Research Skills Are Key for SURP Interns in Advice for Future Students

By Leslie M. Booren & SURP Staff

The final two 2018 SURP interns, Myles Arrington and Jamila Salim, describe the research skills they’ve gained at Curry and advice they have for future students.

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 a GRE preparation course, and presenting at a professional conference.

The Curry School of Education is concluding a Question and Answer series with the 2018 cohort of SURP interns that will be released throughout the summer. This series highlighted the SURP program, and the interns’ experiences, interests, and the research.

The interns highlighted here are working primarily with Jamie Jirout, Ph.D at CASTL along with their graduate student mentor, Sierra Eisen from the UVA Department of Psychology. The research project entitled “Spatial Play as Learning: Studying the Development of Spatial Skills Through Playful Activities” focuses on addressing gaps in spatial abilities in young children by identifying how spatial skills develop during preschool years.

412x412_Myles 1_0.JPGMyles Arrington attends University of Maryland, College Park, with a major in psychology. He has worked at a lab investigating culture in the US and in the world and another lab investigating early math instruction.

Question: What research skilled have you sharpened in SURP?

Arrington: I’ve gained a lot of experience with predicting and making hypotheses, formulating questions, working with data, and interpreting data. I’ve also learned a lot about how to put a presentation together, and also how to effectively explain it so I get my point across in a cohesive way. I am working with existing datasets so I’ve had to learn how to look at data, and analyze what statistical methods might be best given the question. I haven’t had a lot of experience doing any of this so SURP has been very helpful in developing those skills which I’ll use in graduate school.

Question: What advice would you have for future SURP participants?

Arrington: Future SURP interns should take the time to invest in their research, challenge themselves with research questions and analyses they don’t have much experience with, and take full advantage all the researchers around them. I also think forming good relationships with everyone you meet is really important whether it’s different faculty from lunches, people in the labs or all the workshop instructors. You meet a ton of people who are willing to help you, and their experiences will also be really useful even if it’s not like the same field that you are directly interested in!

JamilaJamila Salim attends Syracuse University, with a major in psychology. Her long-term research interests include applied behavior analysis, establishing interventions (emotional or academic), and investigating better methods for communication between caregivers and those with pervasive developmental disabilities. 

Question: What research knowledge have you gained in SURP?

Salim: Through SURP and in preparation for presenting at the conference, I’ve been able to go through the whole process of writing up a research study. I’ve gained experience working with SPSS, conducting statistical analyses, doing literature reviews for background info, as well as entering and coding data. I also have learned a lot about organization throughout the research process because I’m using data I wasn’t here to collect. In some of the SURP workshops, like Race in Research, I’ve learned a lot about how to communicate my research and to be thoughtful about how I discuss findings and implications.

Question: What advice would you have for future SURP participants?

Salim: I would advise future SURP participants to plan and schedule out as much of their time as possible. This is challenging especially with all your juggling between your research lab, professional development, GRE, and the conference. But try to keep up on your emails and make the most of every opportunity! You come across so many brilliant people in the program, and you want to take good notes and make connections. This program flies by so I wish I had reached out to more people on my own and scheduled follow up meetings earlier!

Myles and Jamila are the fourth and last group SURP interns 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