This award is in support of the Research Experiences for Undergraduates site located the Rice Quantum Institute at Rice University. The REU program conducted by the Rice Quantum Institute (RQI) brings students from outside universities to Rice University for a ten-week interdisciplinary summer research program. Each student works directly within the research group of a faculty mentor from science and engineering departments within RQI. Each project is designed to be part of a long-range research program by the faculty mentor, but individual to the student and manageable within ten weeks. The students are collectively exposed to different disciplines by contact with a variety of research groups in other labs, weekly seminars by Rice grad students and frequent scientific and social interactions (as well as joint housing) with the other REU students. In mid-session, the students present brief computer presentations to each other and the PI of the context, goals, hurdles and long-range expected yield of their projects. During the final week, written reports are turned in, exit interviews are performed, and, on the last day, students present their work at the RQI Colloquium. This annual event, which assembles a large audience made up of REU students, of research groups and others from Rice, as well as interested outsiders from neighboring schools and industries, showcases research going on within the Institute. This site is co-funded by the Department of Defense in partnership with the NSF REU program, and by the Physics Division, the Division of Materials Research, and the Chemistry Division within the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences.

Project Report

NSF RQI REU Program, Summer 2011 Project Outcomes NSF funding made it possible for nine students to participate in the NSF RQI REU program. The funding provided stipends, housing and travel expense reimbursement for the participants. The financial supports allows for the students to spend much of the summer focused on research and interacting with different research groups. All participants are assigned to lab groups, based on the students’ fields of study. All are assigned to a project. Additionally, the undergraduates attended seminars twice a month that were taught by Applied Physics graduate students. The RQI Chair, Dr. Kevin Kelly, gave a tutorial on poster and oral presentations. RQI faculty Dr. Doug Natelson, Dr. Dan Mittleman and Dr. Naomi Halas spoke to the students about applying to graduate school. All students enrolled in and received credit for ELEC 490, a summer independent research course in which all received A’s. The students selected last summer were rising sophomores, juniors and seniors from Texas A&M University, Eastern Illinois University, Lone Star College, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Purdue University, Mt Holyoke College, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, University of Virginia and the University of North Texas. Two of the students were women. The student’s fields of study included physics, engineering physics, chemistry, and mechanical engineering. The purpose of the REU program is to educate undergraduate students, helping them to identify career paths in science and engineering and to encourage them to enroll in graduate programs. The Rice Quantum Institute (RQI) is comprised of 63 faculty members from among six engineering and physical sciences disciplines. Most of the faculty, their post-doctoral fellows and advanced level graduate students mentor REU students. The undergraduate students have a home department and a working group in which they do little but research for ten weeks. They learn what is like to be a graduate student. For some, this is the first time the student has had an opportunity to do extensive research. The program concluded with the annual RQI Colloquium and Poster Session that includes the RQI summer undergraduates as well as Applied Physics graduate students. All of the undergraduates presented a poster that summarized their research for 10 weeks. The colloquium is attended by all RQI related faculty and students as well as those outside of Rice from places such as NASA, Houston’s corporate sector (Schlumberger, Shell, Texas Instruments) and the Texas Medical Center. Every summer we evaluate the program. Mr. Michael Dailey is an external evaluator for the NSF REU project. He surveys the students when they first arrive at Rice and again just before they return to their home schools. From the participants’ perspective, last summer’s research experience in the RQI was successful in meeting its goals. For instance: All respondents reported that the nature of their research project was worthwhile to them. All respondents reported that they were highly likely to continue on in graduate school in science or engineering AND that they would likely pursue a career in scientific research. Two-thirds of respondents reported that the REU program significantly aided them in defining a career path. All respondents reported favorably on the overall effectiveness of the REU program. The titles and abstracts of the 2011 REU students for the RQI Annual Colloquium were included in the 2011 report.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Physics (PHY)
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Kathleen V. McCloud
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Rice University
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