The Chemistry Department at the University of Wyoming (UW) offers a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Site focused on "Chemistry Research in Energy Science" to enable undergraduates to work in research groups on outstanding problems in energy science and energy resource management. The program targets students from small colleges without graduate programs, students from the six community colleges in Wyoming, and students from underrepresented groups in science. The 10-week summer program not only involves hands-on research but is a fully integrated program to educate and train students in the scientific issues related to the development of clean and sustainable energy resources. Each summer ten undergraduates from neighboring colleges will come to UW and perform guided research in one of the ten participating faculty mentors research groups. The research opportunities offered in this program cover a wide variety of fundamental and applied research projects associated with new methods of using existing carbon-based fuels more efficiently and cleaner as well as the development of new carbon-neutral energy. Educational and social activities include participation in weekly REU group meetings, field trips to coal and wind power plants in Wyoming, a 4-day camping trip to Yellowstone National Park, group dinners and weekend activities, ethics training, and an REU student mini-symposium culminating the summer program. The results of the research will be disseminated at professional meetings and in journal articles and the broader learning experiences will be communicated on the UW REU website. The site is supported by the Department of Defense in partnership with the NSF REU program.

Project Report

Intellectual Merit: A Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) was hosted by the Department of Chemistry at the University of Wyoming (UW) during the summers of 2009 through 2011. Ten students from across the United States were hosted each summer by the department and worked as team members in research groups. The teams worked on problems in energy science and energy resource management. This 10-week summer research program involved hands-on research along with a variety of activities (seminars, ethics mini-course, and field trips) designed to educate and train students in energy science. Each student worked closely with one of the 10 participating faculty mentors who were selected for their research accomplishments and successful experiences in working with undergraduate researchers. The research covered a wide variety of projects associated with the development of new energy technologies and improvements on existing energy resources. REU students made important contributions to research on hydrogen storage, conversion of light into electricity, and in the synthesis of new catalytic species for enhanced oil refinement. Each project attempted to tackle these current research problems using modern instrumentation and the existing expertise of the research groups involved. In all these projects, the long-term goals were to produce technological options for both climate stabilization and sustainable energy production. Broader Impacts: Our REU site was designed to train students in modern chemistry research by providing hands-on experience with sophisticated instrumentation, and by providing access to specialized research methods not typically available in the home undergraduate institutions of the participants. Projects were integrated with participation in seminars, a research ethics course, and field trips to a national lab and Wyoming coal mine to educate students on the current scientific issues related to both national and global energy demand and management. The program also served to prepare students for careers in the emerging high-tech energy field, which is continuing to grow both at the state and national levels. An objective of this program was to attract students into science careers using current energy and climate problems as a way to motivate and impassion students. This REU program provides a bridge for students from smaller colleges to obtain the training and experience necessary to go onto graduate school. Of the participating REU students, 77% went on to graduate programs after graduating from their home institution, and in student surveys consistently ranked this REU experience as playing an important role in making this decision. The results of the research were disseminated at professional meetings and in peer reviewed journal publications.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Chemistry (CHE)
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Charles D. Pibel
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University of Wyoming
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