Each summer, dozens of undergraduate students from colleges and universities across the nation, including Puerto Rico, come to the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus to learn what it’s like to work full time in a lab via the college’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs in various departments. For most of those students, who come from technical schools, small colleges or universities without research opportunities, it gives them a taste of what graduate student life is like and helps them figure out whether grad school is the right next step in their academic careers.
But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, REU programs at UW-Madison pivoted to distance education in summer 2020. Redesigning the courses, however, was no easy task; typically, students work full time in the lab for 10 weeks assisting in research projects that are already underway. For the distance REU, project leaders had to reimagine the experience, finding new ways to engage and mentor students and provide a glimpse of life in the lab.
Research Experience for Undergraduates
The Wisconsin MRSEC provides cutting-edge research experiences for off-campus undergraduate students through a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). The primary goal of the REU program is to broaden participation of students who are traditionally underrepresented in science and engineering fields. Since 2012, over 70% of the students in the REU program have been members of underrepresented minority groups and over 50% have been female. This program serves as a pipeline to increase the number of underrepresented students entering graduate school and provides experience and a valuable reference that students can use in their graduate school applications. Over 65% of students who have participated in our REU program go on to pursue advanced degrees.
The MRSEC REU program is coordinated with other UW summer research programs in engineering and across the university to give the students a large cohort of diverse peers and exposure to a wider breadth of UW research. The MRSEC REU program is run as a large collaborative program in order to maximize the opportunities available to students and to minimize operational costs. Additional funding for the collaborative program comes from the UW Graduate School, the UW College of Engineering, NSF site awards, and funds from several campus departments. The MRSEC evaluates applications based upon academic achievement, letters of recommendation, and research interest. Priority is given to students from non-research-intensive institutions and students from groups underrepresented in science and engineering. Interested students can submit applications from November through mid-February by contacting Andrew Greenberg, REU Director
The MRSEC REU program also collaborates with the Summer Undergraduate Research Experiences (SURE) program, coordinated by the Graduate Engineering Research Scholars (GERS) program for minority graduate students. Admittance into this program requires a minimum GPA of 3.4, letters of recommendation, and acceptance by a UW faculty member. Students funded by the SURE program are often hosted in MRSEC faculty laboratories.
Participants in these programs will spend 10 weeks conducting research in an area of engineering, physics, chemistry, science education or public policy. There will be several professional development and social activities for participants throughout the program.
To apply to any of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Summer Research programs including the MRSEC REU program, please complete the online application (available November 1st).