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Innovative Education

A Summer of Science

Houston Methodist welcomes undergrads and high school students for summer research internships

With record temperatures, it’s already summer in Houston and college students will soon be flocking to the gulf. But students doing a Summer Undergrad Research Internship - SURI – at Houston Methodist are ready to hit the lab bench rather than the beach. SURI is a rigorous 10-week program that pairs college undergrads with a Houston Methodist faculty mentor in their field of interest. As an intensive training program, SURI provides opportunities for early professional development and career experience in translational research and helps turn highly motivated students into promising future scientists. This year, Houston Methodist received 443 SURI applications from students at 90 colleges and universities and we welcome 77 interns to the program. Through their partnership with Houston Methodist faculty, SURI interns will learn proper lab techniques and safety as they navigate their own study within an active research project. Students will learn about and implement investigative methods, collect and analyze data and learn how to critically read scientific literature and articulate, write about and present their own research findings.
SURI extends beyond the lab and includes events such as a welcome reception, guest speaker presentations and other social activities that allow interns to grow professionally and develop a scientific peer network. The summer program culminates in a poster symposium where students present their results to many of Houston Methodist's leading scientists. In the past, some students have even been offered the opportunity to continue working with their mentors beyond the internship dates and being included as co-authors on resulting publications. SURI also gives interns a preview of the graduate school experience and enriches student readiness for the rewarding yet challenging realities of grad school. “In addition to hands-on experience with research, SURI increases a student’s confidence in their research skills and provides insight into laboratories and faculty members as well as helpful strategies for balancing graduate and personal life,” said Trevor Burt, EdD, vice president, education administration. “An added benefit is that graduate students that interns encounter may also be preparing for postdoctoral fellowships, which can facilitate further networking with scientists at additional institutions.” Not least of the benefits of SURI is that successful completion can bolster a student’s graduate school applications. Intern mentors can be powerful references as they can speak on behalf of the student’s abilities as a nascent scientist including motivation, laboratory skills and problem-solving abilities. Previous interns speak highly of the experience. Alexandra Baskin, who interned with Dr. Martyn Sharpe had this to say about SURI: “Participating in the Houston Methodist Academic Institute’s summer internship program for six years and having the privilege of working in the lab for an additional six months has firmly anchored my goal of continuing with a career in science. This experience has also served as a stimulus for my studies in graduate school. The Houston Methodist Academic Institute provides a fantastic experience for students interested in a scientific career that is second to none anywhere!” New this year, SURI internships are also being offered to exceptional high school students. An addition that makes Houston Methodist’s summer internship program further stand out. Houston Methodist’s Director of Educational Partnerships, Amy Wright, EdD, developed the SURI program and remains instrumental in its success and growth. When asked about the program, her passion for her work was evident, “I’m so excited to have been involved in the SURI program here at Houston Methodist from inception. My vision for SURI has always been to make a real difference in the lives of young aspiring scientists. Having students from local high schools and universities across the US has enriched the experience for not only the students that are here for the summer, but for faculty and trainees at the Research Institute as well. The energy and excitement that we all feel during SURI is infectious and I am honored and proud to still be a part of such a strong and inspiring program.” SURI provides students interested in pursuing a career in science with a prime opportunity to foster their academic interests and ambitions. We are excited to welcome the 2022 interns as they begin their own summer of science. Further information on Houston Methodist’s summer internship programs may be found here.
Heather Lander, PhD, June 2022
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