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Oral History
Carolyn Ash Oral History Interview with Shirley K. Cohen

Resource available online.

ABSTRACT: An interview in two sessions, in November and December 2003, by Shirley K. Cohen with Carolyn Ash, Director, Student-Faculty Programs Office.

Born in Chicago and raised in Ohio, Carolyn Ash began working at Caltech in 1977 with Professor David Elliot, then secretary of the faculty, and other faculty officers. In this interview she recounts her early involvement beginning in 1979 in the new SURF [Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships] Program and the evolution of that program over time; its origins in an idea of Professor Fred Shair (chemical engineering); participation of other faculty Hal Zirin (astronomy), William Schaeffer (chemistry), Bernard Minster (geology); initial financial support by trustee Lew Wasserman, eventual endowment by Caltech Associate Samuel Krown; NSF [National Science Foundation] contributes funding. Gradual administrative recognition and involvement; establishment of SURF board of directors and faculty administrative committee. Inclusion of women students and students outside Caltech, initially from JPL, 1985. Departure of Fred Shair 1989, and Ash appointed director by vice-provost David Goodstein.

Circumstances of first National Conference on Undergraduate Research [NCUR] (University of North Carolina, Asheville, 1987); conference hosted by Caltech in 1991; Southern California regional conferences follow. Establishment of weekly career counseling sessions: research seminars, round-table discussions. Statistics on Caltech undergraduate student participation: upwards of 50 percent involved. Continuing recognition of SURF under President Tom Everhart. Startup by Professor David Van Essen of MURF [Minority Undergraduate Research Fellowships] program, 1991, in biology and chemistry; TIDE begins mid-nineties [Teaching and Interdisciplinary Education] with support from Professor Nate Lewis and President David Baltimore. Renaming of office Student-Faculty Programs. Additional programs funded by Beckman Foundation and Rea and Lela Axline (Axline SURF Program); NASA-developed program USRP [Undergraduate Student Research Program] modeled on SURF. SURF as model for other institutions; SURF firmly embedded in Caltech culture.

ID: 2009-00006
Ash, Carolyn

Creation Nov. 17, 2003 through Dec. 1, 2003


Topics: SURF, Women

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