her make big decisions about her future. “My first summer research project showed me what kind of research I don’t want to do,” she said. “But the one before my senior year changed my life. I learned a lot about experimental atomic physics and decided that was what I would pursue in graduate school.”
Dr. William Cody, Assistant Professor of Biology, said that most summer research programs are funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), with a focus on increasing the number of STEM workers entering the workforce. He added that although strong letters of recommendation and an effective personal statement go a long way in securing one of these positions, another factor is even more important: “Conducting research on campus during the year has the biggest impact,” he said.
Blake Torrance, a Senior Biology major, is spending his summer at the Medical University of South Carolina, conducting research through their SURP program. He said that summer research is the best way to determine if the lifestyle of a professional researcher is the best path for you. “It is a unique experience that has allowed me to develop a passion for basic scientific research and to be solidified in my own career and professional goals,” he said.
And although research opportunities are available across the country, Dr. Hicks said that the programs are very competitive and require a strong application. “There are many students applying from universities like UD that don’t have extensive on-campus research facilities,” she said. “And because even students from top-tier research institutions apply for these posts, it’s not unusual for hundreds of applicants to apply to a program with 8-10 openings.”
Both Warrens and Torrance agreed that although the application requires careful attention, the process is not difficult. “It basically consists of a CV, a personal statement and two or three letters of recommendation,” she said. Torrance said the key is to stay organized: “I actually applied to 11 programs this summer, so it wasn’t too difficult to get them all done, although the key is to be as organized as possible.”
According to Dr. Cody, summer research can show students what a career in science might look like. “When high school students are good at science, everyone tells them they should become a physician,” he said. “But research experiences are a chance for them to explore their love of science and discover the many possibilities to use the knowledge they gain as an undergraduate student to benefit society.”
University of Dallas biology, chemistry, computer science, math and physics majors are working in the following outside research experiences and internships:
- 12 Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)
- 2 Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP)
- 2 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF)
Other prestigious outside research opportunities:
- Harvard School of Public Health
- University of Nebraska Medical Center
- Franciscan Institute of World Health, University of Claude Bernard–Lyon, France
- Oak Ridge National Laboratory
- Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program
- James Loudspeaker Corporation
- Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama
- National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
- University of Houston
- Sonic Corporation
- MD Anderson Medical Center
- Whitespace Innovations
Several others are conducting research with UD faculty in a variety of disciplines. For a list of physics research projects, click here.
To make an appointment to speak to a career counselor about your resumé, writing a personal statement or any other career-related questions, click here.