Students can apply to a variety of institutions to do research over the summer. The National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) is a popular option. Below are some examples of recent student experiences.
Organometallics | Carolyn
My summer research took place at Harvey Mudd College in sunny Claremont California. I spent ten weeks learning about organometallics, proton NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance), GC/MS (gas chromatography mass spectrometry), flash chromatography and general laboratory procedures. I met some great Mudd students and worked for a very supportive research advisor. He agreed to write a letter of recommendation for future careers/academic endeavors and is a resource that I can utilize in the future. Because of the great results we obtained, I attended the American Chemical Society meeting in San Francisco to present our research. In addition, I received a travel grant to cover all my expenses. This experience gave me a taste of what graduate school is like and it helped me realize that graduate school is not as scary as it may seem. The REU was a wonderful opportunity for me and I really enjoyed every minute of it. I never thought I would love doing lab work as much as I did, until I spent a summer at Harvey Mudd.
Computational Chemistry | Rachel
I spent a summer at UMass/Amherst doing computational chemistry research. The project involved determining whether molecules would diffuse in and out of specific zeolite frameworks. Overall the research is hoping to find new catalysts to use for biofuel production that would produce material in a high yield. A new catalyst would hopefully allow the cost making biofuel to drop and become more economically feasible. While at UMass I worked under the direction of Professor Scott M. Auerbach and his graduate research students. I found the experience doing full time research to be quite enjoyable and educational. There were times when I was very frustrated with how the computations were going, but that gave me a taste of what the graduate students go through all the time. This Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) fired me up for research back here at Gordon with Dr. Jarvis. Being able to experience research in a full-time setting helped give me a flavor of what to expect while doing computational work at Gordon. Overall, I very much enjoyed my work in the summer on "A Computational Approach for Determining the Permeabilities of Biomass Guests in a Zeolite Framework."
The following summer I headed off to University of Georgia to do more computational chemistry research. This work was around catalysis as well. Here we were looking to improve a ruthenium water oxidation catalyst. I was working with Katherine Compaan and Henry Schaefer at the Center for Computational Chemistry at the University of Georgia. This work was presented at an ACS National Meeting in Washington, D.C.
Note: Rachel will be attending the University of Pittsburgh in the Fall of 2010 as a graduate student in their chemistry Ph.D. program.
Summer in Montana | Cassandra
I spent a summer at Montana State University working with Dr. Singel on a biophysical chemistry project. The research we were doing applied to mechanisms within biological processes. The idea being, if we could get to the bottom of the mechanisms, then we could understand how to correct biological malfunctions. Our research specifically applied to blood/oxygen flow, so we were working with a mechanism which led to vasodilation, widening of the blood vessels, when exposed to increased nitroxide levels.
The REU experience as a whole was very eye opening. The inter-lab collaboration and support was encouraging. It was exciting to see so many options for research, as well as being able to actually participate and think, "Oh yeah, I could be a graduate student!" I learned that research can be much more drawn out and laborious than one might think, but the longer it takes to get results, the more exciting the results are. Also, the camaraderie within the labs was a very fun working environment: students all working to discover scientific truths, all eager to learn and to help each other as well. Participating in an REU program has definitely played a large roll in my plans to attend graduate school, and I have applied to various schools around the nation.
Note: Cassandra is currently attending Harvard for graduate school.
Summer at Georgetown University | Andrew
My Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) took place at Georgetown University. The REU experience convinced me that I wanted to attend graduate school. The experience consisted of a rewarding 40 hours of work per week in the lab. Also included were classes on getting into graduate school and furthering your career. I worked in the research lab lead by Dr. Steven Metallo. The lab was concerned with studying proteins, known as transcription factors, involved with allowing DNA to be transcribed into proteins. More particularly, the lab was interested in ways to prevent the function of these transcription factors. The transcription factors are known to help cancer develop and spread. Therefore, hindering the function of the transcription factors could be a way to stop cancer from becoming fatal to a patient. The REU gave me a much broader view of the academic research environment. The skills I gained will be valuable tools as I start a career.
Image source: http://www.mun.ca/biochem/courses/3107/images/Max_N1hlo.gif