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Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR)

May 27 – August 1

In 1983, faculty from basic science departments formally established undergraduate research efforts into the program fondly refer to as SPUR.  In 2013, SPUR celebrated 30 years of undergraduate research. Over the last 30 years, hundreds of students have participated in hands-on research and have gone on to achieve many significant contributions to science and humanity. The SPUR Alumni list includes high school teachers, community college instructors, college professors, academic researchers, industry professionals, government employees and clinicians. This summer you experience first-hand how SPUR makes a profound impact on deciding your future. You will engage in robust and diverse research with some of the best mentors in their field. You will interact with some of the brightest scholars pursuing their professional degrees and live in the very environment where research is tested daily in the classrooms and laboratories at the Medical College of Wisconsin.  

There are many departments, centers and individual investigators that contribute to the success of the summer program. Each has dedicated countless hours to provide a diverse and rich experience for you this summer. There are faculty, students and staff that have graciously offered their support to help you succeed throughout the summer. The summer program is administered through the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

There are very few free-standing private academic Medical and Graduate Schools in the country. Over the next 10 weeks, you will work at Wisconsin’s largest private academic medical and research campus. The campus is referred to as the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center. Located on the west end of the city of Milwaukee and, a stones throw from Wauwatosa, the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center is home to Froedtert Hospital, Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, the Blood Research Institute of Wisconsin, Curative Care Network, Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division and more. Approximately 20,000 people work on campus. The exposure to world renown scientists and clinicians will provide many networking opportunities throughout the summer. 

Many in this network include faculty that receive funding through an extremely competitive research grant process from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The challenges to secure NIH funding is more restrictive than ever. Over the summer, many of you will work on aspects of RO 1 grants and have an opportunity to contribute to the success of these protocols. Research projects over the summer include the areas of functional imaging, cardiovascular diseases, genetics, pediatrics, structural and cancer biology to name only a few. This is a fantastic time to participate in the program.

In additional to standard schedule of activities, a SPUR Alumni Committee has plans for incorporating you into the community. We will venture to Miller Park home of the beloved Milwaukee Brewers. Spend a day at the world's largest outdoor music festival on Lake Michigan, Summerfest, and throughout the summer we will engage with students and postdoctoral fellows in friendly competitions. As a current participant, use this opportunity as a platform to network with fellow colleagues, students and faculty at MCW.      

The main reason this program will be a memorable experience is because it's a critical time during which many of you are contemplating life after undergraduate education. The Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences has outstanding faculty resources. You will learn laboratory techniques, improve communication skills, further develop critical thinking skills and experience the scientific culture from a brand new perspective. The faculty mentors have dedicated their careers to a life in academia, to mentor students, and to explore novel approaches to scientific research. In many cases, research will translate and improve overall therapy in the clinical setting. This summer is a critical time for many deciding between future careers in academia or the professional workforce. SPUR is designed to engage you in a network of discovery throughout the summer. For many of the SPUR Alumni, this program has been the tipping point that validated their interests to pursue advanced degrees in the sciences.  

Everyone on campus from faculty in the basic science departments to the technicians in the clinics can serve as a valuable resource over the summer. Engage new challenges and embrace new opportunities and maximize your outcomes. The rest will take care of itself. In order to get the most out of the program you will have to put effort into your experiences: early and often. You're required to contact your faculty member ahead of your arrival, but you're encouraged to find out if there are things you can do prior to arriving on campus. For example, maybe there are papers, journal articles or blogs you can subscribe to prior to your arrival. You're strongly encouraged to have a thoughtful conversation surrounding this topic with your faculty mentor. Anything you can do to better prepare yourself for the summer is encouraged to create a meaningful experience. You will take out of the program exactly what you put into it.  

The Graduate School is dedicated to providing exceptional student support. I encourage you to visit the office to share your research experiences and/or learn about the graduate or medical school programs.

Congratulations on your achievements thus far. I am confident this program will exceed your expectations and validate your interest in pursuing a career in science. 

Again, on behalf of the Graduate School, faculty, students and staff, we are very pleased to have you join us for the summer. 


Guy Berst, MS
Associate Director, Recruitment