The Vanderbilt-Sewanee Undergraduate Research Experience (V-SURE) allows Sewanee pre-med students to get both research and clinical experiences during two consecutive summers. This spring, Abigail (Abby) Bray and Elizabeth Beilharz, both C’16, were chosen to participate in the program. They will join rising seniors Hudson Robb and Luis Tinoco, who spent last summer at Vanderbilt University as the first participants in the program and who will return this summer.
Bray and Beilharz were selected after a competitive application process. “It was an extremely tough choice this year,” said Alyssa Summers, assistant professor of biology. “The applicants were in the top of their class. It was great to see that level of interest in V-SURE.”
V-SURE students have the opportunity to spend at least eight weeks each summer on Vanderbilt’s campus and to give a poster presentation of their research. The program is unusual in offering the chance to both perform research and shadow a physician during the same summer. "I heard about the program as a freshman, when it was just getting started, and immediately thought it sounded incredible," said Bray. "I am so excited to participate in research at Vanderbilt, and I am especially looking forward to shadowing the physicians there. I think that will both challenge and inspire me as I pursue my goals in the medical field."
V-SURE students select a research project in either clinical or basic biomedical science. Additionally, they are paired with a physician and round with hospital-based residents one day each week. Students attend weekly meetings to discuss health care issues and the patients they see on rounds, and learn about the process of medical education.
“The experience [last summer] left me with an improved scientific skill set, in regard to both increased scientific literacy and improved technical skills,” said Robb. The Sewanee program is part of the Vanderbilt Summer Science Academy, and students interact socially and academically with other students participating in VSSA programs. Robb adds that he and his peers were immersed in a remarkably intellectual atmosphere of scientific inquiry.
The students in the program receive campus housing at Vanderbilt as well as a stipend for the summer; V-SURE is supported by an endowment funded in part by a generous gift from a Sewanee alumnus to honor two former Vanderbilt physicians.