Program directors discuss summer science at Rutgers


Rutgers offers a large variety of summer programs to get students involved in science and research for interested students.

One example is the Aresty Summer Science Program, which aims to bring together students without significant research experience and professors looking for undergraduates to train and assist in their research, said Brian Ballentine, executive director of the Aresty Research Center.

"The Aresty Center has two big areas of focus. One is helping students find their first research opportunity and sort of cross the threshold from the classroom to the research space," he said. "The other goal is to help the students grow as they gain research experience."

The Summer Science Program is open only to first-year students, with the goal of helping students early on in their academic career find labs or projects to get involved in. The best outcome for many students is a home for the rest of their time at Rutgers, he said.

Students are given housing and a stipend of around $3,000, and are expected to do research full time through the summer, he said.

This year there will be a range of openings for about 55 students. Although it seems relatively small and is a very competitive program, Ballentine said it is still one of the biggest programs of its kind.

The professors conducting the research are the ones who select the students, he said. They look for evidence of enthusiasm and interest in the field, such as previous coursework, participation in a club or community activity, awareness of the professor's work or knowledge of the material the professor is investigating.

The deadline to apply is March 7, and the application period will open February 10.

Another summer science opportunity is Project L/EARN, a program geared towards underrepresented students who aim to attend graduate school, said Diane Davis, Program Director for Project L/EARN.

Project L/EARN is a research boot camp with the ultimate goal of changing the group of people making decisions on health policy and protocol, as well as the people deciding what research will be done, she said.

The program is targeted towards ethnic groups that are underrepresented in graduate training, in addition to people who come from a “disadvantaged background,” she said.

“By disadvantaged background we’re talking about socioeconomic disadvantage, a family that lived within 200% of the poverty level, coming from places where kids have had disadvantages (because) of lack of resources in their lives, and yet made it to college," she said.

Ethnicity is not necessarily something the program takes into account, but rather the situation a student came from, she said. The perspective of someone from a "disadvantaged background" is important in making healthcare decisions for people in those communities.

Students in the program work on an individual research paper based on data provided by their faculty mentor. They attend workshops that cover the aspects of research methods and writing technical papers, and lectures to expose them to healthcare, she said.

Many of the interns continue to do research with that mentor throughout the year, allowing the mentor and student to be familiar with each other so the student has a viable reference when applying to graduate school, Davis said.

Project L/EARN is a 10-week long program, where each student earns three credits towards an advanced research course, a stipend of about $4000, a food allowance, free housing and free books for the course.

This enables students who would not normally be able to take advantage of an opportunity like this to do so, Davis said. There is also stipend money available during the academic year if students wish to continue their research.

The deadline to apply is February 8.

“You learn a lot about what you like and what you don’t like by going through a program like (Aresty),” Ballentine said. "We certainly encourage the professors to talk to students about staying on and most professors want that.”

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Madhuri Bhupathiraju is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year majoring in cell biology and neuroscience. She is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @madhuri448 for more.


Madhuri Bhupathiraju

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