test tubes

February 23, 2018

NSF again funds SIU undergrad research program

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. – A program that provides funding for a key undergraduate research program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale has received federal funding for another three years. 

The National Science Foundation recently approved SIU’s Research Experience for Undergraduates program for $384,200 in funding for a three-year cycle. The program allows SIU annually to sponsor summer research opportunities for about 14 undergraduates in areas related to interdisciplinary materials research in chemistry, physics and engineering. SIU will mark the program’s 13th year this summer. 

Nationwide program supports cutting-edge undergraduate research

The REU program provides students the opportunity to perform cutting-edge research in materials science and engineering under the guidance of a faculty member from the departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Physics or Microbiology, or from the College of Engineering. Research topics generally are designed to complement the ongoing research of the faculty mentor.

Students from all over the nation are eligible to compete for the SIU program, and at least two or three positions go to SIU students each year, said Boyd Goodson, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at SIU and the primary investigator on the grant. 

“We also recruit from two-year colleges, and there have been previous SIUC REU participants from those colleges that have afterwards come to SIU to finish their undergraduate degree,” Goodson said. 

Full-time job as a researcher 

Students selected for the program are paid to work full time on the research project, earning a stipend of almost $5,000. Students also receive a travel allowance of $750.00, to help defray the cost of traveling to and from SIU or to travel to a scientific conference, along with a $1,000 research allowance to support their research project. They also can reside in University Housing free of charge.

During the nine-week program, students develop the skills needed to excel in both academic and industrial research environments, where interdisciplinary teams are the standard approach and researchers must communicate effectively across disciplines.

The program requires students to think about the application of their research to new technologies and the manufacturing of new devices, and will give them the opportunity to present their results to a diverse audience. 

SIU primarily recruits from two- and four-year institutions residing in neighboring states or the Mississippi Delta region, as well as those with traditionally high enrollment of students from underrepresented groups. 

SIU values undergrad research

Involving undergraduates in real research is hallmark of SIU’s philosophy as a research institution, making the REU program a great fit for the university, Goodson said.

“It goes right to the core of our mission,” he said. “SIU has a large number of faculty who are at the top of their field in research, but these faculty are also passionate about including undergraduates in their research and creative efforts.”

SIU is also the right size for offering top undergraduate research and creative opportunities for students, he said.

“We are a major research university, so we have the resources and research-active faculty that small colleges don’t have,” Goodson said. “Not only that, but unlike the very large research universities, our faculty-to-majors ratio is large enough to allow a large fraction – if not most – of our respective majors who want research experiences to actually participate in such opportunities on campus.”