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Norris Foundation Grant Supports Undergraduate Research Program for Third Year

A new $45,000 grant from The Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation will provide a third year of support for Keck Graduate Institute’s successful Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) program. Funding from the foundation has enabled undergraduates to spend 10 weeks in KGI labs with faculty mentors since 2015.

“Thanks to the Norris Foundation, we are able to offer research experience to students from institutions with limited research opportunities, help them develop their writing and presentation skills, and introduce them to the world of graduate education and industry,” says KGI Research Assistant Professor Anastasia Levitin, who oversees the SURE program and also serves as the program director for the Master of Bioscience in Pharmaceutical Discovery and Development and associate director for the PhD in Applied Life Sciences program.

The latest grant will allow KGI to offer the SURE program to 40 undergraduates in 2017, an increase from 32 in 2016. Those from groups underrepresented in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields are particularly encouraged to apply. Selected students will come from the other colleges in the Claremont College Consortium as well as from four-year and community colleges both in the area and throughout the country.

All undergraduates who participate in the program complete a project related to their individual research interests. They also attend networking events, research workshops, and luncheons where they can interact with KGI faculty and industry leaders; visit area medical schools and biotech companies; and are able to receive help with job interviews and applications to graduate and medical programs.

These experiences are producing positive outcomes for the undergraduates. Four students were involved in research that earned them coauthor credits on papers published in high-profile scientific journals. Some have continued as researchers in the KGI labs after the program ended for the summer. Others have been able to use their research experience to complete graduation requirements or be more competitive for admission to graduate programs and medical schools. Twelve students who have taken part in the SURE program are now enrolled at KGI.

“I am proud to lead the SURE program because I see firsthand how it jumpstarts the careers of the students who are accepted into medical schools and PhD programs, or who return to KGI to prepare for a career in industry,” says Levitin.

With a third year of funding for the SURE program, the Norris Foundation extends its generosity toward KGI that began with the school’s inception. The foundation has previously provided support for creation of the Norris Professor for Applied Life Sciences, an endowed professorship held by Ian Phillips, director of the Center for Rare Disease Therapies, as well as refurbishment of the Founders Room at KGI.