SURTP is a three-semester program. Below is a description for each semester and the outreach activities and teaching assistantship components. To ensure sufficient personal guidance, the enrollment of the second and third semesters is limited to 10 students per semester.
Although SURTP is designed for three semesters, you are encouraged to continue your research afterward and submit your work for publication in solid journals and/or presentations for professional conferences.
First Semester: Entering the Field
The first semester includes an interdisciplinary course on cell mechanics in a partially flipped-classroom approach. This course will cover the technical part of cell mechanics, the fundamentals of research, and an integrated outreach service component (see description below).
You are required to read assigned materials before each class, which is composed of light lectures and structured problem-based discussions. The discussions will be centered on topics from the assigned readings. Note that in-class discussion is part of the educational activities. Your active participation and contribution to the discussion will count towards your final grade. Lack of reading or limited participation in discussion is equivalent to not completing the required assignment for the course. The modules in this course include:
- Define Research Problems
- Academic Integrity
- Cell Biology and Experimental Techniques
- Mechanics in Cells
- Mathematical Methods in Biology
- Outreach Activities
- Academic Writing and Presentation
Because this is a partially flipped-classroom format, the instructor will not provide detailed lectures on each module; rather, you will learn the fundamentals through reading and analysis. At the end of the semester, you will write a report on one published journal paper discussing how the paper reflects the topics covered in the semester. A draft of the Spring 2022 syllabus can be found here.
Second Semester: Practice and Progress
The second semester includes a course composed of the following activities.
- Bi-weekly Journal Club
- You will read papers on cell mechanics published in solid journals over the past two weeks.
- You will choose one paper and give a short presentation, followed by a whole-class discussion on the paper.
- Research-Based Learning
- The instructor will provide you some MATLAB codes from the instructor’s previous work.
- You will choose one topic and the corresponding code and will obtain new results by slightly modifying the models.
- At the end of the semester, you will write a report on these new results.
- Exceptional work with innovative and significant contributions will lead to manuscript preparation and submission to solid journals.
- Outreach Activities (See description below).
- Bi-weekly Self-assessment
- You will be required to write short bi-weekly reports to discuss topics such as how you spent your time, what have you learned, what you find challenging, and what needs to be done for the next step.
- The instructor will provide feedback on your self-assessments.
- Bi-weekly Journal Club
Third Semester: Research in Action
The third semester activities will be offered through a directed study course. Depending on your major, you may also take it as a capstone course. You will design and define one original research problem on cell mechanics of your interest and conduct creative research. You will need to discuss with the instructor for approval of your research topics; you can also choose to work with the instructor on the instructor’s research projects if you would like. The instructor will meet with you every week to discuss your progress, challenges, and the next steps. The Bi-weekly Journal Club will continue to occur.
The K-12 outreach activities are part of SURTP for the first and second semesters. You will deliver interdisciplinary lectures on biomechanics to K-12 students. You are not responsible for making connections with local schools; instead, the instructor will provide the names of the schools to you.
In the first two semesters of SURTP, you will design the course materials that you are going to deliver to the K-12 students. Through the partially flipped classroom, you will brainstorm and discuss creative course design in class. The criteria for the outreach course design are: (1) reflect the interdisciplinary content you learned in SURTP, i.e., the combination of mathematics, mechanics, and biology, (2) be appropriate for K-12 students based on their grade level, and (3) align with the curriculum development and goals of the schools. Each outreach lecture will have more weight on one discipline but should have a clear link to other disciplines.
Each outreach lecture follows a Lesson Plan Template with appropriate modifications: for example, introduction (5 min), brain activation (5 min), new information (10–20 min), and clarification (5 min), followed by an independent practice (remaining time) in which K-12 school students will demonstrate their understanding through drawing, artistic representations, or other deliverable measures.
The outreach courses will be delivered at times that fit both the school’s schedule and your schedule. If face-to-face lectures are not possible, virtual lectures will be conducted. Each outreach lecture will be assigned to a team of two undergraduate students.
When you are in the third semester of the program or beyond, you will automatically be a teaching assistant for the first semester’s Cell Mechanics course. You will not be compensated for being a teaching assistant, and the expected time commitment is within the course workload. The main responsibilities of teaching assistants are to hold office hours and to offer peer mentoring.
The teaching assistantship is part of SURTP and is expected to
- provide new students more personalized guidance,
- reinforce the learning and enhance leadership and communication skills for the experienced students, and
- provide student teaching and mentoring experience so that similar skills can be applied to the students’ future careers.