Summer undergraduate research programs in science and engineering facilitate research progress for faculty and provide a close-ended research experience for students, which can prepare them for careers in industry, medicine, and academia. However, ensuring these outcomes is a challenge when the students arrive ill-prepared for substantive research or if projects are ill-defined or impractical for a typical 10-wk summer. We describe how the new Bioengineering and Bioinformatics Summer Institutes (BBSI), developed in response to a call for proposals by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), provide an impetus for the enhancement of traditional undergraduate research experiences with intense didactic training in particular skills and technologies. Such didactic components provide highly focused and qualified students for summer research with the goal of ensuring increased student satisfaction with research and mentor satisfaction with student productivity. As an example, we focus on our experiences with the Penn State Biomaterials and Bionanotechnology Summer Institute (PSU-BBSI), which trains undergraduates in core technologies in surface characterization, computational modeling, cell biology, and fabrication to prepare them for student-centered research projects in the role of materials in guiding cell biology.