The opportunity for undergraduates to conduct research is a critical element for developing a
rigorous program in biomedical education. Specifically, it provides an experiences not normally
part of lecture- or laboratory-based course work and it prepares students for post-graduate training
or careers in basic research or clinical disciplines. However, opportunities for undergraduate
biomedical research experiences are not uniformly available across the United States with both
underrepresented minorities and students from primarily rural areas being especially underserved.
Many of these undergraduates are first generation college students and attend institutions that less
extramural support for biomedical research compared to institutions in more populous states. The
Summer Program for Undergraduate Research in Addiction or SPURA at the University of South
Dakota (USD) was developed to address this deficit with support from the NIDA and is seeking
renewal of this support to continue this work. The specific aims of this program are:
(1) To expand undergraduate research opportunities for students in South Dakota, with an
emphasis on quality training of first generation college students, students from rural
backgrounds, and students who are from underrepresented minorities.
(2) To encourage a greater number of South Dakotan students to participate in research and to
ultimately pursue post-graduate research careers and/or training in areas related to substance
abuse and related mental health issues.
(3) To advance the field of substance abuse and related or underlying mental health issues by
fostering cross-collaborative student training and research at the University of South Dakota.
Each summer, this program will enroll eight students in a multi-disciplinary research experience
aimed at providing students with an opportunity to conduct mentored, hypothesis-driven studies in
the fields related to drug addiction and underlying mental health issues. The program will
incorporate a wide range of experimental approaches including human and animal behavior
studies, systems neuroscience, neuropharmacology, and electrophysiology. Faculty involved in
this program will include members of the Departments of Biology and Psychology (both part of the
School of Arts and Sciences) and Basic Biomedical Sciences (part of the USD Sanford School of
Medicine). Over the last four years the SPURA program has been highly successful having
supported 36 students, all of whom have either continued their undergraduate studies, enrolled in
research- or professional health-based post-graduate education programs, or have become