SURF SMART

SURF SMART 2022

The application portal for SURF SMART 2022 is now closed.

Applications were due March 1, 2022.

Applicants will be notified about the status of their application in early April.

 

SURF SMART 2022 Graduate Mentor Research Projects

For the SURF SMART 2022 Program, there are a total of twenty graduate mentor research projects from a variety of disciplines. Listed below by discipline, you may consult the project listings here. Please note that applicants to SURF SMART may apply for only one project.

AGRICULTURAL AND RESOURCE ECONOMICS

Corruption in Collusion: Evidence from Public Procurement

Mentor: Qianmiao (Michelle) Chen

Public procurement accounts for around 13-20 percent of global GDP. The large scale of procurement outlay indicates that they are attractive to wrongdoers. Governments worldwide face the challenges of preventing corruption and collusion in public procurement. However, most developing countries do not have data available and are more subject to corruption. The final goals of this project are to detect the non-competitive behaviors of firms in public procurement in China and estimate the number of firms in which evidence of corrupt public procurement behavior is present. The goals for this summer include:

  • Cleaning the procurement data with detailed guidance
  • Collecting and cleaning the corruption investigation data with detailed guidance
  • Doing primary regression analysis for the relationship between procurement procedures and corruption indicators.

Participation in this summer project will enable an undergraduate to improve their data analysis skills, apply what they learn about econometrics to real-world problems, and have a deeper understanding of market competition and political economics.

Required skills: Interest in economics research, willingness to learn data analysis skills

Preferred skills: Experience with one programing language: R, STATA, or Python; one course in econometrics

ANTHROPOLOGY

Collaborative Eco-Archaeology: Evaluating Native American Natural Resource Stewardship on the Central California Coast through the Late Holocene

Mentor: Alec Apodaca

Extreme wildfires plaguing California may have been much less common in the past due to sophisticated cycles of cultural burning by Native people. Indigenous landscape stewardship practices occurred for millennia, and led to the inheritance of resilient, productive habitat mosaics that Native people relied on for food, raw materials, and medicine. Native people living on the central California coast were banned from doing these cultural burns beginning with Spanish colonization and being forcefully removed from their lands and their vital relationship with environmental stewardship. 

Today the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band are collaborating with UC Berkeley environmental archeologists to document evidence of their ancestor’s stewardship practices and use this information to revitalize Indigenous management, re-introduce cultural burning, and restore important plants and animals in their traditional homelands. The summer SURF SMART project will contribute to this effort by analyzing in labs at UC Berkeley archaeobiological samples (such as ancient foodway remains; seeds, nutshells, animal and fish bones, charcoal, shellfish)  recovered from an ancient village in the Santa Cruz Mountains. 

This work will consist of intensive laboratory training in environmental archaeological analysis to quantify data on foodways and cultural burning. This work involves sorting, counting, weighing, identifying, and photographing archaeobiological specimens. The mentee should expect extensive microscope use to sort hundreds of small (<2mm) specimens from processed soil samples, and to learn how to use flotation equipment and chemicals to extract specimens from unprocessed soil samples. There will be some opportunities to assist in data collection in the field and participate in Amah Mutsun conservation activities during the summer. 

This project is for a student interested in pursuing graduate school in anthropological archaeology or any related field such as ethnobotany, forestry, or historical ecology. Background in the history and cultures of Native people and ecosystems of California is preferred.

ANTHROPOLOGY

Bioarchaeology of Portuguese Medieval Funerary Practices

Mentor: Trent Trombley

The proposed project comprises a distinct portion of a dissertation project focusing on the relationship between religious identity in the Portuguese Middle Ages, burial practices, and the physical and chemical preservation of bones. Analyzing preservation rates at both macroscopic and microscopic levels in relation to religious funerary practices is important for understanding how communities engaged with death in the past, and how such engagement may influence their preservation.

Furthermore, systematically analyzing preservation indices — quantitative and qualitative assessments of a given skeleton or bone’s degree of completeness or degradation — is important for characterizing which burials may be at risk today due to urban development.

The goal of the project is to prepare microscopic samples (approximately 40) for histology and analyze them in relation to preservation indices and religious funerary treatments. The mentee will learn how to: 1) section and prepare archaeological bone for histology, 2) analyze thin-sections using various forms of microscopy, 3) gather, curate, analyze, and interpret qualitative and quantitative data, 4) summarize and write up their research findings, and 5) visualize and publicly present their results. 

Histology is a detail-oriented and time-consuming process, so patience and attention to detail are both required. While some laboratory experience and a background in Excel and/or JMP/R is encouraged, it is not required. Basic knowledge of skeletal anatomy or bone biology is strongly preferred. This project contains a strong in-person laboratory component, so applicants must be available to be on campus weekly throughout the 2022 summer. 

ASTRONOMY

Investigating the Relationship between Stellar Mass and Rotation Period  Using the K2 Space Telescope

Mentor: Emma Turtelboom

The K2 telescope observed over half a million stars in the night sky. Some of these stars are in dense “open clusters”, and all of the stars in an open cluster are assumed to be the same age. K2 generated composite images of these open clusters, and in this project you will analyze an open cluster called Ruprecht 147. The goal of this project is to measure how rapidly the stars in Ruprecht 147 are rotating, and compare this to how massive they are. Then you will look at how this relationship between mass and rotation for the stars in Ruprecht 147 compares to those for other open clusters of different ages. This will tell us about how stellar populations change over time. You will generate time-series data from telescope images and search for periodic signals in this data, query a large database to extract stellar masses, qualitatively (and quantitatively, time permitting) discuss the relationship between two variables, and communicate your work to other scientists. You can expect to improve your Python skills, become familiar with the K2 telescope and how we can learn about stars from these observations, learn how to analyze periodic signals in time-series data, and practice communicating your science effectively. While prior astronomy knowledge is not needed, some familiarity with Python is required (equivalent to an introductory class). 

BIOENGINEERING

Application of High-Throughput DNA-directed Patterning to Investigate  the Breast Tumor Microenvironment

Mentor: Sean Kitayama

The breast tumor microenvironment is a highly complex and dynamic system, with different cell types working synergistically and/or antagonistically to support/suppress breast cancer cells. Understanding the role of each supporting cell type (endothelium, cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs), tumorassociated macrophages (TAMs), etc.) within the microenvironment would enable prediction of cancer progression; however, such understanding is currently difficult because there are no methods to investigate cell-cell interactions quantitatively and with a reductionist approach.

During this summer research opportunity, an undergraduate will learn and employ a technique the Sohn Research Lab has developed, high-throughput DNA-directed patterning (ht-DNA-dp), to examine cell-cell interactions in the breast tumor microenvironment. The goal of this research project will be to determine how CAFs/TAMs influence the cellular fate of tumorigenic BT-474 breast epithelial cells at the single cell level. To accomplish this, the undergraduate will learn a variety of experimental techniques, ranging from microfabrication/photolithography in the clean room to tissue culture and fluorescence microscopy in the wet lab. In addition to these skills, they will also learn a great deal about cancer biology, experimental design, and data analysis/image processing.

Prior experience in conducting laboratory research is preferred but not required. This opportunity requires a daily physical presence in the Sohn Research Lab, so the undergraduate must be able to work in-person throughout the duration of the program.

CIVIL AND ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING

Qualitative Insights on the Housing and Transportation Choices of Low-Income Suburban Households in the San Francisco Bay

Mentor: Area Alex Pan

While poverty has been a primarily urban issue, in recent years, focus has shifted to suburban areas. Suburban households under the poverty line face unique accessibility challenges, as they may be further from employment opportunities and have fewer transportation options compared to urban areas. My research uses a mixed-methods approach to understand the characteristics of households under the poverty line in suburban areas, and the transportation and housing choices of the suburban poor.

In this project, you will assist with qualitative data analysis of in-depth interviews and ethnographic shadowing field notes. Your tasks may include transcribing interview recordings, qualitative coding, writing coding memos, and compiling a final written report. Based on my previous experience with qualitative data, I have found that the analysis process is enriched by involving additional researchers, as different researchers each have their own interpretations of the data, so we will work closely together on this stage of the research.

Over the summer, you will become certified to engage in human subjects research and you can expect to learn the benefits and drawbacks of using qualitative data and how these data are used within a mixed-methods approach. Strong writing and analytical skills, along with a passion for research and social equity, are preferred.

DEMOGRAPHY

Mexican (E)migration in the 21st Century: Demographic Changes of Migrants

Mentor: Andrea Miranda-González

Mexican migration has shaped the lives of families and communities in Mexico and in migrants’ primary destination, the United States. However, the size of migrant flows from Mexico to the U.S. has decreased significantly during this century. This project focuses on understanding two components of changing Mexican migration of the 21st century: migrant characteristics and flows from specific origins and destinations. We will focus on the economic and demographic traits of migrants leaving Mexico and will consider the extent that gender is a defining trait. Then, we will look at the spatial redistribution of migrant flows. 

The SURF SMART Fellow will focus on three areas: literature review, a summary of policy changes, and data processing. The fellow will review and categorize selected papers on Mexican migration to the U.S. and will be expected to write summaries and identify how migration research has dealt with female and male migrants. Additionally, they will identify ways in which contemporary immigration policies in the U.S. and Mexico might affect gendered and family migration. Finally, the fellow will gather data from existing sources on characteristics of municipalities in Mexico and of states in the U.S. and will clean administrative data on migrant counts.

By the end of the summer, the fellow will have developed critical literature review and data processing skills, which are fundamental for any research project. Throughout the summer, they will also be mentored in aspects outside the project such as career-related knowledge and graduate school applications. Experience with R or Python is preferred but not required. Flexibility to work in person or remotely.

EDUCATION

UC Berkeley and the Realization of Black (Educational) Desires

Mentor: Caleb Dawson

This qualitative project examines how Black undergraduate students and staff at UC Berkeley make sense of how and whether their desires and needs are being met at Cal. Using interview methods, this project asks, “How do Black undergraduate students and staff members at UC Berkeley perceive the fit of the university to realize their educational and occupation desires?” Answers to this question will inform my broader ethnographic dissertation about what Black people do to improve the lives of Black people at Cal.

The primary objectives I would like to accomplish through mentoring an undergraduate student is for the mentee to (1) conduct hourlong, Zoom-based interviews with at least one dozen Black undergraduate students, (2) code interview transcripts using a qualitative data analysis software, and (3) analyze the coded data through periodic memos and thematic analysis. I hope to collaborate with the mentee on a comparative analysis of the undergraduate and staff data. For example, we might compare the reasons for which the interviewees would and would not recommend UC Berkeley for Black people. 

Upon completion, the mentee will be prepared to present preliminary findings from their data collection and coding, a discussion of the affordances and limitations of our research process, and prospective directions for building on this research agenda. This project sits at the convergence of education, sociology, and Black (feminist) studies. It is a great fit for students who value critical qualitative research and are familiar with Black issues in (higher) education from experience and/or studies. 

Previous qualitative research experience is welcome but not required.

HISTORY

Unearthing Deep Histories of Salt Using Online Archives and Interdisciplinary Approaches

Mentor: Annabel LaBrecque

For millennia, Indigenous peoples across North America engaged with salt resources and valued their centrality to human and non-human livelihoods. Starting in the mid-sixteenth century, Euro-American colonizers sought to co-opt Indigenous access to, knowledge about, and use of inland salt resources. Salt was especially significant in places like the Ohio River Valley, the western Mississippi River Valley, and the continental southwest; as settlers moved into these regions, salt resources (like licks, springs, and streams) became critical sites at which Indigenous pasts shaped power relations in the colonial present and dictated competing aims for the future. To uncover this deep and complex history of salt, this project requires a range of archival, archaeological, ethnographic, and geological materials. 

Over the summer, the SURF SMART researcher will conduct online archival research, collect as many relevant materials as possible, and organize their findings by region. The researcher will mostly explore written-language archives and some archaeological, geological, and ethnographic reports. This project will take place remotely, including weekly Zoom meetings to report and analyze the researcher’s findings. This opportunity will provide the researcher with valuable research, technical, organizational, and analytical skills applicable across other social scientific disciplines and an appreciation and understanding of how historical knowledge is produced using diverse sources and interdisciplinary frameworks. 

No prior experience in archival research is required, though an interest in Indigenous, environmental, and/or North American history is. Helpful qualifications include: (1) experience with Microsoft Excel and/or Zotero citation manager, (2) familiarity with archaeological and/or geological reports, (3) ability to read Spanish and/or French language documents. 

HISTORY OF ART

Curatorial Interventions in Central America from the 1990s – Mapping MESóTICA II: Centroamérica/re-generación

Mentor: Lesdi C. Goussen Robleto

This research project considers major curatorial interventions in Central America from the 1990s by looking at an exhibition called MESóTICA II: Centroamérica/re-generación, which took place at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (MADC) in San José, Costa Rica, in 1996. MESóTICA II was the first exhibition curated within the region to survey emerging artistic practices and aesthetic shifts in the aftermath of the Central American Crisis—a period marked by communist revolutions, armed conflict, and civil wars that lasted from the 1970s through the 1990s. 

Throughout the mentorship period, the SURF/SMART mentee will conduct original archival research related to MESóTICA II and surrounding exhibitions by working with digitized archival materials. Each week will be structured around assignments pertaining to different aspects of the archive to scaffold the organization, selection, and mobilization of archival materials around guiding themes that underpin the exhibition and its curatorial interventions. Throughout this process, the mentee will build an annotated bibliography of archival materials, develop a curatorial checklist of artworks included in the exhibition, and practice critical art historical skills such as visual analysis and translation. Overall, this research project aims to facilitate an encounter with MESóTICA II’s archive to explore how art and curatorial praxis intervene in social and political discourses during this period.

Please note that these archives are primarily in Spanish. Though fluency is not required, prospective applicants must be proficient in Spanish to engage archival materials effectively. 

This research project forms part of my dissertation, which looks at the textile and mixed-media work of the contemporary Nicaraguan artist Patricia Belli against the backdrop of post-war Nicaragua. This project will be critical to my third chapter, which situates one of Belli’s pieces within the context of MESóTICA II to explore how this exhibition served as a foundational moment of regional feminist encounter within contemporary art in Central America. 

INTEGRATIVE BIOLOGY

Biocontrol Evolution in a Plant Microbiome

Mentor: Emily Dewald-Wang

The phyllosphere, the microbiome of the leaf surface, is a highly tractable model system, and is particularly adept for empirical studies on microbial ecological and evolutionary dynamics. One open question is how prior local adaptation on a plant host influences the efficacy of microbial biological control agents. Using an experimental evolution approach, in which changes in populations are measured over multiple passaging events, we previously evolved a naturally occurring, defensive phyllosphere bacteria, Pantoea dispersa, on tomato seedlings. Interestingly, preliminary assays found that this bacterium has evolved increasingly negative effects on seedling health, suggesting a potential degradation of protective traits. For the summer, we will conduct dose-response assays on tomato seedlings to examine how the defensive ability of P. dispersa against the common plant pathogen, Pseudomonas syringae, has evolved over time. Understanding these ecological-evolutionary dynamics in the plant phyllosphere is critical for the implementation of effective biocontrols.

This offers an opportunity to learn a range of skills and techniques, including aseptic bench protocols, microscopy, droplet digital PCR, and data management and analysis. Some basic biology, microbiology, and/or ecology and evolution (e.g., Bio 1A/B or the equivalent) and basic lab skills are preferred but not required. Lab work will be done in-person while data analysis can be done remotely, and there is opportunity for independent work, if time permits.

INTEGRATIVE BIOLOGY

Assessing the Impact of Student-led Inclusive Design Implementation on Perception of Disability in College Paleobiology Courses

Mentor: Taormina Lepore

How is disability perceived by learners, and what role do college courses play in that perception? As a researcher with SURF SMART, you’ll assess the effectiveness of inclusive design on disability perception, using student survey data to uncover more about these important questions. While you’ll be working within the Department of Integrative Biology, this is an interdisciplinary project with skill building in science pedagogy, disability advocacy, and education research. Our long-term goals are to better understand how inclusive creative projects can serve as a vehicle for assessing and expanding perceptions about disabled people in science. The graduate mentor identifies as disabled and neurodiverse.

You’ll practice mixed methods (qualitative and quantitative) analysis of the student survey data collected at Berkeley and three other U.S. universities. The data were collected from undergraduate non-majors biology or geology courses in human evolution and vertebrate paleobiology, based on their experiences with an in-class digital inclusive design project. The IRB protocol is part of the Berkeley Creative Discovery Program which seeks to better understand the broad impact of creative digital projects. Throughout this learning process, you’ll better understand inclusive design methodologies and the impact of producing creative digital projects in general, at the cross-section of disability equity, inquiry-based learning, and digital science communication. You’ll be instrumental in marking and coding themes in a large body of survey response text, and compiling a thematic codebook product which can be used in peer-reviewed publication and conference presentation. Experience with Microsoft Excel VLOOKUP functions, MaxQDA or basic R-package software is beneficial but not required. This research can be conducted entirely online (remote work and meetings).

INTEGRATIVE BIOLOGY

Environmental Factors Affecting Physiology and Reproductive Behaviors in Xenopus laevis Frogs

Mentor: Alina Nguyen

Over 1 billion pounds of pesticides are used annually in the US alone. These pesticides include endocrine disruptors that can adversely affect agricultural workers, low-income families who live in

exposed areas, and consumers. Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) can affect reproductive hormones by altering their synthesis or interfering with receptors. However, there is limited research done on reproductive behavioral impairment in the wild due to EDCs. To address this lack in studies, we will investigate the effects of EDCs on amphibian mating success in the field. We will examine a site in San Diego, CA, where non-exposed frogs exist in the same river as frogs exposed to EDCs from pesticides downstream of a golf course. In order to assess the effects of pesticide contamination in X. laevis, the proposed project entails 1) measuring hormone levels of frogs 2) conducting caged transplantations and 3) performing mating competition trials. The SURF SMART undergraduate will be trained in microchipping frogs, collecting blood samples, analyzing hormone levels through radioimmunoassay, and analyzing field data using R. The undergraduate will gain valuable skills in experimental design, field work, lab techniques, data analysis, animal handling, and problem-solving. No specific skills or experience are required at the time of application, but preference will be given to those with prior amphibian handling experience. 

JURISPRUDENCE AND SOCIAL POLICY

California’s Constitutional University: A Legal History of the University of California, 1868– 1900

Mentor: Michael Banerjee

This is an opportunity for a student interested in graduate study in law and/or history to gain interdisciplinary research skills and subject-matter expertise through work on a legal history of the University of California (UC). Under the on-site supervision of the mentor—a rising fourth-year doctoral student in Jurisprudence and Social Policy, and a graduate of Harvard Law School—the student will conduct original legal and historical research essential to a dissertation on constitutional universities—heretofore unrecognized, world-historic universities chartered by state constitutions and peculiar to the American west—of which UC is one. Specifically, the student will analyze UC Regents’ Reports and relevant appellate cases from 1868–1900. The student will produce a weekly two-page memorandum of findings and a final ten-page synthesis, which can serve as a writing sample for graduate applications. The student is expected to commit three days (of their choosing) per week to the project: two days on-site at UC’s Bancroft Library and one day remote. The student will (1) develop interdisciplinary research skills; (2) acquire subject-matter expertise, including in legal history and constitutional law; (3) produce a writing sample for graduate applications; and (4) gain a lifelong academic and professional mentor. All necessary training will be provided.

MECHANICAL ENGINEERING

The Effects of Spaceflight on the Human Body: The Multiscale Impact on the Intervertebral Disc

Mentor: Shiyin Lim

As NASA prepares to send astronauts on long duration spaceflight missions, it is critical that protocols are developed to mitigate the damaging effects of spaceflight on the human body. One area in need of development is spine health, as astronauts are 3-4X more likely to experience a herniated disc than the general population. Using spaceflight and ground-based mice from the Rodent Research-10 spaceflight mission, I am investigating the multiscale effects of spaceflight on the intervertebral disc. This summer, I plan to characterize the material properties of the discs, examine bone microstructure, and complete an RNA sequencing analysis of the caudal discs. 

The student selected for this proposal will develop skills in microCT analysis of rodent bone microstructure and mechanical testing of mouse intervertebral discs. From this, the student will become well versed in wet lab experience, particularly in sample preparation of rodent tissues, as well as general research practices like hazardous waste disposal, solution preparation, and mechanical testing. While this research experience must be in-person, no wet lab experience is necessary, just a positive attitude, good communication skills, and a willingness to learn.  

NEUROSCIENCE

A New Pharmacological Approach to Treating Mental Illness: The Significance of Homeostatic Plasticity in Mitigating the Development of Neuropsychiatric Disease (Principal Investigator: Stephan Lammel)

Mentor: Natalie Bernstein

The onset of neurodegenerative disease coincides with the destruction of sites of neuronal communication, termed synapses. As this occurs, endogenous self-correcting mechanisms are induced that turn up the gain of synaptic transmission, initially counteracting the effects of degeneration and preserving the flow of information between cells. This effect is termed “homeostatic neuroprotection.” Growing evidence has shown that homeostatic neuroprotection sustains neuronal structure and function, acting as a biochemical basis for cognitive resilience to degeneration and stress.

Chronic stress is a major risk factor for the development of depression. A growing body of literature has implicated a region of the brain called the lateral habenula (LHb) in the development of major depression. The LHb has become recognized as the “antireward center” and targets all midbrain neuromodulatory systems, including serotonergic and dopaminergic circuits.

The overarching objective of this project is to determine the therapeutic potential of homeostatic neuroprotection as a means to promote brain resilience by mitigating LHb hyperactivity, with direct relevance to the treatment of symptoms of neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression. The potential for broad therapeutic relevance establishes this work as groundbreaking. Currently, there are no therapeutics on the market that specifically target the biochemical basis of brain resilience.

The ideal candidate for this project is someone who has a passion for neuroscience, cutting edge techniques, and critical thinking. The candidate should also have some lab experience with biology or computer science. The student will have the opportunity to perform stereotaxic injections, behavioral assays, fluorescent microscopy, and/or computational analysis of large data sets.

NEUROSCIENCE

Improving Cognitive Decline in Alzheimer’s Disease through a Novel Light Stimulation

Mentor: Madison Browne

My research seeks to understand why disparate brain disorders and diseases present similar circadian, cognitive, neuroimmune, and brain wave oscillation abnormalities. For example, both neurodevelopmental disorders and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, show disruptions in gamma wave oscillatory activity associated with cognition. 

My current study aims to isolate gamma wave oscillations (40Hz) as a target for therapeutic intervention by treating an Alzheimer’s disease mouse model with a non-invasive gamma wave light therapy. We are validating two versions of this visual oscillation technology and characterizing brain and behavioral effects. My pilot study revealed that our lighting induces positive changes in cognition and may lower stress levels in the Alzheimer’s mice. 

The summer of 2022 follow-up experiments will deepen our understanding of neuroinflammatory markers and circadian changes at the gene expression level. My mentee will learn in-depth laboratory techniques at the cell and tissue-levels, animal handling and behavioral analysis, and molecular biological assays and screens. 

Students in biology of any subdiscipline, neuroscience, or psychology would be ideal candidates, but all are welcome to apply. This is a rare opportunity to delve into a brand-new field at the forefront of technological innovation, while still closing gaps in basic science. 

NUTRITIONAL SCIENCES

Using CRISPRi to Investigate BBSome Proteins in MC4R Neurons

Mentor: Abbey Diener

Melanocortin 4 Receptor (MC4R) expressing neurons are key to body weight regulation. Mutations in the MC4R gene are the leading cause of monogenic obesity in humans. Recent work from our lab identifies that MC4R’s subcellular location at the primary cilium is essential for MC4R’s regulation of body weight. Bardet-Biedl syndrome (BBS) is a genetic disorder resulting in disrupted primary cilia function. Some of the genes implicated in BBS form a protein complex (BBSome) that controls trafficking into and out of the primary cilia. Among other characteristics, BBS patients display central obesity. Our lab specializes in the neuronal primary cilia and the genetics of human obesity. We hypothesize that disrupted primary cilia protein trafficking due to mutations in BBSome genes impairs the ciliary localization of MC4R resulting in obesity.          

As a SURF SMART scholar working on this project, you will use CRISPR-interference to downregulate BBSome proteins in MC4R neurons. You will use a system developed as part of my dissertation project that enables in vivo delivery of CRISPRi to specific neurons. Your goal will be to determine if downregulation of BBSome proteins affects the subcellular localization of MC4R. To complete this project, you will receive hands-on training in molecular biology, cell culture and mouse handling techniques. 

This will be an excellent opportunity to experience biomedical research—ideal for a student considering graduate or medical school. Our lab space is at the UCSF Parnassus Campus. The SURF SMART scholar selected for this project will be expected to be in lab in person.  No prior experience with mice necessary. Basic lab skills (pipetting, solution preparation) and familiarity with genetics preferred. 

PSYCHOLOGY

How does memory capacity impact motor learning?

Mentor: Jonathan Tsay

How does our memory capacity impact our ability to learn new motor skills, like dancing or playing an instrument? Specifically, why is it harder to learn many new movement patterns at once? Is it better to learn new movements more sequentially, or is it better to learn new movements more in parallel? I will be looking for a research assistant who will help me answer these questions by designing and implementing behavioral studies in humans (try an experiment here: https://multiclamp-c2.web.app/). 

The mentee will learn how to design and conduct in-person and web-based motor learning experiments using equipment for high resolution movement tracking. The mentee will also be expected to analyze kinematic data using software packages like R or Python, and lead journal clubs/attend weekly lab meetings. At the end of the summer, the mentee will be expected to produce a research poster that summarizes their results and will be encouraged to disseminate their findings during a motor learning conference in the Fall. 

Required skills: Computer programming skills in MATLAB, R, JavaScript, or python. 

Preferred skills: Experience with experimental design in human behavior. Interest in pursuing graduate school.    

SOCIAL WELFARE

Challenging Mass Immigration Detention: Race, Class, and Collective Action

Mentor: Douglas Epps

The United States has increasingly relied on human confinement to manage immigration despite a large body of evidence showing that it inflicts a wide degree of harms upon noncitizen community members and their families. Focusing on the American electorate as a key mechanism for policy change, this SURF-SMART project examines the social forces driving mass detention and explores actionable, evidence- based solutions intended to mitigate harm. Community-based case management alternatives offer a realistic pathway that may reshape the current system characterized by ineffective notions of punishment and deterrence. The main study employs a nationwide survey experiment that examines whether race-class fusion communication strategies can mobilize collective action in pursuit of an immigration system that preserves liberty, dignity, and the value of familial bonds.

A self-driven research assistant may have opportunities to learn implementation of research methods; searching, synthesizing, and annotating for literature review; quantitative data entry/cleaning/analysis/interpretation; scholarly writing for peer review journal submission; facilitating cognitive interviews and focus groups with the Xlab; survey instrument design/implementation, and more. The stage of research (e.g., data collection) at time of program launch may impact the availability of certain opportunities. Effort will be made to align assigned tasks with the SURF SMART fellow’s areas of interest.

Desired qualifications: excellent time management, academic writing, and communication skills; ability to work independently or collaboratively in remote or in- person environments; proficiency with STATA data analysis software (cleaning, coding, etc.). Knowledge of and passion for advancing immigrant, racial, and/or socioeconomic justice.