Scholars who have participated in the Summer Research Initiative consistently rate their experience as very rewarding, informative, challenging, and enjoyable. The program allows them to develop meaningful relationships and connections with their fellow scholars and faculty. They are often able to better articulate their goals for graduate school and expand their knowledge of ongoing research in their field of interest. Please see the following testimonials provided by some SRI alums.
Edwin Rodriguez (2016 SRI) and Drs. Jim Lynch and Jean McGloin, Criminology and Criminal Justice: "Understanding Differences in Public Perceptions of the Police"
During SRI, I learned many things. If I were to list them all, I'd be here forever, so I will give you the three most important things I learned.
1) Graduate School and How To Apply - Before SRI, graduate school had never really crossed my mind. Originally, I planned to attain a Bachelor's degree and then find a job. I had no idea how graduate school even worked and it seemed more daunting than it did appealing. SRI showed me the value of attaining a graduate school education and even provided me with a wealth of resources and contacts to ensure that the application process was crystal clear and that if I ever have questions at any point during the application process, I know who to contact.
2) Networking - Before SRI, my network of contacts was very limited. I was close to a few professors, but besides that, my network was anything but vast. Today my network is flourishing. SRI gave me access into a world of academia I had not known before. I got to meet professors, advisers, associate deans, deans themselves, department chairs, graduate students, and so many more people. My network continues to grow because SRI made sure that I left the program knowing how to contact and communicate with people and how to continue building my network. The networking skills that I acquired during SRI have helped me expand my network into other colleges and programs at the university and I now have a job as a research assistant for the Fall semester in the Sociology department (a department I would have never come into contact with had it not been for SRI) and I was also accepted into the BSOS Ambassadors Program (a prestigious program where a select few are allowed to represent the College of Behavioral Sciences at UMD).
3) I Learned About Myself - SRI is a rigorous program and participants are expected to do graduate-level work. I remember moments during the program where everyone in the house would stress out over deadlines, feel frustrated over the workload that was being thrown at us, and feel desperate to finish the program at whatever cost. There were many times when I felt out of place. Out of the sixteen people who were living in the house, I was the only one who did not see myself going to graduate school. I felt overwhelmed by the amount of work I was expected to do in such a short amount of time and I often found myself saying, "Graduate school isn't for me." Now that the program is over, I can only laugh at how ridiculous I must have sounded. Like everyone else, I found the strength to keep pushing forward. I began to realize that I was capable of much more than what I had originally thought. Before SRI, I knew I was smart but I was never able to take the leaps that others knew I could take. I let the fear of the unknown control my decision-making and school was more of a routine than an enjoyable experience. Today, I am not afraid to push myself. I am more involved than ever at UMD and I have never been so excited to continue furthering my education and graduate school is now a reality worth grasping instead of a distant possibility.
Stephanie Bermudez-Cruz (2015 SRI) and Dr. Alexander Shackman, Psychology: "Neurobiological Systems Underlying Transient and Sustained Responses to Threat"
Being in this program has been a blessing. I wish I could extend my time in it or have the chance in the near future to reunite with some of the people who are new friends. Beyond interacting with others, being mentored in a psych lab and exploring the College Park and D.C. areas, I have learned so much about the graduate admissions process and what research entails, and I made some important self-discoveries. To sum it up, I came in with little to no expectations of what it might be like and, after the first night, I was excited about what each day might bring. I can already feel that it's going to be a bittersweet return home.
Giselle Hernandez (2015 SRI) and Dr. Brooke Bocast, Anthropology: "Modes of Being, Time, and Space: An Exploration of Potentiality in a Ugandan Village"
I am so grateful that I was given the opportunity to participate in SRI. Not only did I develop research skills in my areas of interest, but I was able to make connections with other students who studied entirely different things from me. One of the most valuable takeaways from this program was the network of scholars that it introduced me to and allowed me to build on. Through mentorship, seminars, and support from my peers, this program gave me the confidence and knowledge to develop a competitive graduate application and pursue an array of research projects. I also made some lifelong friends.
Nishel Savory (2014 SRI) and Dr. Matthew Roesch, Psychology: "Impact of Cocaine Self-Administration on Escape-Avoidance"
Participating in the SRI program was life-changing. When I first arrived I was naïve because this was my first experience in an actual science laboratory. During my time at the university, I was fortunate to work in the Psychology department under the supervision of my mentor Dr. Gregory Bissonetteand my PI Dr. Matthew Roesch where we studied the effects of cocaine on decision making. My PI and I had individualized weekly lab meetings to discuss interesting articles, go over my personal statement, curriculum vitae, and anything he thought would be essential for my growth as a scientist. Through these meetings, I learned how to formulate and test hypotheses all while enduring long hours of research in the lab, all of which was gratifying as the research was important and fascinating. SRI also provided trips to the National Institutes of Health, American Psychological Association, and National Science Foundation where I learned about acquiring grant funding and more information on how to succeed in graduate school. During the 2 months, I was able to meet other scholars who are now my lifelong friends, but most importantly, I was able to learn great networking and analytical skills. At the end of the program, my growth and knowledge about research was noticeable. The internship lasted 8 weeks, but the support from the director, coordinator and even my PI continue, and it is motivating me to work harder to become a successful scientist.
Jaime Herrera (2009 SRI) and Dr. Laura Dugan, Criminology and Criminal Justice: "Unattributed and Attributed Suicide Attacks for Quarter One of 2008"
I enjoyed everything about the SRI experience because I had the chance to learn a great deal about the graduate school application process, network with very interesting people, and become familiar with the research process. Plus, I took pleasure seeing the sights in the D.C. area. I was lucky enough to be paired next to Dr. Laura Dugan and her graduate research assistant, James Hendrickson, who both worked with the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) team. My research project focused on the terrorist attacks that occurred worldwide in the first three months of 2008 and tried to answer why a large amount of them were not attributed to any terrorist group. I also worked on improving the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) by verifying the first quarter of 2008 for all correct data for each incident throughout that time.
It was a great opportunity to learn from the very knowledgeable and experienced professionals of the START team. START held weekly Summer Enrichment Series discussions where a presenter from the team or special guests from other centers of research would present his/her interests or work linked with various topics and current events related to terrorism. There were also bi-weekly meetings which also went well because they were a great way to make sure I and the other interns were progressing properly and to see what other interns at START were doing in their projects. Both of my mentors made sure to guide me while I put my research presentation together and gave me great advice. They introduced me to many ideas on terrorism and helped me think about my future career. I found the SRI program very informing and rewarding.
Maria Rodriguez (2009 SRI) and Dr. Rochelle Newman, Hearing and Speech Sciences: "Comparing Monolingual and Bilingual Infants' Ability to Recognize Speech in Noise"
When I initially applied to the program I wasn't sure how it would coincide with my interests, but after taking a Normal Language Acquisition course I became fascinated, almost obsessed with the language development theories and case-studies. While at SRI, I worked in the Language Development Laboratory with Dr. Rochelle Newman of the Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences. I worked daily in the laboratory except for scheduled excursions. SRI allowed me to work with both doctoral, master's and undergraduate students. Besides acquiring research lab protocol along with methodology from Dr. Newman, I was able to utilize her students as resources as well. During my time in the lab I was involved with all facets of daily laboratory activities which included: making phone calls; scheduling appointments; serving as a liaison to parents, and conducting trials. Laboratory conditions allowed me to familiarize myself with programs, such as SPSS, where I have had the opportunity to transform raw data into statistical analysis. The experience illustrated the lifecycle of running a trial; everything from contacting the participant's parents to the final coding of the data. I was amazed at the process of collecting data and its transformation into something that would later be published in a journal.
Even though the program was very intensive and rigorous, it was still enjoyable and informative. My days were comprised of working in the lab and then returning to the dorm in the evening to compile my research project. I did this for two months, having free time only on the weekends when SRI events were not scheduled. For anyone interested in applying, you must be able to uphold the professionalism and dedication that the program requires.
What did I take away from the University of Maryland's 2009 Summer Research Initiative program? Today, I am not the same naive person that embarked on this journey. SRI has matured me, making me more confident and professional. I have received numerous accolades and support from family, friends, faculty and even the president of my university spoke about my experience during his address. I have most recently had the initiative to reach out to fellow researchers and obtained an internship with New York University. SRI has been an epiphany in my life, where I have grown both professionally and personally. I highly recommend this program to anyone and everyone who wants to succeed and make a difference in their lives an the lives of others.
Wayne Taliaferro (2009 SRI) and Dr. Odis Johnson, African American Studies: "Teacher and Student Determinants of African-American Dispositions Toward Learning"
This past summer I worked in the Department of African American Studies with Dr. Odis Johnson researching elements of the black-white achievement gap. We examined student and teacher determinants of African-American dispositions toward learning with a focus on anti-achievement identity, aspirations, and expectations. As an out-of-the-box thinker, the program gave me the opportunity to fully embrace interdisciplinary approaches. However, while the research portion of this experience was very educational, the most rewarding part of this experience was the individualized attention, mentoring and insight from both my mentor and everyone involved in the program. Not only was I given the chance to sharpen my research skills, but I was regularly engaged about the graduate school process with helpful tools that I would not have otherwise received. Additionally, I had the opportunity to work with eight other scholars from campuses across the nation and form lasting friendships with each of them.