New summer research program allows undergrads to step into scientist role

Monday, Sep 13, 2021

8 students in Surpint program standing in classroom with Dr. R. Brothers and Dr. Michael Nelson behind them.

“This program was a perfect blend of what you want in an undergraduate research program, with opportunities for both autonomous thinking and collaboration,” shared Natalia Cardenas, a biology major with plans to graduate in spring 2022. “What is really cool about this program is that instead of only shadowing the researcher, I was able to be immersed in research protocols. I wasn’t standing in the corner; I was hands on and being a scientist this summer.”

Cardenas shared about her summer research experience with the new University of Texas at Arlington College of Nursing and Health Innovation program the Summer Research Program in Integrative Physiology (SURPINT). SURPINT had its inaugural year this summer and was founded and led by Dr. R. Matthew Brothers and Dr. Michael Nelson, both associate professors in kinesiology.

The first cohort was made up of ten undergraduate students from various Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics programs throughout the University and across North Texas. The fellows spent ten weeks during the summer pursuing individual research projects in the laboratory with distinguished CONHI faculty. In addition, the group participated in weekly professional development and educational experiences. 

In this format, students not only gained laboratory experience and new research skills but saw firsthand what postgraduate research and education is like. They presented their research at the end of the program, like Abishwor Rai’s project titled “Peripheral and Central Mechanisms of Neurovascular Dysfunction in Human Depression.” This project was conducted in the lab of Dr. Jody Greaney, assistant professor of kinesiology, and investigated the association between depression and cardiovascular disease. 

“Dr. Brothers does an amazing job of incorporating first generation students and students who don’t have the prior knowledge of what research is and giving those students opportunities to work in the lab. It was truly a highlight of my undergraduate program,” shared Cardenas who was mentored by Dr. Brothers.

female student sitting along side of 2 computer monitors showing a project“Having the opportunity to learn more, regarding my fascination with cardiac function, has been a great experience. Working in the lab has truly aided in my personal growth and allowed me to gain a deeper appreciation for research,” shared Julissa Mireles who studied under Dr. Nelson for her project on cardiac mechanics. Mireles is a biological chemistry major also planning to graduate in spring 2022.

Many of the fellows have plans to continue their research or expand on it over the coming year. This is a particularly encouraging sign to Dr. Brothers and Dr. Nelson, and “one that we hope to expand upon to continue to build this program and provide important research-related experiences for undergraduate students in future summers,” shared Dr. Brothers.

“I would encourage anyone who is interested in research to get involved. This program has brilliant and supportive mentors, which makes the whole experience much more meaningful,” said Mireles.