Research Experience for Undergraduates

Talented, aspiring young scientists in the prime of their undergraduate education apply to summer research experience programs in order to get a grip on the reality of scientific careers.

The UWM SFS R/V Neeskay setting off on a cruise

The UWM SFS R/V Neeskay setting off on a cruise

Summer Internships in Aquatic Sciences Funded by the National Science Foundation
This reality utilizes their training in individual aspects of science (factual, conceptual, practical) simultaneously in real-life situations, side-by-side with active research faculty and staff. Moving in concert with current trends in fundable research, the importance of basic skills training and resilience to approach new topics is interwoven with functional, semi- to fully-independent project experience in today’s programs. Confidence-building project completion is complemented by social interaction, seminars and academic stimulus, training in presentation, and discussion of a wide variety of career options. The experience is strongly enriched by the disciplinary diversity of faculty and staff at the facility, often working jointly on truly interdisciplinary research topics. It is designed to provide students with a college-tenure real-life experience in the life of practicing environmental scientists including both faculty and full-time, dedicated staff scientists. The focus is on research experience with optional offerings of workshops related to career development; graduate schools; writing, poster, and oral presentations; and a variety of informal gatherings. Students from across the nation have found answers to questions about the lives of career scientists in one of the highly relevant arenas of 21st century life.

The program is structured as an immersion-level bench research opportunity which has been provided for more than 140 undergraduates nationwide during the last 16 years of the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program at the Center for Great Lakes Studies (CGLS). The interdisciplinary nature of CGLS provides positions in classical geology, geochemistry, physical chemistry, aquatic zoology, microbiology, molecular biology, fish biology/ecology/aquaculture, and biochemistry/physiology of aquatic organisms. Students develop a research proposal, learn appropriate analytical methods and apply them to their research, participate in related field sampling, and finally prepare and present poster and oral final reports. Interlaced with these activities are workshops on career opportunities, graduate school options, “lifetime highlights” of active scientists and prior REU students now in graduate school at CGLS.

Initiated by CGLS Affiliates Drs. Kenneth H. Nealson, C.C. “Tony” Remsen, and Cynthia V. Sommer in 1987, this research education experience has been continuously funded for 16 years by the Division of Ocean Sciences, NSF. Initially an academic-year program, the site moved to a summer venue of eight weeks in order to involve students in a near-immersion experience similar to our own lives. Under the direction of Dr. Russell Cuhel since 1991, and then jointly with Dr. Carmen Aguilar since 1998, the REU program has responded to student evaluations by increasing the period to ten weeks, including major shipboard sampling opportunities, and providing ancillary inputs of various types.

The Research Experience for Undergraduates program at the School of Freshwater Sciences has provided a well-rounded, diversifying experience for a dozen students per year on average. The degree of field research opportunity is great, and the integration of this work with academic and social aspects of science life has been fruitful. The return to us alone in new graduate students, students returning to do senior thesis research, and letters indicate a very positive experience. The National Science Foundation Division of Ocean Sciences provides support for 9 REU fellows per year. We are excited to continue providing hands-on career development in aquatic sciences!