UVA SURP Intern Discusses the Contagious Work Ethic at Curry & How It’s Changing Him


By Leslie M. Booren & SURP Staff

Jose Olais, a 2018 SURP intern, talks about why he chose the Curry School and what skills he’s learning for graduate school and beyond.

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 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 kicking off a Question and Answer series with the 2018 cohort of 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 intern highlighted here is working primarily with Professor Sara Rimm-Kaufman, Ph.D at the Curry School of Education and CASTL, and Ashley Hunt, a graduate student in the Educational Psychology-Applied Developmental Science and VEST programs. The research project entitled “Connect Science: Engaging Elementary School Students in Service-Learning” has the goal of determining if engaging young students in a service-learning project will improve engagement in science, science learning, civic engagement and social skills.


412x412_Jose1_0.JPGJose Olais attends Northern Arizona University with a double major in Psychology and Sociology. His current research interests are educational psychology and the academic development of low SES students and underrepresented groups.

Question: Why were you interested in SURP and what are you most looking forward to?

Olais: I am really interested in graduate school as a next step and I knew this particular program was just one, if not the most important component to become a really good applicant. I was considering other programs, but for me what really made the difference was not just the research experience component but rather the GRE preparation and other opportunities. SURP has an unbelievable network of resources that strives to bring out the best in each intern. I feel like that’s what I’m going to take out the most—I’m not just going to become a better student or researcher but a better person in general.

Question: What skills have you gained or do you think you’ll acquire throughout the program?

Olais: SURP is helping to refine my research skills. This research is more hands-on, more applicable than what I expected. It’s already been my first couple weeks here and I’ve tried or done stuff I never have before. I’m given a lot more responsibilities, which is bringing me out of my shell. I am gaining more confidence in my research skills as I progress in this program, and it's setting me up to thrive in this new environment.

Question: How do you believe SURP will impact or shape your future career goals?

Olais: It’s definitely set the bar high. Just being in this program, I feel like I’m going to come out with high expectations of myself, not just for my senior year or graduate school, but for my professional career. It’s really contagious to be working with and surrounded by people who are driven with such a strong work ethic. I want that, I respect that and I am a fan of that. It’s not just setting higher expectations for myself but becoming an overall better student and researcher.


Jose is the first SURP intern interviewed in the 2018 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 CurrySURP@virginia.edu