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Students share summer research at Seven Rivers 

Rochelle Brooks
Students watch a presenter

The Seven Rivers Undergraduate Research Symposium is an annual collection of students from various colleges who come to present research they have done independently from their allotted class schedule.  


Dr. Charlie Lawrence is the Undergraduate Research Coordinator and has extensive experience in research disciplines including biology, biochemistry and neuroscience. Viterbo students at the event are participating in a summer program offered by the university and operated by Dr. Lawrence called “SURF.” 


SURF stands for Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship and is an individualized approach to research.  The SURF program pairs students with faculty for the purpose of expanding students’ skills while examining a topic of interest to them. It is an intensive program in which students commit to either 20 or 40 hours a week to their projects, receiving stipends from the university in the process.  


The SURF term ran from May 15 to July 9, 2023, and students worked extensively on crafting their projects, examining their findings, and creating high-quality pieces of academic literature. There were weekly Brown Bag lunches where speakers from within Viterbo’s community share their knowledge on research approaches.  


Students were evaluated on their progression through a software called “EvaluateUR.” Lawrence says, “We use it to make sure we keep all of the students on track… It allows students to see growth in discipline specific skills and [understanding} research methods.” 


In total, there were 24 oral presentations and 19 poster presentations. Of those, 13 oral presentations and 12 posters were Viterbo students. These students ranged in discipline from biology to cultural studies, and they presented quantitative and qualitative research. Nine different schools had students participate in the event this year. 


There was the option for either presenting research using a poster board or as a PowerPoint presentation. Students who chose to present orally were in the Reinhart Center, Brophy Center, or the Nursing Center, and presentations ran in two sections. The first section was from 11:10 a.m. to 12:10 p.m., and the second was from 1:25-2:10 p.m. Poster presenters were in the Fine Arts Center FSPA Lobby from 2:30-3:25 p.m. 


Dr. Al Giwa was the keynote speaker at the event and presented at 10:00 a.m. on “Healthcare Ethics During the Covid-19 Pandemic.” He is an associate chief of staff, command surgeon, volunteer professor, and Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, among other accomplishments. After he spoke, students were dispersed to their sessions, and the symposium began.  


Dr. Giwa’s presentation was part of the D.B Reinhart Institute for Ethics in Leadership’s ongoing lecture series. It was also in conjunction with Gundersen Health System, Mayo Clinic Health System, and of course the Seven Rivers Undergraduate Research Symposium. Upcoming events in connection with the D.B Reinhart Institute for Ethics in Leadership can be found here. 


Many students find value in doing a summer research term like SURF. Lawrence states, “It might be useful in nailing an internship or a job after they leave [Viterbo]… I think that there is inherently intrinsic value in the process of asking that question and trying to find the answer.”  


The SURF program and its culmination with the Seven Rivers Undergraduate Research Symposium is a great experience for students to learn more about something they care about. Lawrence says, “It’s to give students the opportunity to develop those skills and really to explore an area of interest, a passion, that they might not have had the opportunity to with their other course work.” 


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Noah Nelson, Editor
I’m the Editor for the Lumen. My major is Sports Management and Leadership with an English Writing minor, and I also compete for the Men’s Golf team.
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