Each summer, undergraduate science majors arrive in Maryland to join a program sponsored by the National Science Foundation entitled Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. The Maryland effort is led by Dr. Fredricka Moser from Maryland Sea Grant. Fredricka assembles a panel in the spring to select students from a huge number of stellar applications, and the panel also matches students with faculty mentors. The number of qualified and capable applicants far exceeds the available slots, so the chosen students are indeed the best and the brightest from all over the country. This diverse student cadre arrives next week for a Chesapeake Bay orientation, and then they disperse to different laboratories, e.g., Horn Point Laboratory and Chesapeake Biological Laboratory to begin their apprenticeship with active research laboratories run by their faculty mentors. Maryland’s REU program has been going on long enough that a former REU student , Professor Byron Crump, followed his REU experience at Horn Point Laboratory with a PhD from the University of Washington and several years ago joined the faculty of Horn Point Laboratory and has created an active research program on microbial ecology.
The energy and enthusiasm that the REU students bring to the research programs is contagious. In addition to their research activities, REU students are playing soccer, Frisbee or volleyball, paddling or swimming in the Bay, and having group meals and barbeques at the dormitories at each of the campuses. The summer weeks slip by quickly as the REU students are busy conducting research, analyzing data and preparing presentations and reports. Fredricka also organizes a seminar series, special sessions on research ethics, science to policy linkages, and various field trips to further enrich their experience.
The initial task for the REU students is to formulate a proposal for the research that they will conduct during the summer. The Integration and Application Network contributes to the REU program by providing overall guidance on the proposal process during the orientation. Later in the summer, IAN staff also conduct a one day science communication training session in Annapolis, followed by a short walking tour of Maryland’s historic capital. This year, due to an overseas travel commitment by Bill Dennison, his talk “Proposal Writing: A Key to Success” was videotaped ahead of time and posted here. Obtaining the resources needed to conduct research is a important component of the overall scientific process, and the 11 minute video summarizes the essential features of proposal writing.