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SURF 2023 Participants

Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program

Monday, June 3, 2024 through Friday, August 9, 2024

Dr. Bruce Knutson, Director

Program Poster

Program Brochure


About the Program

The State University of New York Upstate Medical University, College of Graduate Studies is offering fellowships for its 2024 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) Program. The aim of the SURF program is to expose undergraduate students to biomedical research. In an intensive ten-week summer program, undergraduates with appropriate faculty help will formulate their own proposal, carry out research under the supervision of one of our faculty, write a research paper and have the opportunity to see their work published. In the process, students will attend research seminars, present and participate in a student journal club, present their work, and participate in discussions on alternative careers in research and how to apply to graduate school. Students are given ample opportunities to interact directly with many of our faculty and graduate students.

The program runs from Monday, June 3, 2024, through Friday, August 9, 2024.

Each fellow will be provided a $4,000 stipend for the period plus housing.

Applicants to the program should be undergraduate students in good academic standing, who will be between their junior and senior years during the summer of 2024, and are majors in chemistry, biology, or a related field. Applicants must have a strong interest in pursuing a Ph.D. degree in biomedical research.

The main criteria for the selection of fellows will be personal scholarship, academic excellence, and the match of applicant interests with those of participating SUNY Upstate Medical University biomedical faculty members. International students who currently have a J-1 or F-1 visa, and who are already attending school in the United States, are eligible to apply. 

SURF Physician-Scientist Program (SURF PS)

The SUNY Upstate Medical University SURF Physician-Scientist Program (SURF PS) is a special pathway and admissions option for the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF). This initiative is aimed at exposing undergraduates, specifically students from backgrounds underrepresented in science and healthcare, to the career path of a physician-scientist.

Prospective fellows will apply alongside traditional SURF students. Accepted fellows will be exposed to basic and translational science alongside both a Faculty Research Advisor and a current MD/PhD student mentor who is in the PhD portion of training. Fellows will have the opportunity to fulfill clinical curiosity in weekly rounds with a faculty member. The remaining requirements and events are the same as those for their fellow SURF peers.

SURF Cancer Research Program (SURF CR)

The SURF-CR program is another special pathway and admission option funded by SUNY Upstate's Cancer Center. This initiative is aimed at exposing undergraduates to basic, clinical, and translational cancer research, especially those students who are interested in pursuing a PhD (or MD/PHD) in cancer related fields. Prospective fellows will apply alongside traditional SURF students. Accepted fellows will have the opportunity to train in one of several cancer center laboratories with specialties that include i) cancer biology and genomics, ii) cancer prevention, detection, and diagnosis, and iii) cancer treatment and developmental therapeutics. The remaining requirements and events are the same as those for their fellow SURF peers.

SURF Health Science Program (SURF HS) 

The SUNY Upstate Medical University SURF Health Science Program (SURFHS) is another special pathway and admissions option for the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF). This initiative is aimed at exposing undergraduates who are interested in the fields of medicine, nursing, and physical therapy to biomedical research.  We are specifically looking for students interested in pursuing a PhD, MS, MD, MD/PhD, DNP, DPT, MPH, and Physician Assistant: MS.  SURF HS fellows are paired with a faculty member in the Colleges of Medicine, Health Professions, or Nursing to learn more about those professions and to perform cutting edge research. The remaining requirements and events are the same as those for their fellow SURF peers.



How To Apply

  • Complete the SURF online application, including a personal statement of your academic goals and career objectives.
  • Submit an official transcript of your undergraduate study to date.
  • Have two letters of recommendation submitted to the SURF Program. The letters of recommendation may be requested from professors related to your major, an advisor, and/or department chair. [Letters of recommendation can be mailed, or emailed, by your recommender to the program.]

Mail supplemental documents to:
SUNY Upstate Medical University
College of Graduate Studies
SURF Program
Room 3122, Weiskotten Hall
766 Irving Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13210
315 464-4541
FAX: 315-464-4544
Email: [email protected]

Deadline for Applications: February 28, 2024

Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) Mentors Research Description:

Jeffery Amack, PhD: Genetics and cell biology of how organs take shape during embryonic development. 

David Auerbach, PhD: Cellular, animal, and clinical approaches to investigate the susceptibility and mechanisms for electrical disturbances in both the brain (seizures) and heart (arrhythmias.) 

Alaji Bah, PhD: Regulation of Binding, Folding and Phase Separation of Intrinsically Disordered Proteins by Post Translational Modifications. 

Marie Bechler, PhD: Determining mechanisms that drive central nervous system myelin sheath formation and how myelin contributes to function in neurodevelopment and neurodegenerative disease. 

Karen Boschen, PhD: Pathogenic mechanisms of prenatal alcohol exposure using a mouse model of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), focusing on cellular processes and signaling pathways important for early brain and face development. 

Peter Calvert, PhD: We study the mechanisms by which neurons in the retina partition into functional compartments, and how this process is derailed in neurodegenerative diseases. 

Andrew Craig, PhD & Henry Roane, PhD: Our clinical research applies basic learning principles to assess and treat severe behavior disorders and feeding disorders. We work primarily with pediatric populations with intellectual and developmental disabilities like autism spectrum disorder. Our basic laboratory research examines the environmental and biological factors that affect behavior using rats and mice. Areas of particular focus include decision making, relapse, and behavioral deficits in animal models of neuropsychiatric diseases. 

Wenyi Feng, PhD: Mapping chromosome fragile sites in the human genome towards the understanding of the mechanisms of genome instability in disease models including the Fragile X Syndrome and cancer. 

Thomas Gamage, PhD: Our laboratory studies the molecular mechanisms underlying the effects of cannabis and the role of the endocannabinoid system in addiction. Specifically, we are investigating 1) the contribution of minor cannabis constituents on its therapeutic and addiction-related effects; 2) the role of G protein subtypes on cannabinoid receptor signaling bias; and 3) allosteric modulation of cannabinoid receptors and its potential as a therapeutic strategy to treat addiction. 

Brian Howell, PhD: Disruption in Reelin-Dab1 signaling in Autism Spectrum Disorders and Alzheimer’s Disease. 

Huaiyu Hu, PhD: Generating zebrafish models of retinitis pigmentosa by CRISPR to study molecular and cellular mechanisms of vision loss. 

Yan-Jang (Scott) Huang: Our laboratory undertakes the basic research to support the development of candidate live-attenuated vaccines for emerging and re-emerging flaviviruses, e.g., West Nile and yellow fever virus. 

Tamara Jamaspishvili, MD, PhD: The research in the Upstate Pathology Research Core facility focuses on creating improved risk assessment or disease outcome prediction algorithms for cancer patients by using artificial intelligence (AI)-based pathology image analysis methods. 

Patricia Kane, PhD: Mechanisms of cellular aging—what happens to lysosomes as cells age 

Mobin Karimi, MD, PhD: Immunoreceptor signaling during development, homeostasis, and effector function of T cells and NK cells. 

Barry Knox, PhD: Molecular biology of gene expression in the retina and mechanisms of retinal degeneration; molecular basis of tick feeding behavior and Lyme disease. 

Bruce Knutson, PhD: Mechanism of RNA polymerase I transcription and its dysregulation in cancer and craniofacial dismorphologies. 

Andreas Koenig, PhD: We are researching the interplay between viral infection, mitochondrial dysfunction and the activation of innate immune responses that may contribute to systemic inflammation. 

Richard Kopp, PhD: iPSC models of genetic and environmental risk of neuropsychiatric disorders. 

Leszek Kotula, MD, PhD: Genetic and molecular mechanisms of tumor progression. 

Hui-Hao Lin, PhD: Neural circuit mechanisms of feeding regulation in Drosophila. 

Hong Lu, PhD: Liver as the metabolic center, immune tissue, and drug factory for the production and delivery of Biologics. 

Christopher Neville, PT, PhD: Biomechanics: Research focuses on the measurement of joint motion across a range of patient populations and clinical applications. One focus is the measurement of postural control post-concussion injury. 

Reyna Martinez-DeLuna, PhD: Regulation of retinal development and retina to brain connections by the extracellular matrix

Donna Osterhout, PhD: Myelin formation during brain development; repair of the spinal cord after injury. 

Andras Perl, MD, PhD: We conduct research on susceptibility genes that regulate mitochondrial homeostasis, autophagy, and cell death signal processing in mouse models and patients with autoimmunity, cancer, metabolic diseases, which led to successful clinical trials. 

Jessica Henty-Ridilla, PhD: Actin and microtubule crosstalk in cancer and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). 

M. Saeed Sheikh, PhD: Development of tumor markers and targets for cancer therapy, and regulation of cell death and survival signaling in normal and cancer cells. 

Vladimir Sirotkin, PhD: Biochemical analysis and live cell imaging of Arp2/3 complex-dependent actin assembly during endocytosis. 

Harry Taylor, PhD: Our research aims to advance our understanding of the interplay between viral pathogens, host metabolism, and the immune system in the context of both AIDS and COVID-19. 

Saravanan Thangamani, PhD: The primary research focus for my lab is to unravel the molecular mechanisms of arbovirus (Zika, Chikungunya, Powassan virus) transmission by ticks and mosquitoes. In addition, my lab focuses on: (1) understanding the environmental factors contributing to the emergence and re-emergence of tick-borne diseases in New York; (2) to develop novel transmission control methods, including the development of transmission blocking and anti-tick vaccines; (3) to investigate the effect of co-infections on the clinical outcome of Lyme disease. 

Daniel Tso, PhD: Neuronal mechanisms of visual perception, studied through physiological, anatomical and functional imaging techniques: Adult cortical plasticityand retinal activity. 

Mariano Viapiano, PhD: Our laboratory studies malignant brain cancers, with a focus on identifying and targeting novel mechanisms of tumor cell growth, invasion, and treatment resistance. 

Andrea S Viczian, PhD: Understanding molecular networks in frog and mouse early eye formation that when mutated in humans, leads to blindness. 

Guirong Wang, PhD: Innate immunity of surfactant proteins (SP-A, SP-B, SP-C, SP-D) in the bacterial pneumonia model using humanized transgenic mice. 

Thomas Weickert, PhD: Our clinical neuroscience research program uses molecular neurobiological, neuroimaging and neurocognitive findings to guide our research using brain stimulation and/or re-purposed, approved medication as add-on therapies to antipsychotics to improve thinking ability and reduce symptom severity in people with schizophrenia and related psychoses. 

Stephan Wilkens, PhD Research description coming soon. 

Mark Woodford, PhD: Research description coming soon. 

Li-Ru Zhao, PhD: Mechanisms of neurovascular network reorganization in pathological progression and therapeutic intervention in the settings of cerebrovascular disorders, brain trauma, and neurovascular degenerative diseases.