This award supports the renewal of the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) site in Physics at the College of William and Mary. This program provides an opportunity for undergraduates to take part in real research and to become deeply involved in a particular research field. Support is offered for twelve students per year for ten weeks of summer research. Fields represented by the potential mentors are: laser physics including work with the Jefferson Lab FEL, laser atom interactions, condensed matter physics studied with lasers, NMR, and a variety of other techniques, neutrino physics, nuclear and particle physics, THz spectroscopy, polymer physics, surface physics, ultra-sonics, non-destructive evaluation, BEC on a chip, ultrashort laser pulses, plasma physics, non-linear dynamics, quantum computing, information and optics, bio-informatics,and astrophysics/cosmology. The presentation skills learned (abstract preparation, short paper presentation, long paper preparation and presentation) are skills useful throughout productive careers.

Project Report

(REU) program. Through this REU program we offered research experiences to undergraduate students in a wide variety of topics in theoretical, computational and experimental physics and in applied science at William & Mary, as well as NASA Langley Research Center, Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) and the Applied Research Center (an applied science research center on the Jefferson Lab campus). In the two years over which this program was active we received over 400 applications from non-William & Mary students. We offered admission to approximately 40 students, of which 29 students entered the program. Of these students, 24 were supported fully by this award and 5 were supported partially by this award (complementing partial support by their home institution). Our focus in the admission decisions was based on the excellence of the student, on the availability of research experiences at the student's home institution, and on increasing the participation of underrepresented minority in physics (in particular women, black or african american students, hispanic or latino students, first-generation students and students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds). This resulted in a cohort of 5 women and 9 men in the first year, including 3 students from underrepresented minorities, and 5 women and 9 men in the second year, including 3 students from underrepresented minorities. The 14 students (in 2012) and 15 students (in 2013) from institutions other than William & Mary were joined each year by about 20 William & Mary students who were supported by faculty research grants, individual NSF supplements, and private funds through the department and alumni. None of the William & Mary students were financially supported by this award, though. The entire group of students participated as a seamless cohort in all activities of the REU program. The inclusion of William & Mary students ensured that non-William & Mary students have peers to turn to with practical questions in their first weeks. Students participated in various enrichment activities during the 10-week summer program. Students had the opportunity to participate in a 7-afternoon machine shop course where they learned drilling, milling and grinding techniques as well as the proper operation of lathes and horizontal and vertical bandsaws. Three excursions to local scientific installations were included each summer (with slight variations from year to year): NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute, Jefferson Lab, and the Surrey Nuclear Power Station. During the summer there was a weekly summer research seminar by faculty working in a variety of research topics in physics and applied science. One of the goals of our REU program is to make students familiar with proper scientific ethics practices, and we organized a dedicated training session in the beginning of the program. Communication skills were imparted on the students by giving three types of oral presentations: a 1-minute "elevator pitch" in the second week, a 10-minute "work in progress" presentation midway through the summer, and a 30-minute final presentation on the last day. In the second year we provided students with the option of presenting a final poster in a dedicated poster session on the last day (the other oral presentation were still required of all students). Student were required to write up a 10-page final report, get anonymous feedback from two of their peers through a peer review process, and submit revisions to their final report. After the program several participants participated in national conferences, for example the American Physical Society's Division of Nuclear Physics annual meeting and the Council on Undergraduate Research's REU Symposium. In the evaluation of the program by the participants, they indicated a consistently high satisfaction with the program. In follow-up questionnaires one year later (for the first year) this satisfaction was confirmed, and they indicated that they gained a better understanding of the research environment and that the experience informed their career choices with respect to graduate school.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Physics (PHY)
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Program Officer
Claudia M. Rankins
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College of William and Mary
United States
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