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Accessibility is Key for Two SURP Interns as They Build a Foundation for Future Research

Published on 07/26/17 in News » Articles

The Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) is a rigorous 10-week internship program funded by the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences as part of the Virginia Education Sciences Training (VEST) pre-doctoral fellowship program.

SURP provides undergraduates from underrepresented populations with valuable research and professional development experiences under the guidance of UVA Faculty. Interns are mentored by faculty and graduate student researchers while conducting research, attending workshops, taking GRE preparation courses, and presenting at a professional conference.

The Curry School of Education is continuing a Question and Answer series with this cohort’s SURP interns that will be released throughout the summer. This series will highlight the SURP program, and the interns’ experiences, interests, and the research.

The interns highlighted here are working primarily with Joanna Lee Williams, Ph.D from the Curry School of Education and Youth-Nex. The project is entitled “Investigating Diversity in Early Adolescence (IDEA): A study of middle school peer groups” and it focuses on school racial/ethnic diversity and peer social relationships.

Dyana Lazo attends California State University, Long Beach with a major in Psychology and a minor in Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies. Her research interests include developmental psychology, family structures, gender/feminism, and educational interventions.

Question: What was the most valuable thing you learned in SURP?

Lazo: I gained a lot of insight into the whole grad school application process, and that will be a foundation for me moving forward. I didn’t really know anything about it coming in, so it’s been really helpful to access resources through SURP to learn how to be successful in applying. We’ve learned how important it is to have a well-crafted personal statement, and just how much faculty value research experience. Learning how to apply for grad school, in ways that highlight my research experience, has been so valuable because it’ll make me a more successful candidate.

Question: How has SURP influenced your research?

Lazo: Through SURP I’ve been able to access qualitative data and get support on how to analyze it. I’d never worked with qualitative data before. At my home institution I worked mostly just with quantitative data, so SURP has helped me realize the importance of all kinds of data in answering important educational questions. Given the foundation I’ve got in SURP, I’ll be looking out for opportunities to do qualitative research in the future!

Briana Williams attends Claflin University with a major in Psychology. Her research interests include social support, racial identity, and sexual minority issues.

Question:  What new skills have you gained in SURP?

Williams: SURP has provided a foundation for me in two big things: how to work with qualitative data and how to present that data. This is my first time working with qualitative data, so I had to learn how to code and analyze it. I’ve also been able to access my mentors, who are incredibility helpful, to learn how to present my research. I gained a lot of more general presentation skills, but also some specific to data and research. These skills will be valuable in grad school!

Question: How will the skills from SURP help your future plans?

Williams: My skills and knowledge now are my foundation, including data skills, being able to talk to different faculty members in multiple settings, and what I’ve learned from different graduate students. Those relationships and the knowledge I’ve gained in working with my research, they all make up this foundation. SURP provided me with a very strong analytical background, which will influence my research later. Moving forward with my research and onto graduate school, I’ll be building upon that foundation.

Lazo and Williams are the fifth group SURP interns interviewed in the 2017 series, and you can read more about the other interns on our alumni website.

For more information about SURP, please visit our website or email

By: Leslie M. Booren and the SURP Staff