The RAM Program's Summer Undergraduate Research Institute Cultivates Community-Focused Research 

Now in its third successful year, Farmingdale State College’s (FSC) Research Aligned Mentorship (RAM) Program's Summer Undergraduate Research Institute (SURI) hosted 55 students who studied a range of community-focused topics including health science, green engineering, machine learning and environmental education.  

“The RAM Program is all about exposing students to research and the opportunities associated with it,” said Research Aligned Mentorship (RAM) Program Director Dylan Gafarian, Ed.D. “SURI is designed as a steppingstone for students to enhance their skillset in basic research methodologies under the guidance and mentorship of some of the best faculty members in that field.” 

The program, which ran from June 14 to August 9, divided students into 12 research cohorts led by 18 FSC faculty members.  

Founded in the summer of 2020, the Summer Undergraduate Research Institute (SURI) was created as a response to the pandemic and the shutdown that impacted “so many wonderful external research opportunities our students normally attended over the summer,” said Gafarian. “For many, this is their first formalized undergraduate research experience.” 

The College-wide initiative, which provides support for students in nearly all of the College’s undergraduate academic disciplines, recently concluded with the SURI Symposium, held in the Campus Center Ballroom.  

Highlights from this summer’s research include the cohort led by Professor Christine Freaney and Collection Development Librarian Fatoma Rad. These students studied client data shared by the Ali Forney Center (AFC), a New York City-based nonprofit that works to protect LGBTQ+ young people from homelessness and empower them with the tools needed to live independently. The research included HIV prevention medication (PrEP and PEP) use and culminated in a published American Public Health Association abstract. 

“It’s something [researchers] have never looked at,” said Freaney. “This is a great opportunity for our RAM students to study this and to show the impact of PrEP and PEP use and the value of interventions like AFC, an organization that helps so many who wouldn’t have access to lifesaving services. I believe in the work that they do.”  

The cohort led by Professor Eugene Kwak spent the summer on campus reviving FSC’s Giving Garden alongside Island Harvest, a Melville-based nonprofit focused on hunger-relief. The students grew a variety of vegetables and studied the mental and biological health benefits from gardening, including variables such as sun exposure, and the physical labor required for planting and harvesting. Kwak also noted that because his students shared a variety of backgrounds and studies, they also shared dynamic conversation and a multidisciplined approach to their self-driven research.  

“One really rewarding element of SURI has been to connect students and faculty members who may be outside of their academic discipline and seeing the collaborative instincts take over,” added Gafarian.  

Dr. Nur Dean and Dr. Xiaojin Ye’s cohort used machine learning to study data available through Spotify to predict listening trends. “Our students did an excellent job,” said Ye, who is a first-time SURI faculty advisor. “I look forward to supporting students in future research.” 

The cohort led by Dr. John Gross and Prof. Robert Mozer focused on environmental education with a hands-on investigation of freshwater ponds on Long Island. And, according to Gafarian, the students’ research is already having a community impact.  

Looking ahead, Gafarian hopes students who are participating in SURI continue to gain the confidence, skills, and drive to move on to large scale off-campus Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) and other similar programs.  

“REU’s are very competitive programs throughout the country in which students are paid to participate in cutting edge research,” he said. “Thanks to SURI, many of our RAM Scholars have already landed REU’s at Harvard, Brown, Columbia, NYU, and many other amazing institutions.”  

“This is a great opportunity for our students who can list this research experience and distinguish themselves for future employers as well,” added Dean.  

View more photos from the 2023 SURI Symposium on our Flickr Gallery

For more information about the SURI Program please visit the Summer Undergraduate Research Institute (SURI) webpage