The Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Site at the University of Minnesota is the centerpiece of an overall Education and Human Resources program within the University?s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC). This site provides cutting-edge research and education experiences in Materials Science and Engineering by assembling a group of talented undergraduates along with high school teachers. Seven undergraduate students are recruited for a 10 week summer program from a nationwide pool of applicants with an emphasis on four-year, Tribal colleges, and Native American students. Six teachers, mostly from the greater Twin Cities area, participate in the 6 week Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program. Each participant in the REU and RET programs will be integrated into the research group of a faculty member from one of the MRSEC?s interdisciplinary research groups and pursue an independent research project in polymers, organic electronics, magnetic materials, and nanoparticles. MRSEC faculty and students are based in six different science and engineering departments, assuring a particularly broad and interdisciplinary experience for all the participants. In addition to engaging in research projects, participating students and teachers will attend research seminars, career development and ethics workshops, on-campus social events, and have opportunities to present their research at professional meetings. This Site is co-funded by the Division of Materials Research, Office of Multidisciplinary Activities, and the Division of Social and Economic Sciences.

Project Report

The UMN MRSEC REU program has recruited talented undergraduates from a nationwide pool of applicants to the UMN campus for an intensive 10-week research experience that included additional training and development of career-building skills. Each participant pursued an independent research project within the laboratory of a MRSEC faculty mentor and presented both a formal oral presentation and a poster and at the program’s conclusion. The RET program recruited teachers from the greater Twin Cities area for a six-week research experience. The participants were assigned individual research projects (with MRSEC faculty mentors) and shared many of the same skill-building activities as the REU students. Intellectual Merit: The four Interdisciplinary Research Groups (IRGs) of the UMN MRSEC address pressing problems over a wide range of "soft" to "hard" materials: polymers, organic electronics, magnetic materials, and nanoparticles. MRSEC faculty and students are based in six different science and engineering departments, assuring a particularly broad and interdisciplinary experience for all the participants. The research advisors represent an appealing blend of junior, senior, and mid-career faculty; all are acknowledged leaders in their fields. Broader Impacts. The UMN MRSEC E&HR function consistently strives for gender and racial diversity in all its programs including the REU/RET Site, and with significant success. The historical performance of our programs provides a benchmark by which our future programs can be measured. For the past five years, including the three years covering the most recent REU award (DMR-0754792, 2008–2010), 39% of participating students were underrepresented minorities (URM) and 46% were female (Figure 1). This represents a significant increase over the promising results of previous years (25% URM, 38% female), and substantially higher than the respective national levels in engineering as reported by the NSF1 (Figure 2). Over the life of the MRSEC (1998–2012), the demographics of the collective summer programs include 30% underrepresented minorities and 41% women (288 total participants). These results are in contrast to the demographic base reported in the 2010 United States Census for the combined population of groups traditionally underrepresented in the physical sciences and engineering (African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans) as approximately 30% of the total United States population (see accompanying charts). Based on the NSF Report on Women, Minorities and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering 2011 (, the combined percentage of the representation of the groups named was less than 13% of the total number of Bachelor’s degrees earned in 2008 and less than 8% of the Ph.D. degrees earned in 2008. Approximately of 64% of our REU participants (Figure 4) are recruited from undergraduate institutions (two- four year and minority serving institutions) unable to provide the type of research experience provided by the UMN MRSEC. This experience is further broadened by participation of students from allied MRSEC E&HR programs and summer research programs within the CSE. Participant Tracking and Graduate School Matriculation. Since 1999, the MRSEC’s core programs: Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU Site, Native American Fellowships, and Faculty-Student Teams) have been successful in recruiting a diverse group of participants and preparing them for graduate school. A total of 288 students, 41% women and 30% under-represented minorities have engaged in research within the MRSEC. These research opportunities were provided through a combination of REU Site, MRSEC funds (for the Native American Fellows and Faculty/Student Team participants) and leveraged funds obtained through strategic partnerships with other UMN summer research programs. In the most recent three-year period (2010-2012), URM participation has increased to 46% and female participation 45%. Longitudinal tracking indicates a high post-participation enrollment in graduate school (82%). Significantly, the percentage of participants entering graduate school is nearly the same across demographic groups. A total of 29 students (including 4 under-represented minorities and 12 women) from the 1999 through 2011 core cohorts have matriculated in UMN biomedical engineering, chemistry, chemical engineering and materials science, and physics graduate programs. At this point, nine (9) of them, including 2 African Americans, 1 Native American and 3 women have received their PhD degrees. In keeping with our summer research program recruiting strategy, 64% of our students attend non-research institutions, and 24% of them attend MSIs. The percentage of women and minorities participating in the UMN MRSEC summer program has far exceeded their respective national levels in science and engineering, as reported in the NSF Report on Women, Minorities and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering 2011, ( In fact, the percentage of URMs (46%) participating in the Center’s programs since 2010 is higher than the URM population as a whole (30%-2010 census) and over four times the 11% contribution of URMs with Bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Materials Research (DMR)
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Michael J. Scott
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University of Minnesota Twin Cities
United States
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