Director of undergraduate research says it’s time to think summer

Fifteen students stand in a line in a creek bed. Some students hold long-handled nets or other sample collection tools. The water in the creek is up to their ankles. A gravel creekbank is in the foregrounds, and green vegetation and trees are visible in the background.

Participants in Miami University’s “Ecology of Human-Dominated Landscapes” REU collect samples in the field. This long-running REU, led by biology professors Ann Rypstra and David Berg, went international in 2014 thanks to a grant from Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) Science, which allowed students from the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani to come to Miami to participate in this undergraduate research program.

With all the bitter cold, snow, and ice we’ve seen, wouldn’t it be wonderful to simply turn our attention towards summer? In fact, now is exactly the time you should be thinking about summer plans, even though it is still quite a few months away. Faculty should advise research-active (or research-interested) students to consider summer research programs as a great way to gain an intense, focused research experience outside the demands of the academic year. Deadlines for summer research programs are coming up quickly, and Miami’s new Office of Research for Undergraduates (ORU) is prepared to assist interested students in finding and pursuing relevant opportunities.

In particular, applications for Miami’s Undergraduate Summer Scholars program are due to departments by January 30—the end of the first week of classes for the spring semester. Interested applicants should have already begun discussions with their faculty mentors and started preparations of the application packet, which includes a two-page project proposal.

The USS program enables Miami undergraduates completing their sophomore or junior years (having earned at least 60 credit hours) to conduct research or other creative scholarly activities in close collaboration with a faculty mentor during the summer term. Projects are conducted over a 9-week period during the summer, chosen by the student/faculty pair. Each student receives a stipend, project expense budget, and tuition-only waiver for 6 summer credit hours of independent study (required). Faculty mentors must be full-time, tenured or tenure-eligible, and will receive additional professional and project expenses. The full USS guidelines can be found on the ORU website, and any questions about the program can be directed to the ORU at undergradresearch@MiamiOH.edu.

In addition, there are several other excellent summer research opportunities here and across the country for students, with the majority also subject to upcoming application deadlines. Miami hosts a Summer Research Institute in mathematics as well as summer research programs in ecology and chemistry. The latter two are among over 600 sites for NSF-funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU). REU offerings cover essentially all disciplines that are funded by NSF, not only STEM fields such as biological and earth sciences, chemistry, physics, and engineering; but also computer and information science, education and human resources, ethics and value studies, and social, behavioral, and economic sciences.

The ORU maintains a database of additional summer research opportunities for interested students. These programs range from those sponsored at individual institutions, such as the Princeton Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (February 1 deadline), to those offered directly by public and private agencies, such as the summer internship in environmental health (January 28 deadline) offered by the Center for Disease Control or the summer research diversity fellowships in law and social science (February 15 deadline) from the American Bar Foundation in Chicago. One final example worth mentioning is the Summer Research Opportunities Program (February 10 deadline), a collaborative effort among more than a dozen universities allowing for summer research experience at top research universities including Ohio State, Michigan, Northwestern, Maryland, and Rutgers.

So, reach out to those students who are around for the winter term, and those top students you know who may be studying abroad or simply extending their break in friendlier climates. Make sure these types of programs are on their radar, and be prepared to write the recommendation letters to make their applications competitive!

Written by Joseph Johnson, Director, Office of Research for Undergraduates, Miami University.

Photo of Miami ecology REU by CJ Geraci, American University of Iraq, Sulaimani. Bee pollination class photo by Scott Kissell, Miami University Photo Services.

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