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From Astronomy to Ecology: C-SURP Students Tackle a Variety of Research Projects Across CUNY

September 8, 2011

What regulates the shape of bone cells? How do you make a better battery? What makes brown dwarf stars glow? These are among the many questions asked by the 2011 CUNY Summer Undergraduate Research Program (C-SURP) students, who studied in laboratories across the University. The 10-week program, which culminated in a poster presentation on August 11, enrolled 14 students, who each received a $3,500 stipend for their efforts. C-SURP matches students’ research goals with research active mentors who share their interests. Currently in its second year, it is unique among summer undergraduate research experiences in that students set the curriculum rather than following a predetermined program. Although the students are primarily from CUNY senior and community colleges, the 2011 group contained two students from Bard College.

Antonia Florio, Macaulay (CCNY) graduate discusses her research as C-SURP student Annakarina Marinos and Chathuranga De Silva look on.

Despite being spread across the University, the students kept in touch via a Facebook group, where they posted photos of their labs and the field work. This was particularly useful for Lainga Tong from Kingsborough Community College, who studied an endangered bird species on Buzzard Island, MA for the first month of the program, under the mentorship of Professor Dick Veit from the College of Staten Island. Lainga posted YouTube videos of her work, which was a great way for the rest of the group to learn about her research and methods.

The program supplemented the lab experience with a weekly seminar series held at the Macaulay Honors College. The seminars included presentations by prominent faculty from a wide range ofscientific disciplines—from photonics to ecology—as well as sessions on responsible conduct in research and professional development. The highlight for many

students was the behind the scenes tour of the American Museum of Natural History. In the bone room, the students were able to have an exclusive look at where many rare dinosaur fossils are stored. In the reptile room, the docent was Antonia Florio a CUNY Macaulay Honors College (CCNY) graduate, who is currently enrolled as a PhD student at the museum.  Next year, support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation will enable the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research to expand and enhance this very successful program. More information about C-SURP can be found at http://www.