Gump to continue leading Undergraduate Program for Trauma Research with Veterans with newly awarded NSF grant

Collaboration between SU’s Falk College, Upstate Medical University and SUNY Oswego focuses on meaningful research experiences, mentoring for students

Falk Family Professor of Public Health, Brooks Gump, Ph.D., MPH, will continue leading a program this summer for undergraduate veterans and non-veterans (five openings for each) interested in becoming trauma researchers. Gump was one of six faculty from three upstate New York universities (Syracuse University, SUNY Upstate, and SUNY Oswego) who ran this Research Education for Undergraduates (REU) program in 2012 and 2013. As one of several on-going interdisciplinary collaborations in the Falk College, the REU program includes faculty members Keith A. Alford, Ph.D., ACSW, associate professor of social work and Dessa Bergen-Cico, Ph.D., CHES, CAS, assistant professor, public health.

The $285,679 grant recently awarded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) will support the REU program for two more years, which is now recruiting undergraduate veterans and non-veterans to participate. Students can earn $3,000 for participating in an intensive four-week summer program from June 2-27, 2014 at Syracuse University.

“During our first year, we admitted non-veterans to fill openings in the program. A serendipitous finding emerged in that we discovered a mix of veterans and non-veterans was a clear strength of our program. Veterans were able to develop a sense of belonging to a ‘traditional’ college group and were appreciated for their unique expertise on a research topic for which they had first-hand knowledge. Non-veteran undergraduates developed a sense of appreciation for the need to develop applied research in collaboration with those that were ‘on the ground.’ Consequently, in our program’s second year, we targeted enrollment to include half veterans and half non-veterans, resulting in increased recruitment for the program,” notes Gump.

The program involves coursework, mentored student-faculty interaction, and development of a research project. Following the program’s summer component, the second phase continues the next semester with research under the continued mentorship of REU faculty. Research findings are submitted for presentation at a national or international conference.

For undergraduates interested in graduate school, it can sometimes be challenging to find meaningful research experiences that offer hands-on opportunities coupled with close work and mentoring with skilled faculty researchers. The REU program is an ideal way to gain valuable research experience while increasing marketability for admission to competitive graduate programs. In addition, the program provides (at no charge to participants) the Princeton Review GRE-Prep course.

“The data from our evaluation suggest this program might serve as a model for re-integration of returning veterans, particularly for those returning to higher education. It offers a unique and valuable research lesson for all participants,” adds Gump.