The Bio-X summer research program: From one undergrad in 2006 to more than 60 today

July 24, 2019, 9:56 p.m.

In its 14th year of existence, the ten-week long Bio-X Undergraduate Summer Research Program (Bio-X USRP) faces high demand among undergraduates and receives tens of thousands of dollars from the University. But it took just one student to get the program started in 2006, after an undergraduate asked Bio-X Director Carla Shatz how to major in Bio-X. 

According to its website, “Bio-X supports, organizes, and facilitates interdisciplinary research connected to biology and medicine.” Engineering, computer science, physics and chemistry are just some of the fields of interest at Bio-X, the site reads.

“There’s no major in Bio-X because it’s not a discipline,” Shatz told The Daily. “I thought it was a really good question because why shouldn’t the undergrads have a chance to enjoy and participate in the knowledge-building that the faculty and postdoctoral students are having?”

Bio-X USRP was created to give undergraduate students that chance, said Heideh Fattaey, the Executive Director of Programs and Operations at Bio-X. Though the program started with just one student, interest and participation has increased over the years, with 64 students taking part last year. Fattaey noted that 65 students are involved this summer. Students receive stipends to work in the program full-time.

“Really, it wasn’t us saying, ‘Oh, we’re going to start this program because we want to start a program,’” Fattaey said. “The students showed us that they were interested in this [program] and that they wanted and needed it.”

Bio-X USRP relies on significant funding to keep up with students’ rising demand for the program, Fattaey said. She noted that Stanford spends “about 9,000 to 10,000 dollars” for each program participant.

But Fattaey and Shatz believe this high price is worth it.

“I hope that the program is having a lasting impact on the students and that it is teaching them how you struggle and then finally succeed in making discoveries,” Shatz said.

According to the 2018 Bio-X USRP brochure, 567 students have participated in the program since it began, not including the 2019 participants. Anaïs Tsai ‘21, a 2018 participant and 2019 mentor in the program, attributed this growing interest to undergraduates’ desire to do more collaborative research with each other. 

“There are so many undergrads doing really cool research at Stanford, but it’s difficult to find each other,” Tsai wrote in an email to The Daily. “[Bio-X helps] student-researchers meet and learn about the exciting work that their peers are doing.”

Contact Mira Ravi at mira.ravi6 ‘at’

Mira Ravi is a high schooler writing as part of The Daily's Summer Journalism Workshop.

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