"We are truly delighted that Carl and Shirley Larson have made this extraordinary leadership gift to Caltech's capital campaign for SURF. This is a testimony to the importance and value that the Larsons and other alumni place on the undergraduate research experience. We are deeply grateful to Carl and Shirley," said SURF director Carolyn Ash.
When the Institute's overall $1.4 billion capital campaign is completed in three years, the goal is to have increased the SURF endowment from $6 million to $16 million. The endowment will ensure the future of the SURF program and continue to afford Caltech students the chance to engage in research with faculty at the forefront of knowledge.
The SURF program allows students to carry out individual research projects under the guidance of experienced mentors, who are members of the Caltech faculty or the Jet Propulsion Laboratory technical staff.
"I am convinced that most students learn best when they can do science or engineering rather than just study it in the classroom, and the SURF program offers our students the extraordinary opportunity to engage in research with mentors who work at the frontiers of their fields," said Caltech president David Baltimore.
Through the SURF program students experience the life of scientists and engineers. They take intellectual ownership of a project as they explore the secrets of nature, learn to ask questions, persist in the details of experiments, and sometimes experience the joy of discovery. They learn what careers they want, or don't want, to pursue.
The SURF program is modeled on the grant-seeking process. Students collaborate with potential mentors to define and develop a project. The students write a research proposal for the work, and a faculty committee reviews the proposals. Awards are made on the basis of reviewer recommendation and available funding. Students carry out the work over a 10-week period in the summer, and at the conclusion, they submit a technical paper and give an oral presentation at SURF Seminar Day, a symposium similar to a professional technical meeting. As with any fellowship, students receive a stipend. In 2004, it was $5,000.
Larson, a retired vice president of Versatec, a Xerox Company, and his wife have been enthusiastic supporters of Caltech and of the SURF program for many years. They previously established four SURF endowments (Shirley and Carl Larson SURF Endowment, Carolyn Ash SURF Endowment, David C. Elliot SURF Endowment, and Doris Everhart SURF Endowment). Carl earned his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering.
"We think SURF is a great Caltech program," said the Larsons. "It gives students the best possible opportunity to determine whether a career of basic science research is what they really want to pursue or whether they want to apply their Caltech training in other ways. Best of all, it helps them make such an important decision early in their lives. There is only one Caltech and SURF is one of the many reasons." ###
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