Two SURP Interns Discover Their Passion for Research Through Support at Curry

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 U.Va. 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 continues 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 Michael Kennedy, Ph.D the Curry School of Education. The research project entitled "Supporting Middle School Science Teachers' Use of Evidence-Based Practices: Assembling a Multimedia-Based Professional Development Package That Works" examines the achievement gaps of students who struggle in science compared to their peers who are typically developing.

Wisa Terhune-Praphruettam  attends the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) with a dual degree in Psychology and Music Education. Her research interest involves school environments and resources (such as technology) affecting children's brain plasticity to learn.

Question: How has SURP helped you plan for your future?

Terhune-Praphruettam: Everyone has been very helpful by guiding us, and asking questions that are thoughtful and probe us to think more. In meeting with the SURP faculty advisor, we planned our career trajectories. Our advisor asked a simple question about specific things to do to get to my goal. For example, I wanted to increase my GRE score and she pushed me to think about tasks to reach that goal like step by step. And I never thought of that! She was talking more about disciplining myself, and studying in a set schedule instead of cramming. SURP helped me understand the different tracks available and which one would be right for me.

Question: What has been the most impactful for you in terms of the research that you've done in your project?

Terhune-Praphruettam: I've learned a lot! The most impactful would probably be how to conduct research and choose the right methodology. Learning how to do research in way that won't have errors or confounds has been my biggest struggle. I'm learning how to think more like a researcher and conduct research in the right way. Which isn't something that you get from just going to class and learning about the results of studies immediately. Here, you're on your own and a part of the research process.

Valerie Salcido is majoring in Psychology at Amherst College. Valerie is passionate about helping others, particularly kids and those suffering from mental health issues, and she is currently interested in finding better ways to provide resources in schools for kids with special needs.

Question: What has been your favorite part of SURP?

Salcido: My favorite part is the people I interact with every day! The other interns in SURP are great, and I love the fact that we're living with each other and have fun together. I also enjoy seeing my faculty mentor every day, and having discussions with him and the graduate student mentors. Also the entire SURP staff has been helpful, from our residential advisor to the graduate student coordinator. I just enjoy interacting with the people here and I feel like I have a lot of different ways to get their support.

Question: What have you learned about research that has helped you plan for the future?

Salcido: I came into this program unsure if research, like working with data, was right for me. But I've enjoyed it every day! The research I'm doing has an impact—it is something I believe in and it will be helpful to students. I'm helping to create these content acquisition podcasts, called CAPS, that are multimedia tools for kids with disabilities to learn a vocabulary concept. I'm using my creativity skills to create content but also new analytical skills as I examine the data too. So now I'm thinking research is something I can do for a career and that it may be the right path for me!

Terhune-Praphruettam and Salcido are the last group of SURP interns interviewed in the 2016 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