Summer undergraduate research continues in second year of the pandemic


Illustration by Meher Yeda

As the pandemic continues, students in the SURG program will be offered workshops and conducting research remotely.

Kaila Nichols, Reporter

As Northwestern first announced its transition to a remote environment in March 2020, applications for the Summer Undergraduate Research Grant were due.

Though students may not have known it then, 2021’s summer research would look different than they had initially imagined. 

“We gave a lot of guidance and flexibility for students to adjust the project and the overwhelming majority of them were able to do so,” Peter Civetta, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, said.

This year, students had to provide a “COVID back up plan” in their research proposals, explaining how they would adjust their projects if in-person elements were incorporated. Civetta said seeing how adaptable students and faculty could be was one of the best parts of the process.

This summer, 202 students will be conducting independent research for eight weeks in the field of study of their choice. Megan Novak Wood, the associate director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, said that with more in person opportunities opening up, the $3,500 grant will allow students to go back into labs or continue a hybrid or fully remote option. 

The Office of Undergraduate Research also offers a series of workshops centering personal and professional development for those receiving the grant. Wood said the Office found that workshop attendance increased when opportunities were digital.

SESP junior Charlotte Wong, who received the grant for the first time this year, said she found these workshops useful. 

“I think the proposal workshop part really helped set me up for the whole SURG research process,” Wong said. “It refined all of my research in terms of what I (was) looking at and what questions I wanted to answer.” 

As campus opens up in the fall, there may be more opportunities for in-person activities for the academic year grants. Students may also be able to travel internationally next summer, unlike this year. 

Some projects incorporated elements of the past year in their study, researching the ways the pandemic affected daily lives.

Communication junior Joyce Pu, another SURG recipient, is producing a theater piece commemorating the lives of those lost in the last year. She said she hopes to bring the story to life in Evanston this fall. 

Pu said the grant has helped her grow as an artist. Last year, her project was focused on playwriting and research, but now she is working on getting a project realized throughout the summer. 

“I was able to get a lot of the help that I need in terms of grant application and just trying to formulate a new research and all of that, from the Office of Undergraduate Research,” she said. 

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Twitter: @kailanichols07

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