R.I. Gov. Gina Raimondo to address undergraduate research conference

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KINGSTON, R.I. – July 30, 2015 – Gov. Gina M. Raimondo will offer opening remarks at the 8th annual Rhode Island Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows (SURF) Conference at the University of Rhode Island Friday, July 31, 2015.

The event, held at the College of Pharmacy and Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences (CBLS), is co-sponsored by the Rhode Island IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (RI-INBRE) and the Rhode Island NSF Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (RI NSF EPSCoR).

Organizers expect at least 425 attendees for the conference, which will feature poster presentations of summer research findings in biomedical and life sciences from 137 undergraduate students from throughout the state. The projects include biomedical research, such as the synthesis of new drugs for Alzheimer’s disease and the development of nanoparticles for the treatment of lung cancer. Or, they focus on environmental science, such as investigations into how climate change and human-generated pollutants affect the marine life and ecosystems of the Narragansett Bay watershed.

Through the intensive summer research program, based at URI since 2007, undergraduates gain an unparalleled opportunity to engage with the community of scientific thinkers, according to Jim Lemire, RI NSF EPSCoR coordinator of undergraduate research: “They learn how to navigate the obstacles that inevitably face every scientist, both in their research and in their collaborations with others. They learn that there is more to being a scientist than designing an experiment and collecting data.”

The students work in labs and out in the field, under the guidance of faculty mentors and alongside their peers. The process emphasizes communication and analytic skills, and exposes students to the many career opportunities available for scientists, from the ground floor of new research to the production of biodiesel and pharmaceuticals, or writing about science to convey the importance of breakthroughs.

“For 10 weeks, these students get to live and breathe science, not as an undergraduate trying to make it through their genetics or organic chemistry course, but as an active participant in the scientific pursuit of knowledge,” Lemire said.

The annual conference marks the culmination of the collaborative SURF program, which involves 96 RI-INBRE students and 38 RI NSF EPSCoR students this year. Acceptance to the program is based on a competitive application process run individually by RI-INBRE and RI NSF EPSCoR.

The conference provides undergraduate students from the University of Rhode Island, Brown University, Bryant University, Community College of Rhode Island, Providence College, Rhode Island College, Rhode Island School of Design, Roger Williams University, and Salve Regina University with the unique opportunity to present their research findings to their peers and to the larger Rhode Island community.

With this summer’s class, RI-INBRE has engaged nearly 400 Rhode Island undergraduates in scientific research since 2001; RI NSF EPSCoR has supported 252 since 2007. These students are the backbone of the burgeoning technology- and knowledge-based economy in the Ocean State.

The SURF program is supported by two major federal grants awarded to URI. RI-INBRE has been funded with $61 million to URI since 2001 by the National Institutes of Health to expand biomedical research capacity in Rhode Island, and the statewide program is directed by URI Pharmacy Professor Zahir Shaikh. RI-EPSCoR is funded through a total of $26.75 million in grants to URI from the National Science Foundation.

All Rhode Island students who are actively participating in scientific research are welcome to register for the conference and present their work, even if they are not formally a part of the SURF program. There is no charge to participate or attend.

The program begins at 8 a.m. in the Pharmacy building with a continental breakfast and poster set-up, followed by welcoming remarks at 9 a.m. In addition to Gov. Raimondo, speakers include: URI Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald DeHayes, INBRE Director and URI Pharmacy Professor Shaikh, RI NSF EPSCoR Lead Principal Investigator Carol Thornber, and former INBRE SURF student Craig Irving.

The poster presentation session starts at 9:30 a.m. and will take place throughout the Pharmacy and CBLS buildings. Lunch for those who registered will begin at 12:30 p.m.

For complete details about the event, directions and parking information, please visit: SURF.

For questions about the RI-INBRE program, contact Brenton LeBeouf | (401) 874-9480 | bdeboef@chm.uri.edu

For questions about the RI NSF EPSCoR program, contact Jim Lemire | (401) 254-5718 | jlemire@rwu.edu