Undergraduate Research

nuSURF program

The Nephrology and Urology Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (nuSURF) research training program exposes future biomedical and clinician-scientists to investigative careers in academic nephrology, basic nephrology and urological sciences.

Biomedical and clinician-scientists are of fundamental importance for biomedical research, as they form a bridge between clinicians and medical scientists and are often the most qualified to ask the proper scientific health-related questions. Biomedical and clinician-scientists serve as the clinical gateway to a wealth of ideas from scientists at large.

A common challenge for young nephrology and urology researchers is that prior to their nephrology and urology residencies or fellowships, many trainees have not had sufficient exposure to basic research — or sometimes, any exposure at all.

Furthermore, the rigors of clinical training programs may limit trainees' abilities to develop and nurture their interests in renal and urological research. Therefore, the goal of the nuSURF program is to introduce students to basic urology research early in their careers, allowing them to explore the breadth and depth of the field before making a commitment to exclusively clinical careers.

To achieve this, the nuSURF program allows talented students who are predisposed to basic research to explore nephrology and urology research. The nuSURF program aims to plant the seeds that will hopefully grow into future nephrology and urology researchers.

The specific aims of the nuSURF program are to:

  • Give summer undergraduates nephrology or urological research experience
  • Provide a collaborative basic and translational environment to help students understand that nephrology and urology — and, in fact, all of medicine — is grounded in basic science
  • Provide research project experience to undergraduates (see below)
  • Provide instruction on both oral and poster presentations of research data

The nuSURF program is available primarily to undergraduate students, but recent graduates who will be entering a Ph.D. or M.D. program, graduate students, and medical students also are considered.

The nuSURF program lasts eight to 10 weeks, most commonly during a summer break (although this is not required). Students receive a stipend as well as a small amount for laboratory expenses.

In keeping with the overall Mayo Clinic culture, faculty members in the O'Brien Urology Research Center prioritize a positive experience for trainees as they gain experience in the laboratories of established mentors, working on basic nephrology and urologic questions in basic or applied science. Additionally, the nuSURF training grant prioritizes fostering the development and the representation of minorities and women in urology research.

Undergraduate research project experience

The O'Brien Urology Research Center provides research training grounds for University of Minnesota Rochester (UMR) student's undergraduate capstone year.

Researchers in the O'Brien Center have pioneered and developed a model of kidney stone research based on the fruit fly, which shares about 70 percent of the same disease-causing genes as humans and has many of the same major organs. Researchers are developing a chemical compound or therapy that might slow and prevent the formation of kidney stones.

This specific pharmacologic alternative was the focus of a UMR graduate's capstone project, which focused on developing a small-molecule inhibitor of kidney stones using a fruit fly as the discovery platform. The aim was to discover medications that could dramatically reduce the size and frequency of the most common type of kidney stones — or eliminate them entirely.