This award supports a one year renewal of the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) site at the Rice Quantum Institute at William Marsh Rice University. The award will support students for ten weeks of summer research in topics potentially including chemistry, physics, electrical engineering, chemical engineering, materials science, and bioengineering. Each student becomes involved in cutting-edge research by joining an individual research group and working with graduate students, postdocs and faculty supervisors. The students will form a cohesive group through joint housing, weekly interdisciplinary scientific seminars, and weekly social activities. These activities also include laboratory safety training and participation in an online course in ethical and responsible scientific conduct. In mid-session, the students will present brief computer presentations of their work to each other and the PI. In the seventh week, students will construct abstracts for their projects. During the last week students will turn in written reports, design and assemble poster presentations on their research, then present their posters alongside the other undergraduate participants in an extremely well-attended session of the Annual RQI Colloquium. There will also be a lunch meeting with faculty from various disciplines to discuss strategies for graduate school, the admissions process, and other professional/technical career options. This award is co-funded by the Division of Physics and the Division of Chemistry in the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences.

Project Report

Have you ever asked yourself why University teaching is called "higher education"? Why is it "higher"? The reason why University education is special, is that University instructors do not just pass along a knowledge that they have learnt. They also contribute to creating that knowledge. The process by which knowledge is created is what we call "research". Usually, students learn what research is, and how to be a researcher, during their years in a doctoral program. But most of them have had a research experience in their undergraduate years. A program like "Research Experience for Undergraduates" (REU) is just meant for that: to give highly motivated students the opportunity of "getting their hands dirty" in a real research environment for a few months, and have a feel of what really research is. Rice University is a research academic institution with a distinct undergraduate focus. It is therefore the ideal hosting place for an REU program. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the program provides stipends, housing and travel expense reimbursement for the participants. The financial supports enables 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 attend seminars twice a month that are taught by Rice graduate students enrolled in the Applied Physics program. The supervision of the REU program is entrusted to the Rice Quantum Institute (RQI). The latter is comprised of approximately 70 Rice faculty from among six engineering and physical sciences disciplines. Most of them, their post-doctoral fellows and advanced level graduate students mentor or have mentored REU students. The undergraduate students are thus assigned to a home department and a working group in which they do little but research for ten weeks. Remarkably, for some, this is the first time the student has had an opportunity to do extensive research. The program concludes each year 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 present a poster that summarizes their 10 weeks work. 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 and the Texas Medical Center. The students selected in 2011 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. Since 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, it is interesting to assess the efficacy of the program by looking at what some of the students actually turned out to be. Austin Baty, an undergraduate from Texas A&M University, was there the 2013 recipient of the Melbern G. Glasscock Humanities Award, the Sigma Xi Interdisciplinary Award, and first prize in the astronomy oral presentations during the 16th annual Student Research Week. Jonathan Jones, an Eastern Illinois University student, has been recognized as a 2012 Barry M. Goldwater Scholar. Sherwood RIchers, a student in physics and astronomy from the University of Virginia, is presently a DOE Computational Science Graduate Fellow and a graduate student in physics at Caltech. One of the students, Andrea Miranda from Mt. Holyoke College, has eventually chosen Rice for her PhD.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Physics (PHY)
Standard Grant (Standard)
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Program Officer
Kathleen V. McCloud
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Rice University
United States
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