University of Oregon Summer Program for Undergraduate Research.

I’m writing to invite to apply to the University of Oregon Summer Program for Undergraduate Research. Our website,, includes links to specific research faculty pages and descriptions of ongoing projects. We have several participating research Institutes, Centers, and Departments:

Institute of Molecular Biology,
Institute of Neuroscience,
Institute of Ecology and Evolution,
META Center for Systems Biology (Microbiology focus)
Department of Biology,
Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry,
Department of Psychology,
Department of Human Physiology.

I encourage you to look at our programs, and I hope you will apply.

Thank you for considering this.

Peter O’Day

SPUR Director
University of Oregon; Eugene, OR 97403-1254
(541)346-5862; (541)346-4548 (fax)

Contact with Questions: Marilyn Drennan
SPUR Coordinator

Gilman Study Abroad Scholarship Writing Workshop

Dear colleagues and campus partners,
The Education Abroad Office, in collaboration the National Scholarship Office, is hosting a writing workshop for students interested in applying for the Gilman Scholarship. The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program awards over 2,300 scholarships of up to $5,000 (plus an additional $3,000 for critical language study) to undergraduates who study or intern abroad for a summer, semester, or academic year.
The Gilman Scholarship Writing Workshop will be this Friday, February 5, from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm in Classroom 2121 at the Grace Street Center (912 W Grace St). Advisors will help students craft an application that maximizes their chances of receiving Gilman funding and continues VCU students’ track record of success in writing nationally-competitive Gilman applications.
​Education Abroad would appreciate your help in promoting the workshop to your students. I’ve attached a digital flyer (as a pdf and jpeg) that can be distributed to students. If you’re interested, you could also post the following blurb and flyer into your social media accounts:
​Calling all Pell Grant recipients! Are you interested in studying abroad for a summer, semester, or academic year? The Gilman Scholarship offers awards up to $5,000 to fund international study for Pell Grant recipients. Come to the Gilman Scholarship Writing Workshop this Friday, February 5 from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm at 912 W Grace Street, Room 2121 to gain tips and advice on how to craft a competitive application. Please contact with questions.

Thank you very much for your support and assistance!

Hannah Moon
Education Abroad Advisor
(804) 827-7882 (office)

Virginia Commonwealth University
Global Education Office
Grace Street Center, 4th Floor
912 West Grace St.
PO Box 843043
Richmond, VA 23284

Joanna Kettlewell: Characterization of HIV-1 Integrase

School: Virginia Commonwealth University

PI: Allison Johnson

Department: Center for the Study of Biological Complexity

Project: Characterization of HIV-1 Integrase

What were the primary factors that influenced your decision to participate in Undergraduate Research? I wanted to build on skills I had learned in the classroom as well as learn how to design and carry out an independent research project, to submit a research proposal, design experiments, keep a laboratory notebook, troubleshoot, to create a scientific poster, and to write a scientific paper.

Did you register for academic credit? Participate in a research program? Or Volunteer? I began working over the summer as a paid student researcher.  To continue the project I had begun, I participated in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities program (UROP) which required writing a research proposal with my mentor.  Following this program, I registered for academic credit to pursue an Honors in Biology distinction which included laboratory credits and the requirement to write a senior thesis on my research.

How did you find your mentor? My mentor was a professor for an introductory laboratory course sponsored by HHMI entitled, “Phage Lab,” in which students isolated and sequenced and bacteriophage from soil.  The laboratory contained a wet-bench semester and a bioinformatics semester. After the course, I expressed interest in getting more involved in research and was invited to work for her on her HIV-1 integrase project.

For you, what were the benefits of a research experience? I benefited from my research experience by becoming comfortable with science terminology and learning to use a variety of laboratory equipment and techniques.  I gained a larger ability to think critically when encountering inconsistent data and issues with experiments.  I learned how to create experiments independently and to maintain a laboratory notebook.  With the help of my mentor, I learned how to properly present my scientific data and findings with the proper writing structure and figures by creating a scientific poster for the Undergraduate Research Symposium and for a thesis paper used to obtain my Honors in Biology distinction.  Without this experience, I would not have had the confidence and abilities in a laboratory setting to obtain a position working for the state public health laboratory.

What would you say to a student who is considering Undergraduate Research? Do it! Explore the opportunities offered to you outside of the classroom.  Many professors are not only willing to take you on in their laboratory but are excited to share their love of science and research with undergraduate students.  You will gain a set of skills that you cannot obtain in the classroom and most importantly, you will find out if research is something you would like to pursue in the future.

At what point in your studies did you start your research experience? I started my research experience as a rising junior. 

Please also provide a short bio below (include a brief description of your career goals) I fell into research by exploring my interests.  I was introduced to the “Phage Lab” course by an advertisement by my general biology professor who taught the course.  I was considering medicine and infectious disease was an area that sparked my interest.  I thought the class was a perfect way to delve into this because it was about viruses that infect bacteria and the implications for treatment of patients with mycobacterium tuberculosis.  I thoroughly enjoyed the course and subsequently participated in HIV-1 integrase research with one of the professors.  I continued to explore other interests in medicine and laboratory science including employment post-graduation in Food Microbiology and Enteric Microbiology at the Division for Consolidated Laboratory Services more commonly known as the Commonwealth of Virginia’s public health laboratory.  I have decided to pursue a doctorate degree with the focus of infectious disease and immunology.  I joined the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine in their Tropical Medicine Ph.D. programs  Fall of 2015.




Jade Kern: The School for Field Studies – Tanzania, East Africa

What were the primary factors that influenced your decision to study abroad?

I decided to study abroad because I wanted a more in depth knowledge of what researchers can do with their degrees. I am a pre-vet student and I have struggled with what and where to go after graduation. I hoped that studying abroad would help open my mind to the possibilities.

male lion photo

What program and destination did you choose and why?

I chose to study abroad with the School for Field Studies in Tanzania, East Africa. SFS has so many wonderful programs geared toward environmental science and biology so I really had a hard time choosing, but ultimately, I chose Tanzania for the big cats. I have always had a passion for large predators and members of the Felidae family and Tanzania had everything I was looking for.


What classes did you take while abroad and how would you compare them to taking courses on campus at VCU?

I was in Tanzania for 1 month and during that time we participated in 3 distinct sections which made up a 3 credit class and a 1 credit lab! The first section was of course the animal research, alongside Dr. Christian Kiffner, we participated in the SFS 4-year research plan. This research plan focused on the interactions of ungulate species and how conservation has effected these interactions (did I mention they even taught us how to use Distance!?). The second section was indigenous population interactions. This section focused on the relationships of native people and conservation efforts. We were taught how to interact through a language barrier and how to conduct research on poaching without offending or causing speculation among the natives. Last but not least, we participated in environmental policy research. Utilizing evidence around potential poaching scenes, we were taught how to identify cause of death in certain animals and how local governmental agencies handle poaching incidences.

For you, what were the benefits of studying abroad?

The benefits are too numerous to possibly name them all! Having never traveled outside the US, this experience truly changed the way I see the world. The culture in Africa is so different from here in the U.S. and it is absolutely refreshing! In Tanzania, smiling and speaking to one another as you walk down the street is considered polite, whereas, here in the U.S. everyone is completely self-infatuated and you are lucky to make eye contact with strangers. This trip fueled my love for research and continues to affect me even after my return.lions photo

How did you fund your trip? Did it work out more or less than a typical semester?

My trip was roughly 5,000 USD. It is a little on the higher priced side of study abroad but 100% worth it! SFS takes care of all of your expenses abroad including food, transportation, and park admission. I funded my trip entirely through scholarships and I was blessed to have family donate to the fund as well. I received the Gilman, VCU Education Abroad, and a few other smaller scholarships which totaled the ENTIRE cost of my attendance.

What would you say to a student who is considering studying abroad?

STUDY ABROAD!!! Yes, in some cases, it is a lot of money, but you will never forget your experiences and it may even change your view of the world as it did mine. Don’t let the finance part of studying abroad scare you away because it is entirely possible to fund your trip and pay nothing out of pocket as I did! J

Please also provide a short bio bellow (include a brief description of your career goals)

I am a biology major here at VCU with minors in Sociology and Chemistry. I have always had a passion for animals but I never imagined going into an animal related profession! My trip to Africa fueled my love for conservation and has helped me gain my position as a Preceptor for VNH lab as well as further research experience with the VCU Prothonotary Warbler Study.  Currently, I am seeking admission into the Virginia-Maryland School of Veterinary Medicine, where I am hoping to pursue a dual degree DVM/PhD which focuses on the ethical treatment of research animals in both the medical and research based areas.

hyena photo

Please provide links to any news articles, publications etc related to your experience

Basil Mathews: Heredia – Costa Rica

Basil Mathews: Heredia – Costa Rica


What were the primary factors that influenced your decision to study abroad?

I was always open to trying new things since childhood and was never too shy to explore unique experiences; this is why study abroad was an amazing opportunity for me. As a student who graduated from VCU with a B.S. in Biology and B.A. in Foreign Language: Spanish, I knew how critical my learning of Spanish in a foreign country would be toward my future endeavor of becoming a medical doctor.

What made you choose your destination?

Choosing Costa Rica was easy for me its known for having great tourist attractions, friendly people, and a Spanish dialect that is relatively easy to speak and understand in comparison to that of other countries. More so, it was great because most Spanish speaking immigrants that migrate to the United States come from Mexico and Central America. Studying abroad in Costa Rica is another reason why this sort of cultural awareness that I have gained will help me better connect with my patients on a more personal level in the future.

What classes did you take while abroad and how would you compare them to taking courses on campus at VCU?

During my 4-month stay in Costa Rica, I was able to take 15 credits of Spanish, which was truly an amazing experience. At VCU, students are usually limited to 2-3 language classes per semester. Taking five classes with non-native English speakers definitely changes the game in comparison. Instructors had higher expectations of us, and we truly had to force ourselves to learn the language and speak it. Towards the end of my trip, I felt comfortable traveling alone from city to city, being able to confidently navigate my way around and ask the local people for help if necessary. During my time in Costa Rica, I was able to take a Spanish Composition course, Hispanic Texts, Latin American Cinema, Analysis of Literature, and an Analysis of Culture course. The professors truly went out of their way to ensure we learned and were fully immersed in the language and culture. Another benefit was when I returned to VCU to take three more 400 level courses, it felt like a breeze!  After speaking the language continuously for four months, it seemed as if I were forgetting my English as Spanish grew on me daily.

What were some of the challenges you faced while adjusting to your host country? How might these challenges help you in the future?

For the first two months I was there, I took a 40-minute bus ride every Friday to a local pool in order to overcome my fear of opens waters and learn how to swim. By mid-March, I had finally conquered my fear and was able to scuba dive for two days up to a depth of 60 feet, viewing the marvelous life that laid beneath. Surprisingly enough, some of the physics I learned at VCU came in handy for this experience. Aside from all the fun and games, I was able to help several kids at Llorente Elementary School learn English. Working with these children and tutoring my host brothers in mathematics and science truly instilled in me the passion and desire to learn more so that I may help others one day as a physician.

How has your experience changed your future academic and career goals?

Through this experience, I have better diversified myself so that I can more easily relate with future patients. The doctor-patient relationship is truly something dynamic. Having complete trust in a physician is absolutely essential if the physician wants to properly and extensively diagnose you; I personally feel as though living in another country and speaking a different language will open up new possibilities for my future. Seeing how a population interacts in a third world country changes your vision on how people relate to one another. By gathering and learning new culturally pertinent information, I believe I can relay this valuable information to migrant patients so that they feel a sense of hominess. This experience could help all doctors out there; studying abroad is a great start to exploring unique cultures.

What were your most memorable experiences?

While abroad, I wasnt able to participate in any medically related experiences such as conducting research or shadowing physicians due to Costa Ricas strict limitations. However, I was able to step outside my comfort zone and boundaries in order to make myself a more competent, passionate person. I took extremes when it came to travel, especially with respect to the outdoor world.  I went camping for the first time in my life, not just once but many times.  I learned how to survive in the woods for several days at a time; in fact, there was one day we walked non-stop for nearly 25 miles! I learned how to rappel down a waterfall, bungee jump, and zip-line as well.


How has your study abroad experience changed your worldview?

Late night discussions with my host family each evening during dinner truly sparked my respect for different people. I realized that not everyone has it as easy as we do in the United States. Hearing the struggles that my family went through in order to come to where they are now truly made me appreciate life once again and not take it for granted. They taught me invaluable lessons lessons that I will always remember for the rest of my life, and lessons that will be useful while I treat patients of Hispanic descent. As far as ethnicities are concerned, most patients feel more comfortable and open toward those of their own ethnicity; by diversifying myself in 3 cultures: North American, Indian, and Hispanic, I believe I can better handle social discussions with future patients. This will ultimately lead to me being a better doctor that is able to more critically evaluate a patients condition.

How has your study abroad experience changed you as a person?

Studying abroad in Costa Rica was something Id always dreamed about, but I never thought it would come true. Living for four months in the small district of Heredia (known as San Joaquin de Flores) was truly life changing in many ways. Overcoming a language barrier by learning how to fluently speak Spanish as well as experiencing the world in a more physical manner greatly influenced the person I am today.

What would you say to a student who is considering studying abroad?

Definitely meet with the GEO office early. Start planning your trip and make sure you apply for scholarships. If youre a premedical student, work with your advisors. Chances are if youre a junior and youre studying abroad, youre going to miss several updates regarding the pre-health committee so make sure you complete the application and submit an online Skype interview request.  Dont be scared- be open to trying out new things.  You only get one shot at life- experience and learn by moving about and broadening your comfort zone.

Joseph Morina: Curtin University- Perth, Australia

Joseph Morina:
Curtin University- Perth, Australia

What led you to make the decision to study abroad?

I first learned about the study abroad opportunities by attending a study abroad information session.  After working closely with Stephanie Tignor, I was able to contact Dr. Richard Oliver at Curtin University for a possible study abroad research opportunity. He willingly accepted, and soon enough I was buying my plane ticket for Australia.

What classes did you take while abroad and how would you compare them to taking courses on campus at VCU?

Typically, students are enrolled in multiple classes during their study abroad. However, I spent all of my academic time performing research at the Australian Centre for Necrotrophic Fungal Pathogens (ACNFP) located at Curtin University. Under the guidance of an incredible post-doc, I ran experiments ranging from gene knockout to growing wheat cultivars.

Elaborate on your research experience.

Pathenogenisis of Pyrenophora tritici-repentis (PTR)

Plant-pathogen interactions are of extreme importance when dealing with economic crops and ultimately national food stores. Tan spot disease of wheat causes significant economic losses worldwide, and is the most widespread and damaging wheat disease in Australia. The disease is caused by the necrotrophic fungal pathogen Pyrenophora tritici-repentis (Ptr), costing upwards of 212 million dollars in lost yield each year.  The ACNFP at Curtin University has decided to tackle this problem using advanced genetic and molecular biology techniques to study the pathogenicity mechanisms of this fungus. During my study abroad semester, I aided in the identification of novel host-specific toxins produced by different Ptr isolates.


Figure 1 Example of a single cultivar treated with culture filtrate to determine susceptibility.

Other avenues of my research included testing new wheat cultivars with fungal toxins to determine cultivar sensitivity, as well as generating fungal gene knockouts that will be used to characterize candidate toxin genes. The goal of this research project, as with all other research projects undertaken by the ACNFP, is to gain fundamental knowledge of necrotrophic fungal pathosystems in order to reduce the incidence and severity of fungal crop diseases, to help guide growers in cultivar selection, and to develop molecular tools to ultimately breed out disease susceptibility. I thoroughly enjoyed being at the interface of practical and applied science, seeing research results make a direct impact on crop yields was a very rewarding experience.

What were your most memorable experiences while studying abroad?

While in Australia, I traveled up and down the west coast, drinking in the beauty and warmth of the sunburned nation. I got to spend many nights in the Australian outback, falling asleep under the stars. I also got travel to Indonesia, where I dove coral reefs, climbed volcanoes, and visited Hindu temples. I was fortunate to meet people from a multitude of cultures. Many languages were new to my ears. More importantly, I got to try foods that hid flavors I had never tasted before. I still keep in contact with many of the people I met in Perth to this day. I will be traveling with friends from Australia this summer.

What would you say to a student who is considering studying abroad?

Go talk to someone at the GEO today. Take a risk!

Ali Skooti: University of the South Pacific – Fiji Islands

 Ali Skooti:
University of the South Pacific – Fiji Islands


What was the preliminary process like when deciding to study abroad? What impact did your program of study have on your decision?

Im a senior pre-dental biology major and business minor. I thought about study abroad during my junior year of college and applied for both exchange and direct programs through the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP). After finishing all the paperwork and finances, I found out that I got accepted to be a direct student (which personally I think is better when it comes to housing). I started my amazing five month adventure on the 300 Island of Fiji. I worked with my biology advisor at VCU as well as the advisors at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji to make sure that all the courses I was taking would transfer back and count towards my pre-dental track. I ended up taking animal and plant physiology for my major as well as economics and financial calculus so I wouldnt waste any credits.  Originally, I had wanted to study marine biology since all the labs would have hands-on experience. Unfortunately, I didnt have the prerequisites for that course. I did, however, have the chance to meet great minds that specialize in this field while working with coral reefs; from them, I learned about coral bleaching and the increasing ocean temperature due to global warming.

figi 1
What program and destination did you choose and why?

Any type of travel and any country you decide to go to will be a lifelong experience full of people and adventures that youll never forget. Personally, I wanted to go somewhere where I could maximize these experiences and try new things for the first time.  I first learned about study abroad through one of the Global Education Offices seminars. I started looking at a list of programs that offered upper level biology courses since I was going to be studying abroad as a senior. Out of all the places that offered those biology classes in English, the University of South Pacific in Fiji was the one that stood out the most, even though it was located in the country that I knew the least about.  The only thing I knew about Fiji was that they had a highly over-priced bottled water; it turns out that this brand is the only bottled water here.  We actually were able to go to the factory to see how the water is filtered through volcanic rocks!

What classes did you take while abroad and how would you compare the experience to taking courses on campus at VCU?

The course load is structured very differently from our system back home. The labs for all the sciences, especially biology, involve a lot of field trips to farms and research centers to apply the things learned in lab to the field. I learned a great deal about coral reefs, coral bleaching and effects of global warming, and the leading research in Fiji concerning the importance of their survival.

What were your favorite things about your study abroad experience?

Waking up to fresh bananas, coconuts, and a quick morning jog to the Pacific Ocean is exactly what I dreamed about all my life. Getting the opportunity to live my dream while going to school has been the best thing to ever happen in my life. Not one student on the trip complained about getting to spend every other weekend at a screensaver resort, as we called it, for less than $15 US dollars per night.

If you want to be on an English-speaking tropical island while learning two languages at the same time (Fijian and Hindi), climb mountains that were inhibited by cannibal tribes 100 years ago, lay on endless hammocks, and dive (with no cage!) with over ten species of sharks, all while studying and learning biology or environmental studies in an interactive way, Fiji is the place to do it.


What would you say to a student who is considering studying abroad?

My advice to students is to plan and save money early, research, and talk to people like me.

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.  -Mark Twain.

Audrey Kirschner: Curtin University- Perth, Australia

Audrey Kirschner: Curtin University- Perth, Australia

What were the primary factors that influenced your decision to study abroad?

I chose to participate in study abroad simply to try something new, to visit a new place, and to see new things.

What program and destination did you choose and why?

As I began researching where to study, I realized that Australia would be perfect for me as a biology student focusing on ecology. I chose the program in Perth because I had heard that the Western Coast of Australia was one of the most bio-diverse and beautiful parts of Australia.

kirchner kangaroo
What classes did you take while abroad and how would you compare them to taking courses on campus at VCU?

When signing up for classes at Curtin University, I was thrilled by the course options available. Of the multitude of options, I chose to partake in Marine Biodiversity, Conservation, Botany, and Quantitative biology. Not only did the classes sound interesting, but once I began the classes I realized they were also highly hands-on. Rather than studying for in-class exams, assignments consisted of writing on a topic or performing various field collections. Although the assignment grading was vigorous, I learned so much more from the assignments than I would have from testing. Of course not everyone is interested in ecology, but Ive heard from other students that most programs are similar in that the students are very involved and interactive in the lessons.

Although I did not partake in any research while at Curtin, I often heard of many opportunities in research. Even outside of the university, there are many opportunities to get involved in various ecological volunteering. I did get involved in volunteering and met wonderful new people through this.

For you, what were the benefits of studying abroad?

Overall, I loved my experience abroad. Not only have I learned new things I likely would not have at VCU (such as the very different flora and fauna), but I have grown more responsible from the experience. Just from being here, I have enhanced my resume and broadened my network. There is not one negative that comes along with studying abroad; it is entirely, from my point of view, a wonderful experience.

What would you say to a student who is considering studying abroad?

Its important to do that extra research as well to find a place that has the right courses for you, and even better, ones that may not be offered at home. As far as other preparations go, its important to get on it early, although I had no problems and the Global Education Office is always very helpful. All in all, studying abroad is a wonderful experience that everyone should partake, in and I would recommend it to anyone.

One thing that I would recommend to students once they go abroad is to get involved in as many things as possible. In most cases you are only here for a short time and you dont want to miss anything. I also recommend trying for a location slightly out of your comfort zone. I chose to come to Australia and although I loved it, sometimes I wish I chose a place that spoke a different language or had a completely different culture.

kirchner perth

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