• SCOPE: Collaborative Summer Research
    SCOPE: Collaborative Summer Research
    Southwestern University

SCOPE (Summer Collaborative Opportunities and Experiences) is a selective and immersive eight-week program that occurs every summer on Southwestern’s campus, allowing students the opportunity to work full time on collaborative research with a faculty mentor.  Associate Professor of Psychology Erin Crockett ’05 says she really enjoys participating with SCOPE because it gives both faculty and students “a space to focus on research away from the demands of a typical semester.”

Each summer, from about mid-May to mid-July, around three dozen SCOPE students gather across campus to work on any one of 10-12 engaging research projects. Professor of Biology and Department Chair Romi Burks describes how mentoring students researching the detection of apple snails through eDNA benefitted everyone participating:

“SCOPE allowed me to continue a collaboration about environmental DNA (eDNA) with SU alumni and Texas Tech faculty, Dr. Matthew Barnes. I took students to his eDNA lab to learn practice techniques, discuss data analysis and plan future work. The students clearly got a bigger picture for the connections of their research to issues in ecology and management of natural resources.”

Although open to faculty from all programs, SCOPE is a predominately lab-based model.  In addition to the full research days, professional development workshops and both academic and social events are also scheduled into each workweek. Students are paid a stipend and stay, without cost, in campus housing for the duration of the program. Upon completion of SCOPE, all participants present their research at a poster presentation in the fall and at Southwestern’s Research and Creative Works Symposium in the Spring. In many cases, students have the opportunity to continue their research into the academic year. Dr. Crockett emphasizes that by receiving advanced training in statistical analysis and writing, and numerous opportunities to discuss relevant issues in the field, “students obtain a graduate level experience that shows them what it is really like to be a scientist.”

During Summer 2018, 35 students collaborated with 10 faculty mentors on the following projects:

Biology
Dr. Romi Burks:  Environmental Detective Work: Using eDNA to Detect Aquatic Invasive Species
Dr. Martín Gonzalez: Identifying Regulatory Factors of the ICE391 SOS Mutagenic Response

Chemistry/Biochemistry
Dr. Maha Zewail-Foote: DNA Damage within Alternative DNA Structures 

Computer Science
Dr. Jacob Schrum: Developing Artificial Intelligence for Video Games
Dr. Charles Stolper: Solving a Mystery with Data Science

Kinesiology
Dr. Scott McLean: Segmental Contributions to Angular Momentum Generated During a Competitive Swimming Start
Dr. Edward Merritt: Histological and Molecular Analysis of Skeletal Muscle Regeneration in Animal Models of Peripheral Artery Disease and Resistance Exercise Training

Physics
Dr. Steven Alexander: Creating a Self-Navigating Robot for the Ocean

Psychology
Dr. Fay Guarraci: Understanding the Side-Effects of A New Treatment for Depression: Ketamine Miracle Drug or Nightmare Waiting to Happen
Dr. Erin Crockett: Expectations of Understanding and Physical Health

With such a wide array of projects for SCOPE participants to select from, it’s easy to see why Assistant Professor of Kinesiology Edward Merritt claims, “SCOPE really is a unique opportunity for our students to be immersed in research. I have never seen a program quite like SCOPE at all the other universities I’ve been associated with over my educational training and professional life. Through SCOPE, students gain valuable skills and experience that they will be able to talk about in their medical school interviews, graduate school essays, or in their professional bios as the program that truly got them sold on science!”


Participation in SCOPE is by application only, and the program encourages applications by diverse and underrepresented participants.

SCOPE Mission:
To foster a culture of research at Southwestern, made possible by student-faculty collaboration; to promote student investigative learning, persistence, self-efficacy, and success, and to create an inclusive and diverse research community.

Original funding for the development and launch of the SCOPE program in 2013 was provided by a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. SCOPE was funded in part this year by gifts from the Moody Foundation, The Welch Foundation, W.D. Kelley Foundation, HEB, and a National Science Foundation S-STEM grant, along with numerous gifts from generous individual donors.