This Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) site aims to support a diverse group of undergraduate students in human-centered research experiences that apply computer science to address social good problems. The objectives of this project are to: (1) provide support for undergraduate research, especially for students that are underrepresented or have limited access at their home institutions; (2) facilitate mentorship from leading researchers in virtual reality, social computing, and human-robot interaction at the University of Minnesota; (3) explicitly train students in research methods and immerse them in the culture of science, and (4) provide professional development opportunities to prepare students for graduate school. The REU projects supported under this award will produce novel technologies, algorithms, and interaction techniques that can enrich and empower human experiences with computing systems. To frame the social relevance of their research, all student projects supported through this award will be aligned with a Sustainable Development Goal established by the United Nations Foundation. Students will apply these advances to address important societal problems and sustainability goals, which can further increase engagement by helping them to make the connection between computer science and real-world impact.

To achieve these goals, the site will recruit at least 50% of the cohort from institutions with limited research opportunities, with a particular emphasis on supporting women, underrepresented minorities, and first-generation college students. Participants will be immersed in highly collaborative research labs supervised by faculty with longstanding commitments to mentoring undergraduate researchers. Research topics will include computational support for addiction recovery, studying alternative treatments to opioid use disorder in online communities, immersive data storytelling for climate action, intelligent search strategies for locating underwater trash using autonomous robots, and investigating the use of virtual reality to mitigate implicit bias. REU students will also carry out research on addressing equity in algorithms used for decision-making and help in designing intelligent systems that can serve the community needs both effectively and fairly. The student projects will also leverage research and development of technology for connecting older adults as mentors to school children to improve their academic performance and improve their resilience. At the cohort level, students will participate in research training seminars, invited talks, and professional development workshops that will support their scholarly development, prepare them for graduate school, and provide a meaningful social experience.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Computer and Network Systems (CNS)
Standard Grant (Standard)
Application #
Program Officer
Balakrishnan Prabhakaran
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Minnesota Twin Cities
United States
Zip Code