SURF (summer undergraduate research fellowship) is hosted by the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering at UF and provides an opportunity for potential PhD students to participate in a 10 week research experience with a premier faculty adviser and a senior Ph.D. student mentor.
This summer, ABE has been hosting two undergraduate SURF students: Kendrick Hardaway (University of Arkansas) and Samantha Winther (Marquette University). Both are being mentored in ABE by our graduate students Ratna Suthar and Tori Morgan, respectively. Comments from an interview are shared below and offer some insight into the SURF students’ summer experiences.
How did you find out about the SURF program?
Samantha and Kendrick: Applied through a program called ENGINE at my home institution and UF reached out and invited me to Fall Preview when I was able to visit my departments of interest, meet potential faculty and interact with the PhD student mentors.
How did you choose your faculty mentor and what is your research project?
Samantha: Since my background is in Biomedical Engineering, my interests aligned more with Dr. McLamore’s research on biosensors. I’m working on optimizing the parameters of chitosin-based nanosensors for lysteria.
Kendrick: My honors thesis work at UArk BAE is on biosolids as a soil amendment for crops, so I am familiar with the applications of biochar as a water purifier, carbon sequesterer and soil amendment. In Dr. Gao’s lab I get to work on characterizing types of hydrochar and their pollutant adsorption capacity.
How will SURF enable your future goals?
Samantha: SURF was my first research experience and it allowed me to see that I want to stay on the research side whether it’s in academia or industry.
I definitely hope to earn a PhD; my two main areas of interest are biomedical engineering like drug therapy and public health like accessible medical technology.
The connections that I made at UF talking to current students and faculty in other departments about the graduate application process made my experience here valuable.
Kendrick: SURF allowed me to connect with other faculty at UF that would enable me to pursue future studies in sustainable systems. Talking to these researchers gave me a broader view of systems in general, like how we grow food and what happens to byproducts.
My goal is to get a PhD and go into consulting to bridge the gap between the technologies we have and the policies made for the optimal use of these technologies. Eventually I’d like to work internationally, maybe even on economic/social affairs and humanitarian efforts.
Both of you want to do a PhD, how do you think this program has educated you about the graduate student life?
Kendrick: My PhD mentor and lab mentor gave me a good idea of what graduate life was like. I was able to see their daily life first hand and they allowed me to ask questions.
Samantha: Immersion. In the lab, I sit between two grad students and I get to see their daily life – and the traveling they do for research and conferences.
Most memorable time in the Gainesville?
Kendrick: Connecting with fellow SURF students from other states, exploring Gainesville, eating ice pops from the Hyppo, and getting to explore the local salsa scene.
The weekend trips with the SURF cohort and mentors to Rainbow Springs, Lake Wauburg and Kennedy Space Center.
Samantha: I saw the ocean for the first time when our cohort took a trip to St Augustine!
Any thoughts on our ABE department at UF?
Kendrick: Overall the department is very laid back and has a very family-like atmosphere.
What would you say to other students thinking about SURF?
Samantha: Just do it! It’s 10 weeks. It’s a great experience that’s very valuable even if it’s not your exact area of work. Take the opportunity to experience a different university than your undergrad.
Kendrick: I’ve been privileged to spend summers in other countries studying abroad, and coaching basketball but SURF was one of the best summer decisions I’ve made because of the great experience and adventure. UF was already on my short list of grad schools, so when I got this offer, it made total sense to accept it.