Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) Program

The Department of Molecular Medicine offers a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program. Undergraduate students selected for the program work in a research laboratory for a 10-week period in the summer. During this time, they also attend weekly undergraduate-level lectures by participating faculty. At the end of the internship period, each student presents his or her research to the department. The goal for this training program is to provide an opportunity for talented undergraduate-level scientists to experience “real” research. Most undergraduate students have not had much exposure to hypothesis-driven laboratory science, and it may not come to mind as an obvious career option. It is hoped that a positive research experience will influence students who find that they have an aptitude for research to consider a career in scientific research. Providing a positive experience in a research laboratory may influence undergraduate students to consider research as a career at a time in their life when they are making decisions about future plans. Students will have an opportunity to interact freely with faculty members, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and technical support personnel.

The Molecular Medicine SURF program is administrated by Dr. Barbara Christy, but all of the faculty of the Department of Molecular Medicine, including some programmatic faculty, of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, participate in the program. Some faculty members participate most directly as summer research mentors to students while other faculty participate in a summer undergraduate-level lecture series aimed at educating the students in molecular biology-related topics and current research. Historically, the department has offered a SURF program since 1994, with the exception of summer 2002. Until 2001, the program was funded by the department. From 2003-2008, the program was funded through a training grant from the United States Dept. of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program, entitled “Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships in Breast Cancer Research”. The program has been funded through a grant by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board which will provide support for 8-10 students for a 10-week summer period, including money to offset some of their supply use.

SURF 2012

The 10-week summer research program is designed to expose talented Texas college students to biomedical research, in order to interest them in a career in biomedical research and/or academic medicine. Selected students will participate in scientific research projects in laboratories at the Texas Research Park campus, Greehey Academic and Research campus, or the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long campus of the UT Health San Antonio in Northwest San Antonio. Participants will also attend undergraduate-level research talks and receive advice and mentoring with respect to preparing for and applying to graduate schools. At the end of the summer, students will present their work in a formal research presentation.

Eight to ten positions will be available for summer 2012. The program will run from June 5, 2012, to August 10, 2012.


  • Must be at least 18 years of age.
  • Math or science majors preferred.
  • Must be either
    -enrolled in a Texas college or university
    -a Texas resident enrolled in a college or university in another US state.
  • Must be a US citizen or a permanent resident of the US.

Submission of the online application and supporting documents (unofficial transcript and at least one letter of recommendation) are required. Supporting documents must be submitted online. Please do not mail any supplemental documents as they will not be considered as part of your application. .

Potential Faculty Mentors

Dr. Tim Hui-Ming Huang, Professor, and Chair, Department of Molecular Medicine. Epigenetic alterations and cancer.

Dr. Z. Dave Sharp, Professor, Department of Molecular Medicine. mTOR signaling pathway in aging and lifespan.

Dr. Rong Li, Professor, Department of Molecular Medicine. Molecular basis of obesity and breast cancer relationship.

Dr. Sang Eun Lee, Professor, Department of Molecular Medicine. DNA repair and genomic stability in yeast and mammalian cells.

Dr. Paul Hasty, Professor, Department of Molecular Medicine. Genetic mouse models for the study of DNA repair in cancer and aging.

Dr. Bandana Chatterjee, Professor, Department of Molecular Medicine. Androgen receptor signaling in metabolism and prostate cancer.

Dr. Hai Rao, Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Medicine. Regulated protein degradation by the ubiquitin-proteasome system in yeast and mammalian cells.

Dr. Thomas Boyer, Professor, Department of Molecular Medicine. Role of the Mediator protein complex in regulating neuronal and non-neuronal gene expression.

Dr. Renee Yew, Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Medicine. Cell cycle regulators and control of DNA replication in Xenopus laevis and in mammalian cells.

Dr. Maria Gaczynska, Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Medicine. Regulated protein degradation by the ubiquitin-proteasome system, and the effects of chemotherapy drugs on proteasome function.

Dr. Yanfen Hu, Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Medicine. BRCA1 and Rb tumor suppressor mutations in breast cancer.

Dr. Barbara Christy, Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Medicine. Signaling pathways and cancer.

Dr. Peter Hornsby, Professor, Department of Physiology, Barshop Institute. Tissue transplantation and cellular senescence in the context of aging and cancer.

Dr. Arlan Richardson, Professor, Department of C&S Biology, Barshop Institute. Reactive oxygen species in cellular aging.

Dr. Steven Austad, Professor, Department of C&S Biology and Interim Director, Barshop Institute. Comparative biogerontology; assessment of animal healthspan.

Dr. Ratna Vadlamudi, Professor, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, UTHSCSA Long Campus. Novel coactivators in estrogen-mediated cell cycle regulation, tumorigenesis, and hormonal resistance.

Dr. Rajeshwar Rao Tekmal, Professor, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, UTHSCSA Long Campus. Hormonal carcinogenesis and hormone-mediated gene regulation in breast and gynecological malignancies.

Dr. Hanna Abboud, Professor and Chief, Department of Medicine-Nephrology, UTHSCSA Long Campus. Kidney cell development and function; molecular basis of kidney dysfunction in diabetes and renal cell cancer.