Ohio University

Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF)

two people working in the lab

2021 Program Dates: June 3 - July 16, 2021

The application for the SURF program is now closed. The application will reopen in the fall of 2021.

Program Description

Participants in the SURF program work in an active research laboratory under the guidance of a faculty member with the goal of exposing students to the challenges, excitement and satisfaction of research.

Selection is based on academic records and the appropriateness of the applicant’s scientific interests. Students about to begin their senior year of college are preferred, but promising juniors and recent graduates will be considered.

Participants are provided with room, board, a modest living allowance and up to $350 travel reimbursement. In addition, program participants who meet minimum requirements for admission to the Heritage College, including having taken the MCAT, will be offered an opportunity to interview during the summer for a place in the entering class of 2022.

Required Supplemental Application Materials

  • Two letters of recommendation from natural science faculty who taught you in class OR one letter of recommendation from a premedical/health professions advising committee
  • Official transcripts from all postsecondary institutions you have attended

Instruct your recommenders to include the course(s) they taught you in within their letters. Arrange to have your letters of recommendation/evaluation and transcripts sent to the Heritage College. Documents may be sent through regular U.S. mail, Interfolio, VirtualEvals, the AACOMAS application site or emailed directly to ou-hcom@ohio.edu.

SURF 2021 Faculty Mentors*

You will be able to select up to five faculty mentors below with whom you would like to work. Please rank them in order of preference on your application essay.

*Note that research mentors and projects may be subject to change.

Ronan Carroll, Ph.D.

Control of toxin production and secretion in Staphylococcus aureusand methicillin resistant S. aureus (MRSA). Identification and characterization of small RNAs and their role in S. aureusinfection.


Brian Clark, Ph.D.

The overall goal of my research is to develop effective and implementable interventions that increase muscle function (e.g., muscle strength, motor control, fatigue-resistance) and physical performance in older adults and/or patients with orthopedic and neurologic disabilities for preventative and rehabilitation medicine.

I have expertise and experience with basic and applied science human physiology experiments as well as randomized controlled trials (including phase 1 and 2 trials). As such, my work is in the area of "translational physiology," as it sits at the intersection of the bench and bedside.

Within this scope, my laboratory maintains programmatic efforts in two focused areas: 1) the causes of low-back pain and non-surgical strategies to alleviate low-back pain, and 2) the causes of impaired muscle function (e.g., muscle weakness, fatigue, unsteadiness) in the elderly and interventional strategies to enhance muscle and physical function in elders.

The research across these foci has an overarching aim of developing interventions that remove barriers to independent physical mobility and ultimately reduce disability.


Janet Duerr, Ph.D.

Our research uses a model organism, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, to examine the development and function of the nervous system. C. elegans is a small animal that uses many of genes found in humans to regulate the 302 neurons in its very simple nervous system.

We use genetics (including transgenic animals), molecular biology, cell biology, microscopy and behavioral assays to examine two major questions. One, how is neurotransmission by monoamines (e.g., serotonin and dopamine) regulated by specific genes and drugs? In particular, what are the effects of monoamine oxidase inhibitors (prescribed drugs that increase levels of dopamine and serotonin) on the development and function of neurons? Two, how do epigenetic changes such as histone modifications regulate the development function of the nervous system? In particular, what are the effects of histone demethylases on neuronal function?

We expect that understanding changes in this simple animal will increase our understanding of much more complex regulation in humans.


Berkeley Franz, Ph.D.

My research focuses on health disparities in U.S. communities and evidence-based policy and health care interventions to improve health equity. I currently lead a research project related to the programs that U.S. hospitals use to address social and behavioral health needs in their communities. I am passionate about providing research mentorship related to diversity and inclusion in health care, integrating social determinants of health into the health care system, expanding treatment for substance use disorders and related trauma among children and using both qualitative and quantitative social research methods.

Mario Grijalva, Ph.D.

Tropical Disease Research in Ecuador: Epidemiological, entomological and clinical studies in rural communities of Ecuador.

Activities will focus on collection and analysis of biological material in the field (mobile laboratory) and further analysis of samples and data at the Center for Research on Health in Latin America in Quito, Ecuador.

This experience entails travel to Ecuador.


John Kopchick, Ph.D.

Molecular basis of aging, growth hormone action, obesity and diabetes.


Kevin Lee, Ph.D.

Defining the Intrinsic Heterogeneity of Adipose Tissue: The global increase in obesity is a major force driving the epidemic of type 2 diabetes. Over the past decade, it has become clear that both obesity and adipose tissue are more complex than originally believed. Recent research from my laboratory has found that adipocytes are heterogeneous in nature, arise from different developmental lineages and have distinct phenotypic properties.

The central goal of my laboratory is to understand, at a molecular and cellular level, what accounts for heterogeneity between white adipocyte subpopulations and to study the effect these different adipocyte subpopulations have on systemic metabolism. To this end, we have developed novel cell and mouse models to study adipocyte biology. Knowledge gained from this research will aid in the identification of specific markers and the development of therapeutic approaches to combat the metabolic disorders associated with obesity.

In addition to critical thinking and experimental design, students participating in the laboratory would learn standard molecular biology techniques (gel electrophoresis, PCR, western blot, immunohistochemistry), as well as cell culture, mouse genetics, state of the art confocal microscopy and lineage tracing analysis.


Don Miles, Ph.D.

Responses of ectothermic (cold-blooded) organisms to climate warming, thermal and biophysical ecology of lizards, diversity in mating systems and alternative mating strategies, evolution of adaptive phenotypic plasticity as a strategy for coping with fluctuating environments, ecological opportunity, habitat variation and adaptive radiations.


Thomas Rosol, D.V.M., Ph.D., M.B.A.

The Rosol laboratory investigates the pathogenesis of invasion and metastasis of prostate, breast and head and neck cancer, particularly to bone. Experiments are conducted at the molecular, cellular, tissue and animal level using mouse models of cancer and metastasis. Techniques include bench molecular work, tissue culture of bone, deep sequencing, bioinformatics, in vivo mouse imaging of cancer using bioluminescence and treatment studies. The laboratory also develops algorithms for automated image analysis of histopathology of toxicologic endpoints using machine learning in collaboration with image analysis experts in OHIO's Russ College of Engineering and Technology.


Erin Murphy, Ph.D.

My research focuses on understanding how bacteria control the production of disease-associated factors in response to specific environmental conditions encountered within the human host.

We are particularly interested in Shigella dysenteriae and how this disease-causing bacterium utilizes regulatory RNA molecules to control the production and/or activity of disease-associated factors.

Research in my laboratory utilizes many standard molecular biology techniques including, but not limited to, DNA cloning, gene mutation, real-time PCR as well as western and northern blot analyses.


Corinne Nielsen, Ph.D.

Genetic regulation of mammalian neurovascular development, physiology and pathophysiology. Identification of mechanisms involved in: 1) brain vascular development/morphogenesis and 2) a neurovascular disease called brain arteriovenous malformation. Experimental approaches include mouse genetics, molecular and cell biology and microscopy.


Craig Nunemaker, Ph.D.

Our work focuses on diabetes at the cellular level. Insulin is crucial to maintaining normal energy balance, and insulin is only made by micro-organs in the pancreas called Islets of Langerhans.

My laboratory is investigating what early changes occur in these insulin-producing islets that contribute to the onset of type 2 Diabetes (T2D) in order to intervene before the disease develops. We currently have two projects investigating possible early causes of islet decline in T2D: 1) Islet hyper-responsiveness to sugar. The hypothesis is that islets work too hard to secrete too much insulin relative to blood sugar levels, which causes gradual exhaustion. 2) Low-grade inflammation. The hypothesis is that islets respond aberrantly to chemical factors released by fat tissue in obesity causing islet impairment. Our lab utilizes fluorescence imaging approaches that students can master quickly in order to make meaningful and potentially publishable contributions.


Allan Showalter, Ph.D.

Molecular and cellular biology approaches to the structure, biosynthesis and function of plant cell surface proteins, including the use of genetic mutants and transgenics in Arabidopsis. DNA barcoding of medicinal plants to authenticate plant material and detect potential adulterants.


Soichi Tanda, Ph.D.

One of the research projects in my lab is to elucidate genetic relationships of Clic5a to genes involved in remodeling actin cytoskeleton in mice.

Clic5a is one of the essential proteins to link actin bundles to plasma membrane of stereocilia of hair cells in the inner ear. Thus, loss of Clic5a leads to deafness in mice as well as humans.

To understand how Clic5a works with other actin cytoskeleton modulators, I am planning to create Clic5a mutants with mutations of these modulators for their genetic interaction. Morphologies of stereoscilia will be examined by staining of actin with confocal microscopy.


Melissa Thomas, Ph.D.

Melissa Thomas has worked on addressing health disparities in diverse population groups through community-engaged research and outreach models for over 20 years, with a specific emphasis in rural and Appalachia Ohio. Key focus areas include reducing the burden of cancer among Amish and Mennonite women, identifying health outcomes and coping strategies of food insecurity, improving patient outcomes within the LGBTQA+ community and addressing social determinants of health.