Student Spotlight – Jacqueline Agustin


Name: Jacqueline Agustin

Year: 2018

Concentration: Health and Human Biology/ Pre-med

Jacqueline has been a research assistant for a project through the Education department, done an independent study, been a research associate through the Green and Healthy Homes Institute, and participated in the Summer Health Professions Education Program. Read on to hear about Jacqueline’s experiences as a researcher and pre-med student.


What kind of research experiences, internships, or fellowships have you been involved with during college?

I’ve had a few experiences both at Brown and outside of Brown. During my first semester at Brown, I became a Research Assistant for a project in the Education Department that focuses on education beliefs. At the time, it seemed like a far cry from my interests but I decided to contact the PI (Principal Investigator) because of how strongly I felt the project resonate with my life as a child of immigrant parents. I remained an RA for three semesters, culminating in an Independent Study, where I integrated my work and my life experiences into a paper.

The summer after my freshman year, I spent my time as a part-time Research Associate for the Green and Healthy Homes Institute, researching and editing data for a website focused on compiling Rhode Island- specific information on things such as housing policies and general health concerns to help address health hazards. The summer after that I attended the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program at the University of Washington (now Summer Health Professions Education Program). For anyone who is pre-med and is freshman or sophomore, I highly recommend SHPEP.

How have these experiences shaped your goals and plans for the future?

These experiences have helped me explore fields I had not been able to experience before and to integrate them into my experience at Brown and into my growing perspective as a pre-med student. It has also encouraged me to keep exploring fields, because I feel that this has helped me become more well-rounded and able to solve problems using multiple perspectives.

What was your favorite part of or an interesting story about a research experience, internship, or fellowship you participated in?


One of my favorite experiences in the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program was shadowing and being able to work with my peers to evaluate resources within a specific community. We discussed the connection of having a variety of resources in a community with quality of health. Shadowing really opened my eyes to certain aspects of healthcare I didn’t think about before and to the need of healthcare professionals who are aware of potential barriers, big and small, to maintaining good health.

Do you have any advice for students looking to potentially pursue opportunities similar to what you’ve pursued?

Don’t be dissuaded by how selective or challenging an opportunity may seem to be, definitely apply if you’re very passionate about gaining that experience. Also, don’t be afraid to contact professors if you’re interested in what they’re doing and want to get involved, that’s how I got my first position as an RA. Subscribe to mailing lists that post opportunities, such as the Health Careers listserv, concentration listservs, CareerLab, etc.


New Beginnings


Hello! My name is Victor Bramble and I am the new coordinator for Fellowships, Internships, and Research experiences (FIRe) at the Curricular Resource Center and the new author (coordinator? steward?) of the CRC FIRe Blog.

Mya has left  a tremendous legacy with her work in this role last year and I hope to honour that legacy while expanding the role and this blog in my own way.

So we can begin with introductions. As it says on the CRC website (is this advertising?), I am currently a senior studying Ethnic Studies and Modern Culture and Media. My research focuses on digital media and in particular the power of digital media technologies wield given their evolution from histories of colonialism and violence. Right now I am working on research into the way violence committed by police officers is archived online as well as research into the circulation of images of Black death on social media.

In my role as FIRe coordinator I hope to continue and expand Mya’s vision for this role to make different fellowship and research opportunities more visible and more accessible to all students. When I say this, I mean that I want to work intentionally to help underrepresented minority students, First Generation and Low-Income college students, and any other student who has been made to feel like the things they are interested in and the work they want to do is unimportant or not worth supporting. I want to affirm that you have ideas that are worthwhile and there are opportunities out there that can help you pursue them.

Now I recognize that these are big goals and so to work towards accomplishing them I will be continuing to develop this Blog, holding my hours in the CRC (which you can view here), and doing other collaborative programming between the CRC and other university centers.

This Blog will continue to have primarily 3 types of posts:

  • Opportunity Spotlights
  • Student Spotlights
  • Application tips

In my hours you can also come talk to me about thinking about research and fellowship opportunities, developing your research questions, and how to apply for different opportunities as well as more general advising on your classes, life, the open curriculum, etc.

If you’re reading this, I hope to see you in the office or hear from you over email at some point over the next few months, even if you feel like you don’t have your questions narrowed down to something very specific.




Final Musings from the 2015-16 FIRe Blog Writer


I’m Mya Roberson and for the past academic year I have been the author behind the CRC FIRe blog. Today is my final shift at the CRC and I thought that I would post some final reflections on my experiences with fellowships and research at Brown, as well as on my role as the FiRE Coordinator this year.

I was fortunate to have an AP Biology teacher in high school who was so wildly passionate about science in research. As students in his class, we would always try to get him to diverge from the prescribed curriculum and tell us about his experience conducting research for his graduate work. While others may have viewed these digressions as tangents, they were where the real learning took place for me. Sparked by my innate curiosity for finding out more about everything I knew that I wanted to do research when I got to Brown.

I was fortunate in my freshman year that I stumbled upon great mentorship from a professor who took me under his wing and allowed me to work on one of his projects in my first spring semester. I was nervous that I would mess things up, I came in with no hard skills, but that was all part of the process I quickly came to find out. If we all knew everything already there would be nothing to learn.

From that point on, I was hooked on research, I loved how I got to go in every day and just ask and work on solving questions. I had spent the rest of my Brown undergraduate career trying to figure out what type of research really inspired me and was something I could see myself working on long term. Through some more great mentorship as well as inspiring courses, I found my calling at the intersection of science and public service by doing public health research on cancer disparities in marginalized populations.

This new found interest led me to conduct research at Princeton University as part of  the Leadership Alliance, in Birmingham, AL as a Royce Fellow, and finally at Brown as a senior honors thesis writer. Having the opportunity to conduct independent research on a topic that I love cemented my future plans to go to graduate school and become a career researcher. There are so many questions that remain unanswered, particularly within the realm of health disparities and I hope that I can one day leave my mark within that area of knowledge.

In my role as the CRC Fellowships, Internships, and Research Coordinator over the past year I made it my goal to increase awareness of fellowship and research opportunities, particularly for historically underrepresented groups, and support students to the best of my ability as they worked through their applications. This blog has been an act of consolidating resources and opportunities for students into one neat place. While it is by no means comprehensive, I enjoy the fact that students can identify opportunities, read up on application tips, and see student experiences all in one place.

Supporting students with their applications has by far been the most gratifying part of my job. I have gotten so see so many students’ passions from  history to physics and everything in between. Having seen so many great proposals and applications gives me great hope for the next generation of scholarship. It has been a wonderful year for me in this role and I look forward to seeing what future scholarship comes out of Brown.


Signing Off,


Student Spotlight- Nimesha Gerlus


  • Name: Nimesha Gerlus
  • Year: 2017
  • Concentration: Cognitive Neuroscience
  1. What type of research experiences have you been involved with during your time in college?

Up to this point, I have had two major research experiences at Brown. During the summer of 2014 after freshman year, I participated in a research collaboration between Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Brown University meant to help first-years and second-years develop foundational biology research skills. I worked with a team called “Drug Discovery” toward a collective goal of using three-dimensional cell culture technology to test chemotherapeutic drug models in human cancer cell lines. Specifically, my partner and I examined whether certain drug models could reverse drug resistance in cancer cells by inhibiting proteins responsible for efflux of common chemotherapeutics. Funded by an UTRA during the summer of 2015, I began working for Drs. Richard Liu and Tony Spirito as a summer undergraduate research assistant for a clinical study at Bradley Hospital investigating whether intensive cognitive behavioral therapy would have different treatment outcomes for teens with suicidal behavior compared to standard community care. This summer I will again be working at Bradley under the Royce Fellowship, studying the prediction of behavioral symptoms using computational methods used by Dr. Michael Frank’s lab.

  1. How did you find out about this opportunity/these opportunities?

I found out about HHMI-Brown because I took a biology class taught by a professor who directed the program at the time and encouraged students to apply. However, I came to Bradley a different way; I attended a small symposium on mental health in high-achieving college students of color advertised through Morning Mail, and met a psychology post-doctoral fellow who began mentoring me on my journey toward a career in psychiatry. She worked with Dr. Spirito on a different clinical study, but connected us when his lab was looking for undergraduate research assistants.

  1. What is your favorite part about the research process?

I love the flexibility of my research work schedule and my primary investigators’ accommodation of those who prefer working late as well as those who prefer working early in the morning, so long as all the work is done. But favorite part about the research process is the learning experience. Throughout the past three years, I have found that even if I set out to answer one question, other questions will inevitably arise. My research experiences have taught me to redefine failure and to embrace opportunities to think critically about approaching questions in innovative ways.

  1. How has doing undergraduate research shaped your potential career plans?

Undergraduate research has changed the trajectory of my career plans. I came to Brown planning to eventually practice medicine, particularly psychiatry. After my clinical research experiences, however, I am interested in fusing my medical interests with research and becoming a physician-scientist; next year I now plan to apply to programs (M.D./Ph.D.) that combine medical and research training.

  1. Any advice for students looking to find out what research interests them?

Don’t commit to a lab that is that you’re not passionate about! This sounds intuitive, but I have met many people who joined a lab during their second or third semesters and stuck with the experience because they wanted to be in a lab even though they were not particularly interested in what the lab was doing. Undergraduate research positions should be as enriching for students as they are helpful to professors, and I would encourage my peers who are interested in research to talk to professors whose classes they find engaging and inquire about opportunities in the field. I think it is also important to keep in mind that research experiences are not monolithic; they depend on the discipline, the investigator, and the lab’s dynamic, so one bad research experience shouldn’t turn you completely away from research in general! I personally find working with people much more rewarding that “wet lab” research, and I would not have discovered my interest in clinical research if I hadn’t been open-minded toward the new experience.


UTRA Application Tips- Dean Adetunji

  1. What organization and funding programs are you involved with at Brown?

In my role as Associate Dean of the College for Undergraduate Research and Inclusive Science, I oversee the Undergraduate Research office, serve as the Co-Chair for Brown University Engaged Scholarship and Broader Impacts Joint Committee, and oversee wide-ranging efforts linking STEM research, teaching and service with societal relevant outcomes.

I also serve as the executive producer of Science Cartoons (SciToons) production, direct the Research at Brown grant program, and serve as the director of the Undergraduate Teaching and Research Award (UTRA) program.

  1. When is an appropriate time to begin thinking about the UTRA?

We encourage students to start thinking about the UTRA in their first year at Brown. The faculty initiated Interdisciplinary Team (I-Team) UTRA is a good avenue for first year students to get involved with an UTRA project.

The I-Team is designed so that only faculty can submit both initial and final applications. Successful applications go through two rounds of reviews–pre-approval (phase-I) and the final approval (phase-II).

Applications that are pre-approved by the UTRA review committee are listed on the UTRAs website in mid-December so that interested students can read the proposals and contact the faculty through early January to inquire about how they can apply to the faculty’s pre-approved I-Team UTRA projects.

Students selected for I-Team UTRA projects by faculty are included on the faculty’s final I-Team UTRA applications for consideration for the final phase-II approval by the UTRA review committee. Projects of Faculty and students selected for the final approval are notified by mid-January.

  1. What characteristics make an application particularly compelling in your eyes?

Applications which demonstrate strong collaboration between faculty and students; coupled with strong mentoring plan for students are usually very compelling.

  1. 4. Any tips for potential applicants?
  • Attend the UTRA information sessions in fall and spring semesters.
  • Start early to find faculty a collaborator and discuss your proposed ideas with your collaborating faculty.
  • Make sure what you are proposing is feasible during the timeline of your proposal.
  • Consider applying for semester UTRA not just summer UTRA.
  • Proofread your proposal.


Student Spotlight-Michelle Hoang


  • Name: Michelle Hoang
  • Concentration: Biology and English
  • Year: 2017
  1. What type of research experiences and research conferences have you been involved with during your time in college?

Thus far, I have participated in two summer research internships outside of Brown’s campus and volunteered in the Lab for Cognitive Perceptual Learning during the fall semester of my junior year. My summer internships were completely different. In my first experience, I studied treatment-resistant prostate cancer at a private research institute while in my second summer, I conducted an independent project in the neuroscience learning and memory at a large public university.

  1. How did you find out about these opportunities?

I did an extensive Google search and found a database with co-ops and internship opportunities. For my position at Brown, I asked my peers about their previous lab experiences.

  1. What is your favorite part about the research process?

My favorite part about the research is also the most challenging aspect – developing my own theory from prior knowledge. As a university student, most of my coursework involves memorization and rote learning. But, in research, I  go beyond those skills to develop my own ideas. In my most-recent summer internship, the scientists around me taught me the necessary skills to run my own experiments. Then, they told me to design my own never-before-done experiment. The immense freedom involved in that process was wonderful. What I found to be just as important if not more important than background knowledge or critical reasoning ability is creativity. The generation of intellectual property, the development of novel ideas is the most exciting part of research.

  1. What was it like attending and presenting at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students?

Attending and presenting at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students was a whirlwind. I was nervous, overjoyed, enthusiastic, worried, and exhausted all at the same time. First and foremost, it was very affirming to be in a space that acknowledged the struggles of minority students in biomedical research. Often, science avoids the sociopolitical realm, ignoring the needs of the scientists themselves. ABRCMS recognizes that many students face barriers to careers in research and works to alleviate these issues. I met so many other scientists in various different stages in their careers who also faced socioeconomic barriers. Their support and their wisdom was encouraging and very useful.

Additionally, part of ABRCMS is a grad school/career fair. During this time, I was able to network with grad school representatives as well as future employers. Never in my college experience have I attended a career fair that had opportunities for students interested in academia or research.

Lastly, presenting at the conference forced me to understand every minute aspect of my work. I became an expert in my preparations to speak. But also, I learned how to present my research to an audience that had no prior knowledge of neuroscience. It is easy in research to forget about the big picture. I spent 12 weeks, looking at the translation levels of two genes in a sack of neurons in a marine snail. My entire life was about levels of CREB-2 and CREB-1 in Aplysia californica. I was so focused on the minutia involved in my research, but having to present to a wide audience forced me to contextualize these details and to evaluate the importance of my research.

  1. Any advice for students looking to find out what research interests them?

I would recommend that they seek diverse and in-depth experiences. There are so many different types of research – molecular, behavioral, systems, computational, etc. The best way to figure out what research interests them is to get first-hand experience. I also recommend that students do research before they join labs. It is not good for the lab or the student if a student begins research that they are not genuine interested in. Also, I would like to remind others to not get discouraged. Labs are always gaining and losing new members. Finding the right lab is a matter of luck and perseverance.



Undergraduate Publishing Opportunities-Humanities

Take a look at this listing of opportunities to submit for publishing in the fields of English, Literature, or Writing.

Student Journal Publishing Opportunities-ENGLISH, LITERATURE, & WRITING

Application Tips with the CareerLab’s Jim Amspacher

1. What review committees are you involved with at Brown?
Currently on Truman Committee and the Social Innovations Fellowship Committee. In the past I have been a reader for the iProv and LINK awards.

2. When should students begin thinking about these opportunities?
I think most students don’t think about it until the fall of their Junior years. It would be better if they started thinking about it no later than the second semester Sophomore year.
Students have thought about (and applied and won the award) starting in their first semester on campus!
LINK and iProv
Start planning your search and pulling together your application materials over January break.

3. What characteristics make an application particularly compelling in your eyes?
Detailed stories about experiences that make you a good fit for that particular award. Directly and clearly answering the questions in the prompts from the application. Recommendation letters from people who have worked with the applicant on the job/research/project that the recommender is writing about.

4. Any tips for potential applicants?
Make it easy on the reviewers. Narrative is good, but clarity is better.
Seek out MANY advisors/friends/mentors to review your application.

Student Spotlight- Héctor Peralta


  • Name: Héctor Peralta
  • Concentration: Education and Ethnic Studies
  • Year: 2016
  1. What type of fellowship/research experiences have you been involved with during your time in college?

The Mellon-Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) is a 2-year fellowship that one applies to during the spring of their sophomore year. Its main mission being to increase the representation of people of color within academia and to fortify commitments to social justice-oriented scholarship, the MMUF fellowship provides funding for undergraduate students to conduct an independent research project under the guidance of a faculty mentor at Brown.

  1. How did you find out about this opportunity?

I found out about this opportunity through Professor Evelyn Hu-Dehart in the Ethnic Studies department, as well as through conversations with former Minority Peer Counselors (MPCs) who I would interact with at the Brown Center for Students of Color. When seeking to learn more about the fellowship, I visited Dean Besenia Rodriguez during her office hours, as well as chatted with other faculty on the MMUF Faculty Advisory Committee.

  1. What is your favorite part about being a Mellon Mays fellow?

My favorite part is being part of a community of administrators, faculty and students who are all dedicated to transformational education through progressive and reparative knowledge-production processes.

  1. How has being involved with this fellowship shaped your future goals and plans?

The MMUF has exposed me to the value of pursuing academia as a career, for it provides both flexibility and potential for positive social work. The MMUF was also my bridge to the Institute for the Recruitment of Teachers (IRT) program that I participated in this past summer, and together, these two opportunities have helped me be admitted into some of the top PhD programs in the country.

  1. Any advice for students looking to apply for fellowships?

A simple conversation with your favorite professor or with an upperclassmen who you admire can go a long way. Make sure to tap into that intergenerational knowledge present on college campuses– use your resources wisely, including older people who have experience in fields that interest you.