This project is co-funded by the Department of Defense in partnership with the NSF REU program. The Brandeis University REU program will support the training of 10 undergraduate students for 10 weeks, during the summers of 2011-2013. Students will conduct research employing modern cell and molecular visualization techniques. A large number of faculty in the Life Sciences at Brandeis will introduce undergraduate students to a broad range of topics on biological structure and function. Training will take place in a supportive and interactive environment with state-of-the-art facilities. Participating faculty have a strong record of mentorship of undergraduates. Students will conduct full-time research guided by their mentors. In addition, they will participate in weekly lunch seminars, which will include faculty research presentations, ethics discussions, and professional development activities such as panel discussion with students and postdoctoral fellows from the Boston area on careers in biotechnology and research. Students will have an opportunity to interact with scientists, who have diverse interests and at different stages in their careers. A weekly break-out session following the seminar will feature group discussion of ethical and science issues with the speakers, in a smaller group setting. Students will develop a written synopsis of their summer work, with feedback from their mentors, and will participate in a capstone symposium including poster presentations. Students will be recruited through the web, as well as personal outreach at undergraduate research conferences and visits to local institutions. Participants will be selected based on academic record and potential for research in biology. The value of the experience for students and mentors will be measured by various assessment instruments, including a common REU assessment tool. The impact of the experience will be monitored by tracking students for continued interest in science, further educational choices, and career paths. More information can be obtained by visiting, or by contacting the Director, Dr. Susan Lovett at, or the Co-Director, Dr. Joan Press at

Project Report

The college experience does not always adequately prepare students to become scientists: many potential scientists are lost along the way. Students are often not given full opportunity to develop the skills that they need and they end up being discouraged or uninspired by their college coursework. The goal of the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program in Cellular and Molecular Visualization at Brandeis University is to introduce college students to the excitement of biomedical research while providing a supportive environment. Many of our 30 participating summer students came from colleges that have limited resources for training in biological research or came from groups that have been under-represented in scientific fields. Weekly activities allowed students to interact one-on-one with scientists in different biological fields, at different stages in their careers and to discuss potential careers in medicine, biotechnology and research. Other discussions revolve around scientific ethics and issues that develop from working in a research team. As a capstone experience, students develop a written summary of their summer work, with feedback from the directors of the program and their research mentors, and present their summer research project in a campus-wide poster symposium. Responses from anonymous surveys of students who participated in the program indicated significant personal gains related to their participation in research and gains in thinking and working like a scientist. 8 of our former participants are currently enrolled or are applying to PhD or MD/PhD programs while 6 others are pursuing training in medical fields or are employed in the biotechnology sector.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI)
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Sally O'Connor
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Brandeis University
United States
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