Skill Development & Support Broadened Two SURP Interns’ Future Plans

By: Leslie M. Booren and the SURP Staff

Two SURP interns describe how the interdisciplinary research at UVA has broadened their perspective and prepared them for graduate school.

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 continuing 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 interns highlighted here are working primarily with Peter Youngs, Ph.D along with their graduate student mentors, Tyler Woodward and Jason Miller, at the Curry School of Education, CASTL and EdPolicyWorks. The research project entitled “The Development of Ambitious Instruction in Elementary Mathematics and English Language Arts” has the goal of examining how the characteristics of elementary teaching candidates and novice teachers influence their enactment of ambitious mathematics and English language arts instruction as first- and second-year students.

412x412_Sonakshi 1.JPGSonakshi Negi attends George Mason University with a major in Psychology. She is involved in clinical psychology research labs at her university and wrote her honors thesis on “Ecological Momentary Assessment of Weight Stigmatizing Behaviors and Eating Disordered Cognitions.”

Question: How has SURP helped you discover, change or specify your research interests?

Negi: I want to get a Ph.D in clinical psychology and do treatment outcome research and intervention research for severe mental illnesses. My research in the SURP program looks at how well a teacher fits into an institution or administration. Till this program I never knew how interdisciplinary psychology really is. It’s contributed to my research interests to the extent that now I’m looking at things from a wider perspective, not a very specific clinical lens. My project is about elementary school education instruction but there is still overlap even though we are not talking directly about psychopathology.

Question: What has been unexpected so far in the SURP program?

Negi: I knew this was a research intensive program, but I did not anticipate how much focus there would be on personal and career-based development. I thought it would just be conducting research in a lab, but there’s so many resources that they’ve given us to make sure we succeed from the GRE course to fine-tuning my writing, critical reading, analyzing, and presentation skills. If the SURP staff doesn’t have the answer, they’ll tell us where to go to find the answers to those questions!

412x412_Ricky 1.JPGRicardo Canelo attends New York University with a major in Psychology. His long-term research interests include examining the effect of availability of mental health services on maternal depressive symptoms. 

Question: How has SURP influenced your future plans?

Canelo: I am most interested in clinical work, but had definitely been thinking about getting involved in developmental or clinical research. Before I started SURP, I was thinking about education because of opportunities like Teach for America. SURP has exposed me to other areas too. Educational psychology is becoming a bit more appealing to me, and I like it. I don’t know if I would pursue it over clinical psychology just yet but I do know that the educational research is very interesting and very different.

Question: What kinds of skills are you building in SURP?

Canelo: Time management! I’m doing work for my research project, the GRE preparation course, and just trying to like keep my sanity. This program is building up my life skills for graduate school because this is what I imagine it would be similar in terms of the stresses. You have to figure out what to do with all the time that you have, and balance all the tasks.


Negi and Canelo are the second 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