Published: Jan. 23, 2023 By

Justin PedersenJustin Pedersen

Undergraduate students looking for paid, hands-on experience in a research lab setting over summer break can begin applying online for the 2023 CU SPUR program on Feb. 13.

The 10-week Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (CU SPUR) is open to all students in the College of Engineering and Applied Science – no matter their year or area of study – and pairs younger researchers with graduate student and faculty mentors on a variety of topics. 

Students are paid an hourly rate for their work and get a chance to directly participate in research in a lab setting – a valuable opportunity no matter their future career path, said Sharon Anderson, the director of active learning in the college.

“The SPUR program has been growing because it is an appealing option for students who want to explore career options during a quiet part of the year," she said. "This program lets them stay in Boulder and see if conducting research is something they want to pursue during the rest of their time here and after graduation when they join the workforce."

Justin Pedersen, a senior majoring in aerospace engineering, participated in the program in the summer of 2022 through Professor Penny Axelrad’s group.

Pedersen researched timing systems for small satellites through the program, a topic that is of interest to the private sector, as well as military and scientific groups working with satellites in low-Earth orbit. He has since joined Axelrad’s group as an undergraduate research assistant and said the SPUR program provided valuable exposure to what conducting research in a professional setting looks like.

“When I talk to other students about the program now, I often describe it as basically a paid internship where you are applying skills from the classroom on campus while also getting the benefit of networking and gaining exposure in your field at the same time,” he said. “It's a great way to materialize the fundamental knowledge I gained from my engineering classes.”

Pedersen is a nontraditional student and worked in the information technology field for years before coming to CU Boulder to pursue his undergraduate degree. He said he was not specifically interested in work related to GPS or timing systems before joining the SPUR program, but had taken a class with  Axelrad before and liked learning and working with her.

"The experience was great. My mentor and graduate student, Chris Flood, provided valuable guidance throughout my time in the program, while weekly lab meetings gave me exposure to other related projects and topics," he said. “Being in that kind of group setting helps you see the connections between different research questions and was very valuable as I started to consider my career path options after graduation this spring.”

If you have questions about the application process, please email Anderson at

Key dates and details for the CU SPUR program in 2023

Undergraduate engineering students in the CU SPUR program earn hourly wages (currently $15 an hour) and may work up to 300 hours in these positions over 10 weeks. Students must be available for the entire 10-week program. Check out further requirements on the CU SPUR webpage. 

  • Project list released: Feb. 13
  • Deadline to apply: March 15
  • Students notified of decision:  April 5
  • Summer 2022 program dates: May 30 - Aug. 4 

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