Local Students Earn State Undergraduate Research Fellowships

Arkansas funded program is designed to encourage original research by undergraduate students at state colleges and universities. FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Grady Dunlap, of Mt. Juliet, an honors biomedical engineering major in the College of Engineering at the University of Arkansas, recently received a State Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. He will use funding from the fellowship to complete a research project entitled, “Development of an Injectable Matrix Gel for Shoulder Cuff Repair.” He is the son of Brett and Amy Dunlap. Students must have an excellent academic record and the support of a faculty mentor to be eligible to apply to the program. To be considered for an award, students must submit a detailed research proposal and letters of recommendation from faculty. Dunlap’s research mentor is Jeffrey Wolchok, assistant professor of biomedical engineering. “I currently work as a member of Dr. Wolchok's research lab exploring skeletal muscle tissue regeneration via extracellular matrix implantation, specifically through the creation and testing of an injectable extracellular matrix gel,” said Dunlap. “I am fortunate to have the opportunity to contribute to Dr. Wolchok's research thanks to the SURF grant, and to learn under his mentorship in such an exciting field.” The SURF program was originally created in 1992 with start-up funding from the National Science Foundation and is now funded by the state of Arkansas. It is designed to encourage original research by undergraduate students at colleges and universities in Arkansas and gives students the opportunity to complete a research project of their own design under the guidance of a faculty mentor. The program awards selected students a stipend and travel funds, which can be used for research-related travel and to present research at a professional conference. Faculty mentors also receive a small stipend. “The SURF program is an exceptional state initiative, allowing undergraduates to participate in discovery in ways that can really change their focus and their careers,” said Jim Coleman, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Arkansas. “Students and faculty mentors across the state work together on exciting research that can lead to new knowledge and that may have implications across the globe. All the students who participate will go on to present their work at state or national conferences and many have even co-authored papers for national journals. Such an experience can be transformational, launching students on to pathways towards graduate study or professional careers that they may not have even imagined before the SURF experience. It is wonderful for the student, and important for the state.” The University of Arkansas’ Office of Nationally Competitive Awards works in partnership with the Honors College, the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, and academic departments across campus to advise UA students on SURF grants. The SURF program is administered and funded through the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, with individual colleges and universities providing matching funds. Many SURF recipients present their research at the annual Arkansas Undergraduate Research Conference held at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia.

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