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Every summer the new class of Year 1 Scholars and Fellows attend California State University Long Beach (CSULB) BUILD’s Summer Undergraduate Research Gateway to Excellence (SURGE 1) program. The purpose of SURGE is to onboard new trainees and give them the information they need on a variety of topics that will help them prepare for the graduate school application process. It gives them a solid foundation for preparing for a career in research. This year, faculty from two CSULB colleges led SURGE 1: Jesse Dillon, Ph.D., of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and Perla Ayala, Ph.D., of the College of Engineering. Faculty from a variety of departments contributed, including Kim Vu, Ph.D., and Guido Urizar, Ph.D., both from the Department of Psychology; José Rodríguez, Ph.D., from Communications, and Mara Bird, Ph.D., from the Center for Latino Community Health, as well as many others.
"The SURGE experience was an eye-opening experience that allowed me to decide if graduate school was really the path that I wanted to embark upon,” Madison Kane, a Year 1 Scholar, said. “After completing SURGE, I knew that I wanted to continue my education after receiving my bachelor's degree."
Many of the new recruits learned about CSULB BUILD through fellow CSULB students, including those who had participated in either the BUILD Associates or BUILD Scholars program.
" I learned about the BUILD program through two classmates that were currently in the program,” Norah Nyangau, a Year 1 Scholar, said. “I was interested in the fact that I would be able to work in a research lab as early as undergraduate level and in a lab that I was very fascinated [by]. Already intending to do research and go to graduate school, I was ecstatic to know I would be able to do that so soon."
Others learned about the CSULB BUILD program through the outreach efforts organized by Alex Garbanati, the CSULB BUILD Outreach Coordinator. "One of the BUILD managers went to one of my classes and explained there was a job opportunity for research,” Joel Sandoval, a Year 1 Scholar, said. “I knew it would be a good experience to take advantage of because I had never done research.
One of the benefits of the BUILD program is that it empowers students to totally focus on their research without being distracted by a non-research related job.
"I wanted to quit my restaurant job and actually do something that could help my future," Sandoval said.
The SURGE program helps undergraduate students better understand the process for applying to graduate school, and plan their academic futures.
"Before SURGE, I was unaware of how extensive the graduate school application process would be,” Kane said. “My SURGE experience has allowed me to meet new individuals who are also interested in obtaining a Ph.D. and learning more about the research process.”
One of the benefits of SURGE is that it provides students an opportunity to network with fellow students who are also pursuing a career in research.
"I met a lot of like-minded students who want to do research to better the world,” Nyangau said. “I have learned so much about what research is and how it can be used to help so many people in the world."
The Elevator Speech Contest is one of the unique activities SURGE includes. This provides trainees the opportunity to hone their skills in explaining their research to both scientific and lay audiences.
"Through SURGE, I am better able to understand the process of sharing the research that I do, as well as how to go about getting internships," Megan Walsh, a Year 1 Scholar, said.
And, of course, there is hands-on research in the lab that is an important part not only of SURGE, but of the CSULB BUILD program as a whole.
"I have received authentic lab research experience, and was introduced into the environment of a Ph.D. track student,” Velarde said. “Being part of a program like BUILD makes it incredibly easier to navigate all the steps from graduating with my bachelor’s to being prepared to move onto a graduate degree."
"[SURGE] was an awesome experience where I was able to meet a cool bunch of individuals and find out all the different kinds of research that occurs on campus,” Ruben Luevano, a Year 1 Scholar, said. "I feel as if I was able to get a more clearly defined path for achieving my goals and the necessary steps I must take along the way."
"I have learned about grad school so much more than I ever thought I would this summer,” Sandoval said. “It’s given me a sense of urgency to do better in the fall."
Recent SURGE participants expressed that the program is worth sharing with others.
"I definitely would recommend participating in SURGE, especially if the research world is new to you,” Nyangau said. “I've learned so much about the process of applying to graduate programs and tailoring programs searches (location, mentoring type, research focus) to your preferences."
Luevano appreciated how SURGE balanced both personal and technical skills.
"It helps you get exposed to what it means to be a researcher and you are able to get used to it before the overwhelming workload that comes with an academic semester."