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4/20/2020 - Summer Research Programs and Activities

To: The Caltech Community
From: Thomas F. Rosenbaum, President; David A. Tirrell, Provost

Each summer, Caltech welcomes to campus hundreds of undergraduate researchers, youth, teachers, and community members who venture into our laboratories and classrooms to experience first-hand the excitement of research and discovery. We cherish these engagements as they present opportunities for the Institute and its community members to share their passion for their work on a broad scale. They also provide the Institute with a rich diversity of fresh perspectives and energy to confront the challenges of the day.

In today's environment, however, these encounters would pose an unacceptable health risk to the participants and the Institute community. Given our individual and collective responsibility to remain vigilant in the practice of physical distancing and cautious in our return to more traditional operations, we must extend the current restriction of on-campus events, activities, and in-person summer programs through August 2020. This restriction will apply to all on-campus events and programs, including those that are organized by outside vendors and organizations.

Most significant among these, the Institute's hallmark Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) program, which has been part of the Caltech experience for the last 40 years, will be offered as a high-quality, remote-only experience this summer. More than two-thirds of the program applicants will have the opportunity to participate in SURF, working at a distance with faculty mentors and advisers to implement research projects across a broad range of topics. For those applicants whose work cannot be accomplished at a distance, the Student-Faculty Programs (SFP) office is committed to working with them to defer their program eligibility until next summer. SURF decisions will be announced tomorrow, April 21. Similarly, SFP and Caltech's Center for Diversity are exploring plans for offering the WAVE Fellows and Freshman Summer Research Institute (FSRI) programs in a remote fashion, and the JPL-based internship programs will be a remote-only experience.

We have encouraged the organizers for the other summer programs and activities that would have been offered on campus to communicate directly with their participants about this change, and hope they may be able explore remote alternatives in place of canceling.

Just as we expect that lessons learned from the spring term's online instruction model will enhance our teaching, we hope that this necessary change to our summer programs and activities will yield insights and opportunities that further strengthen our practice when the Institute returns to more traditional operations.