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Undergraduate Research Program


The Undergraduate Research Program (URP) at CSHL provides an opportunity for undergraduate scientists from around the world to conduct first-rate research.  Students learn the scientific process, technical methods and theoretical principles, and communicate their discoveries to other scientists.  Approximately 20 students come to CSHL each summer for the 10-week program, living and working in the exciting Laboratory environment.

URP participants work on an ongoing research project in one of CSHL’s expert labs.  Research at CSHL focuses on:

  • Molecular Biology & Cancer
  • Genetics & Genomics
  • Neuroscience
  • Plant Biology
  • Quantitative Biology

In addition to doing research in the lab, URP participants attend a series of specially designed workshops, seminars and collegial events.  Workshops focus on learning particular skills, such as Python programming, while seminars cover research topics, responsible conduct of research, and career development. At the URP Symposium at the end of each summer, students present their research to the entire CSHL community.

URP participants live and work among CSHL scientists. They are invited to all Laboratory social activities – including two exclusive dinners, one with CSHL President Bruce Stillman and one with Chancellor emeritus and Nobel Prize winner James Watson.  On weekends, students are free to explore nearby New York City or the sandy beaches of Long Island.

By the end of the summer, URP participants have first-hand experience of a career in scientific research.

The 2018 URP Program will be held June 11 – August 11, 2018.

The online application for the 2018 URP program is now closed.

Scientific Research

All URP students undertake an original research project, mentored by one of CSHL’s outstanding research faculty. Students have access to the Lab’s state-of-the-art research facilities, including extensive resources for genomics and microscopy. At the end of the Program, students write a scientific manuscript about their summer work. Some of these become part of peer-reviewed scientific publications.

Bioinformatics and Computational Neuroscience Workshop

CSHL’s URP presents students with a two-part workshop in Bioinformatics and Computational Neuroscience.

Hands-on programming workshops

These workshops (1 per week) train students to use Python for data analysis and modeling. There are two concurrent workshops: one for students new to programming, and a second for students with programming experience. [workshop 1 materials] [workshop 2 materials]

Lecture series

The lecture series consists of sessions focused on important topics in bioinformatics and computational neuroscience. Sessions include:

  • Genomics in the cell
  • Small RNA transcriptomics in Zea mays
  • Quantitative principles of the nervous system

Training in Scientific Communication

The Program offers lectures on how to write an effective abstract and how to give a scientific talk. In the course of the summer Program, students prepare a research abstract and a scientific manuscript, and present two research talks for the entire CSHL scientific community.

Career Development

URP participants attend a series of lectures and panel discussions aimed at informing them about the process of pursuing a research career or a variety of non-research scientific careers. Sessions include:

  • Faculty perspectives on research careers
  • Graduate school and fellowship applications
  • Integrating a scientific career with family life
  • Non-research career panel

Responsible Conduct of Research

Before starting work in their laboratories, URP participants attend a two-part Responsible Conduct of Research workshop, which covers ethical issues in biological research. Students are also instructed in laboratory safety.

Current sophomores and juniors are eligible. Applications must be submitted online by January 15.

Online Application

  • All applicants must complete an URP application form with a personal statement online.
  • Faxed, mailed, or emailed applications are not accepted.
  • You may submit your application before the recommendation letters have been uploaded by your referees.
  • Once an application has been submitted, changes cannot be made. Please review your application carefully before submitting.
  • To use the online application system, you must first register as a user. On the main login page, there is a link that says “New User? Register Here” to the right of the “Go” button. If you do not see this option, make sure your internet browser is up-to-date and/or try a different browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari). If you continue to experience problems, please contact Embark, the application manager at help@embark.com

Personal Statement

  • Your personal statement is limited to a single page – approximately 600 words or 3,250 characters (including spaces), single-spaced. You should use a minimum of 1-inch margins.
  • You should ensure that your statement is legible. We would appreciate a minimum of 11-point font, preferably sans serif (such as Helvetica). Other traditional fonts, such as Times New Roman, are also acceptable.

Dates and Deadlines

  • The deadline for receipt of completed applications, including letters of recommendation, is January 15 at 11:59 pm (23:59) Pacific Standard Time (equivalent to January 16, 07:59 UTC/GMT). Applications will not be reviewed if they are received after the deadline.
  • Recommendation letters will not be accepted after the application deadline. Please make sure your referees are aware of the January 15 deadline when you ask them to write a recommendation. Most referees need at least a month to complete a letter. If your referee has any problems uploading the letter to the online application system, they should contact help@embark.com directly.
  • Notification of application status will be sent by the end of March.

Eligibility

  • Students of any nationality are eligible for the program.
  • Students should have a strong academic background in a science. Although the Program emphasizes the biological sciences, students with engineering, chemistry, computer science, math, or physics backgrounds are also encouraged to apply.
  • Students must be returning to an undergraduate degree program following their URP summer research experience; current sophomores and juniors, or the equivalent, are eligible. Only in exceptional cases will first-year undergraduate students, with prior independent research experience, be considered.
  • Previous laboratory research experience will help your application but is not required.
  • If your academic semester conflicts with the dates of the URP program, you are still eligible to apply. If you are accepted into the Program, we will discuss how your academic schedule can be accommodated. For instance, in past years, some students have arranged with their professors at their home university to take one or more final exam at CSHL. But please note that all URP researchers are expected to participate in the program as a single group and should therefore plan to be at CSHL during the dates of the program.

Grades & Transcripts

  • Official transcripts are not required.
  • There is no minimum GPA required. Successful applicants generally have GPAs around 3.5 or higher in their science and math courses.
  • If your GPA is not on a 4.0 scale, then please convert your grade to a 4.0 scale. If your institution does not have a standard scaling, then calculate by dividing your average mark by the maximum possible mark and multiplying by 4.0.

International Applicants

  • Students of any nationality are eligible for the program.
  • TOEFL or IELTS scores are not required for admission to the URP program.
  • If your grades are not based on a 4.0 scale, please note your institution’s grading scale and the actual class mark you received on the application. Also indicate the best possible mark. For example, if your university scale is 1 to 5, then note your grade as X/5, 1=best.

Recommendation Letters

  • Applicants must arrange for two recommendation letters from professors – preferably in math or science – to be submitted online. We do not accept more than two recommendation letters.
  • If you have previous research experience, recommendation letters from professors with whom you have worked in a lab are especially encouraged. Letters from graduate students or postdocs in the lab are less effective.
  • Faxed, mailed, or emailed recommendation letters are not accepted.
  • Your referees will upload their recommendation letters directly to the online application system manager. When you fill in the application, you will submit the email addresses of your referees. Your referees will receive an email with instructions on how to upload their recommendation letter online. Please tell your referee that they will receive an email from the Embark application system so this notification email does not end up in spam.
  • You may submit your application before recommendation letters have been uploaded by your referees.
  • Recommendation letters will not be accepted after the application deadline. Please make sure your referees are aware of the January 15 deadline when you ask them to write a recommendation. Most referees need at least a month to complete a letter. If your referee has any problems uploading the letter to the online application system, they should contact help@embark.com directly.

Stipend

Students receive a stipend of $5250. All room & board expenses will be covered.
Travel costs are not reimbursed.

Housing Environment

URP students reside in new “cabins” on the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory campus. Each cabin provides single-gender housing for eight individuals with two students per room, and two full bathrooms. All linens and towels are provided, along with full housekeeping services. Lamps, desks, dressers, and small refrigerators will be available in each cabin. One phone with voicemail option is available in each room in the cabin. The cabins are also equipped with Wi-Fi internet access. All cabins are fully air-conditioned.

Meals are served three times a day, seven days a week in the Blackford Dining Hall. Vegetarian and Vegan options are available at all times and our kitchen will make every effort to accommodate any special needs. There is a recreation room downstairs in Blackford Dining Hall with a pool table, other table games, a television and soda/candy machines. The Bar is located to the rear of Blackford. Please be aware that the legal drinking age in New York State is 21. We will not serve liquor to anyone underage.

Gym equipment and weights are available in the exercise room located in the lower level of the Dolan Hall. Also, washer and dryer facilities are available in Dolan.

The Laboratory owns several Atlantic sailboats, canoes, and kayaks, available for URP student use. URP students are also invited to join the CSHL sailing club that meets weekly. All participants are free to use our tennis and volleyball courts, running and hiking trails, swimming pool and private beach.

CSHL holds volleyball tournaments during the summer where different laboratory buildings square off against each other. URP students are invited to join these teams, compete against the graduate students throughout the summer and the faculty at annual URP vs. PI (Principal Investigator/Lab Head) tournament, held at the end of the summer.

What past URP participants said about their summer at CSHL.

James Gornet

URP 2017 with Dr. Pavel Osten
This summer at CSHL has been an unforgettable experience. Sir Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” At CSHL, I believe I have walked among such giants. Although these researchers were exceptionally busy, they did not hesitate to talk about a recent development in neuroscience or give some tips for the upcoming volleyball game. Along with the researchers at CSHL, I lived with twenty other URP students. We developed a close friendship and enjoyed each other’s company whether it would be hanging out in Huntington or working on the final presentation at one in the morning. The culture at CSHL is unlike any other research institution such that it promoted a close collaboration among both the faculty and students.

During my stay at CSHL, I had the unique opportunity to work under the guidance of Pavel Osten, whose group is interested in whole-brain imaging. Kannan Umadevi Venkataraju served as my mentor for my summer projects in analyzing whole-brain images. I cannot begin to express how immense an impact CSHL’s Undergraduate Research Program has had on me. While I have experience in computer science, I never had access to the data or the guidance to analyze whole-brain images thoroughly. Both Kannan and Pavel have provided great guidance throughout this summer. To complement my research work, I also attended CSHL’s Imaging Structure and Function of the Nervous System lecture series to broaden my understanding of nervous system imaging. I believe that the tools I have learned, and will continue to learn, will greatly benefit my future as a scientist.

Asad A. Lakhani
Asad A. Lakhani

URP 2017 with Dr. Mikala Egeblad
From the exhilaration of a full-length dive under the scintillating sun, to the adrenaline rush before a new personal best on the qPCR; from the joy of a lay-up as the sky transitions from azure to indigo, to the delight of a beautifully balanced Western; from the awe at discussion of cutting-edge research by the most brilliant minds, to the serenity of looking out across Cold Spring Harbor – a summer at CSHL has been quite an experience.

To carry out research in such an idyllic location, amongst such knowledgeable and driven scientists, and to be part of a program that brings together such a diverse group of highly motivated undergraduates has been an honour. Being an URP not only allows you to immerse yourself into the ‘nerdy’ aspects of the scientific community – ranging from single cell RNA-Seq discussions at breakfast to CRISPR/Cas9 meetings to brainstorming future directions for your lab project – but it also offers a seamless transition to the volleyball and basketball courts to blow off some steam. And perhaps most importantly, it gives you hope that you can survive a Ph.D!

Ashley Kyalwazi
Ashley Kyalwazi

URP 2016 with Dr. Stephen Shea
Participating in the Undergraduate Research Program at CSHL was an incredibly rewarding experience for me. To be able to work on an independent project and learn a variety of new techniques in systems neuroscience, was an exciting challenge that I wholeheartedly embraced. Whenever I had a question- someone on campus was always willing to take a bit of time to explain a possible solution using his/her own expertise. Everywhere I turned, there were always people having interesting conversations- people who welcomed a new perspective and a new idea. This summer at CSHL, I was more than a rising Junior Undergraduate student… I was a neuroscientist!p

Since 1959, the URP Program has been offering undergraduate students a unique opportunity to study with CSHL’s renowned scientists. Some of our notable alumni include Nobel laureate Dr. David Baltimore (California Institute of Technology), Dr. Gerry Rubin (HHMI, Janelia Farm Research Campus), Dr. Alfred Goldberg (Harvard Medical School), Dr. Geraldine Seydoux (Johns Hopkins), and Dr. Charles Gilbert (Rockefeller University), among many others.

2017 URP students

The CSHL Undergraduate Research Program (URP) participants, Summer 2017

Previous alumni by year

2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | All URP Alumni

URP Alumni Update

CSHL URP news 2015

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NSF Sponsored REU in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology

CSHL’s REU program in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology was supported by the NSF 2005 – 2014.

The technological advances in this century open a new realm of biological questions that can be addressed experimentally. Large genomic sequence or image datasets are routinely and quickly acquired, but the resources and expertise to analyze this data present a challenge to researchers. CSHL’s unique NSF REU program in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology addresses this need by providing early training to undergraduate students who might not otherwise pursue quantitative approaches. CSHL’s URP/REU students learn theory and techniques from an applied perspective, investigating an important biological problem rather than from the abstract perspective of computer science. Students are mentored by expert CSHL researchers, who combine biology, information theory and sophisticated computational techniques to address questions at the frontiers of modern genomics, bioinformatics, and neuroscience. In the past ten years, CSHL’s URP/REU program has recruited and trained a diverse group of students, many of whom are still working in bioinformatics or computational fields. Almost all URP/REU participants have continued in scientific careers and/or advanced degree programs at competitive institutions. The program provides students with a modern quantitative biology training program that aims to inspire young scientists to become active participants in modern biological research with its demands for quantitative and computational skills.

Prospective REU Project Mentors

Dinu F. Albeanu – Neuronal circuits; sensory coding and synaptic plasticity; neuronal correlates of behavior; olfactory processing

Gurinder Atwal – Population genetics; bioinformatics; cancer; stochastic processes; statistical mechanics and information theory

Anne Churchland – Decision-making; electrophysiology; sensory processing; vision; audition; neural computation; modeling; behavior

Josh Dubnau – Learning; memory; genetics; behavior

Hiro Furukawa – Membrane proteins; x-ray crystallography; electrophysiology

Thomas Gingeras – Genome-wide organization of transcription and the functional roles of non-protein coding RNAs

Molly Hammell – Gene regulatory networks; integrated genomic analysis; bioinformatics; RNA biology; small RNAs

Ivan Iossifov – Computational biology; molecular networks; human genetics; human disease; applied statistical and machine learning; biomedical text-mining; molecular evolution

David Jackson – Plant development; stem cell signaling; genomics and imaging

Leemor Joshua-Tor– Structural biology; nucleic acid regulation; RNAi

Adam Kepecs – Decision-making; theoretical neuroscience; neuroeconomics

Justin Kinney – Sequence-function relationships; biophysics; deep sequencing; machine learning; transcriptional regulation; DNA replication

Alexei Koulakov – Theoretical neurobiology; quantitative principles of cortical design; computer science; applied mathematics

Alexander Krasnitz – Genomics of cancer; machine learning for biology; inference from noisy biological data; large-scale numerical computing.

Zachary Lippman – Plant development, genetics; molecular mechanisms of phase transitions for flowering time and inflorescence branching; heterosis

Rob Martienssen – Epigenetics; DNA methylation; chromatin and chromosome biology; transposable elements; RNA interference; stem cells; germline specification; plant genomics; plant evolution; aquatic plants

W. Richard McCombie – Genomics of psychiatric disorders; genomics of cancer; computational genomics; plant genomics

Partha P. Mitra – Neuroinformatics; theoretical engineering; animal communications; neural prostheses; brain mapping; developmental linguistics

Pavel Osten – Anatomical mapping of brain connectivity; neurological diseases

Darryl Pappin – Proteomics; mass spectrometry; protein chemistry

Michael Schatz – Genomics; genome assembly & validation; sequence alignment; high performance and multicore computing; parallel algorithms; cloud computing

Adam Siepel – Biological statistics; population genomics; evolution; transcriptional regulation

David L. Spector – Cell biology; gene expression; nuclear structure; microscopy

Marja Timmermans – Small RNA regulation; pattern formation; stem cell function

Glenn Turner – Neural coding; learning and memory; Drosophila

Doreen Ware – Computational biology; comparative genomics; genome evolution; diversity; gene regulation; plant biology

Michael Wigler – Human genetic disorders; population genetics; cancer genomics

Anthony Zador – Cortical mechanisms of auditory attention; neural computation; connectomics

Eligibility

All URP participants may take part in the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology program. NSF-supported REU participants are selected from among the URP participants. Students supported by NSF must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States or its possessions. If you are interested in bioinformatics and computational neuroscience, including research in any of the labs listed above, but are not a US citizen or permanent resident, you are eligible for the program through sponsorship from non-restricted URP fellowships.

As for all URP participants, NSF-supported students must be currently enrolled as undergraduates. An undergraduate student is a student who is enrolled in a degree program (part-time or full-time) leading to a baccalaureate or associate degree. Students who will have graduated before the program starts in July are not eligible.

Participants must be “returning to an undergraduate program” after the summer REU program. (See NSF eligibility requirements).

REU Program Alumni