Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)
The School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (NAMS) recognizes undergraduate research as an integral part of a student's academic experience. Involvement in research will broaden your skill set and prepare you for the next step in your educational or professional career path.
The tools on this page will answer your questions about the benefits of undergraduate research and your role and responsibilities as a student researcher, as well as aid you in locating and securing a research position.
We hope you find the web page as a useful starting point and encourage you to explore the many different types of research opportunities that are available to you.
Why Do Research?
An REUs is a complimentary tool for conventional classroom learning. Students who assist in or conduct undergraduate research can conceptualize course material more effectively and have reported more positive undergraduate experiences.
The benefits of research reaches beyond academia and provides you with invaluable interpersonal and technical skills in preparation for graduate school or the workforce.
Contributing to research will help you to:
- have a better understanding of scientific knowledge and research process
- enhance understanding of your field of study
- develop critical thinking skills
- convey scientific ideas
- learn to interpret results
- learn to analyze data
- increase your self confidence
- balance independent and collaborative work
- gain real world experience
- define your interests
Additionally, research will allow you to:
- build rapport with faculty
- obtain letters of recommendation
- boosts resume and graduate school admissions
- make informed career goals
- establish credentials for curricula vitae/resume
- potentially publish in peer-reviewed venues
- present findings to scientific community
- secure employment in certain fields
Undergraduate research can aid you in...
Graduate school requires an investment of both time and money. REUs are an easy, short-term way of gaging whether that investment is right for you. Once you decide graduate school is the next step for you, undergraduate research experiences can help you get admitted to the program of your choice.
Most graduate schools require letters of recommendation from faculty who can substantiate a student's abilities. Working one-on-one or as part of a research team builds a genuine rapport between a student and mentor. Time spent working in the lab enables the faculty mentor the ability to attest to your skills and your future potential as a graduate student.
Medical School Admissions
In addition to a strong foundation in the sciences, applicants should posses personal attributes that can be obtained through collaborative research. Extracurricular activities such as research can enhance your medical school admission.
College is a time for exploration. Many students pursuing their undergraduate degree are unsure of the career path they want to take in life. Exploring research opportunities in different disciplines exposes students to many career fields and will provide you with a better understanding of your strengths and interests.
The work you do in an REU is work experience and can be listed on your resume as "Experience" if not paid, "Work Experience" if paid, or "Research and Publications" if the project was published or presented. Having experience will also give you an advantage over others with no experience when seeking employment or applying to graduate school.
What is Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)?
Undergraduate research is a collaboration between a student and a faculty mentor which results in an original intellectual or creative contribution to a discipline through an investigation or inquiry. Studies have proven REUs are beneficial to students who participate in yearlong research. We encourage you to engage in research frequently and early in your academic career.
As an student researcher, you will have the opportunity to conduct your own research or assist a faculty mentor with an ongoing research project. There are several different options in which you can contribute to research:
Four Research Options:
Student contributes to faculty research on a basic level.
- Volunteer work can be done informally (i.e., no contract required) and without credit.
- Great way to get foot in the door, especially without any experience.
- Application Deadline:
Advantageous to contact faculty mentor early in the semester.
Student contributes to faculty research on a more advanced level.
- Usually available to students for credit.
- Contract required.
Stockton REU: Independent Study Form
External REU: See REU application information.
- Application Deadline: Advantageous to contact faculty mentor at least one semester prior to research semester.
Independent Research Projects
Student works with faculty mentor to pursue their own research project in their area of interest and mentor's expertise.
- Credit or No credit.
- Contract Required.
Independent Study Form
- Good way to get foot in the door without research experience.
- Application Deadline:
Advantageous to contact faculty mentor at least one semester prior to research semester.
SIRE (Summer Intensive Research Experience)
Student contributes to faculty research outside of the regular school year.
- Credit or No credit.
- Dependent on the REU (internal or external) may also include housing and travel.*
Independent Study Form
External REU: See SIRE application for further information.
- Application deadline:
External summer programs are typically in February and March. Check each REU opportunity for specific deadlines. Internal SIRE projects should be at least a semester prior to research semester.
*Some REU's funded through a grant may have stipends available. Inquire with faculty mentor.
Student Researcher Responsibilities
- Have the time required to assist or complete a research project before committing.
- Be present and on time for all scheduled meetings.
- Paperwork. Submitting for approval and taking to Bursar's and Student Records is your responsibility.
- Communicate early and often with your mentor on how tasks are progressing, do not sit idle or make assumptions if you reach a stumbling block.
- Be engaged and ask questions! Undergraduate Research is a learning experience and should peak your interest. You are not expected to have all the answers. Faculty mentors always want to help; don't be afraid to ask questions.
Faculty Mentor Responsibilities
- Challenge and encourage you.
- Provide time for training and constructive feedback on all tasks, meet regularly and giving periodic perspective on how things are progressing.
- Work together to develop and document learning goals for the mentorship relationship in a research contract/agreement; these should be SMART goals with action steps, specific measures of success, and a clearly articulated process for handling stumbling blocks or obstacles.
- Serve as a resource in career development and academics.
Participate Early and Often!
Every discipline of study within NAMS have their own research requirements for their respective degrees. Although a program may require a certain number of semesters of research or internships, you are not limited in the number, types of research experiences or discipline of study that you may contribute to.
Speak to your preceptor and get involved in research early in your academic career, and participate often!
Research Experience Overview
Locating an existing undergraduate research project or developing a new project takes time, investigation and planning. You should prepare to put in as much time and effort as you would when seeking employment opportunities.
Locating An REU
There are a few ways to locate faculty-led research projects within NAMS. Browse faculty research descriptions by program, through the faculty biography page and through our new podcast.
Securing an REU position
Watch this video to learn how to make contact with the potential faculty mentor and express your interest in their research.
Funding comes from government sources, private industry, foundations and professional organizations. Funding may be specific to a particular discipline, field of study, or time of year.
Browse the resources below to locate grants or funding for your REU.
- Stockton Student Research Funding Opportunities
- Funding is first come, first served basis.
- National Institutes of Health (NIH) Undergraduate Scholarship Program (UGSP) - Scholarships to students from disadvantaged backgrounds who are committed to careers in biomedical, behavioral, and social science health-related research
- IBP - Funding for underrepresented students
- The Department of Energy (DOE) - Energy-related research
- Web Guru - Guide for undergraduate research funding
Undergraduate research is a new step in your academic career. It is natural to be nervous when starting something that is new and unfamiliar.
We reached out to students and alumni who have contributed to research projects and asked them to provide you an overview of their experiences.
Here is what they have to say!
Jessica Baez '18, Marine Science with a concentration in Oceanography. Hear about her experience with research at Stockton and at her first conference.
Laurel Kelin '19
Feny Patel '19
Shiela Asiago '20
Joseph M. Burns '19
Sarah Turetzkin '18
B.S. Biology, Pre-Doctor of Physical Therapy
Alyssa Enny '16
Students in the school of NAMS are encouraged to conduct novel scientific research in collaboration with faculty mentors. The NAMS Undergraduate Research Symposium is held annually and provides Stockton students the opportunity to present their work to the Stockton Community. Students present their work in the fields of Chemistry, Biology, Marine Biology, Physics, Environmental Science, Geology, and Mathematics.
Instructions for Presenters:
- Completed abstract forms should be sent to Nams.firstname.lastname@example.org no later than 5:00 pm on Friday April 12th, 2019.
- Posters should be composed in Microsoft Powerpoint™ and should be no larger than 42” high and 36” wide using the following NAMS Symposium Poster Template.
- Students should contact their faculty mentors for instructions for printing posters.
Faculty mentors should submit posters for printing to David Dimmerman (David.Dimmerman@stockton.edu). Please email posters as a PDF or PowerPoint attachment. For large files, please email a link (i.e. Dropbox).
All files must be received by April 21st to allow sufficient time for printing.
Posters will be printed at 42” x 42”. Please trim the extra border prior to display at the symposium.
2019 Symposium Winners
First Place: Biology
Analysis of Soil Bacteria for Production of Antibiotics
Daniel Stoyko, Brian Neff, Vincent Anelle, Ellis Kirk, and Karen York
Due to the rise of antibiotic resistant bacterial pathogens, the need to discover new antibiotics has never been greater. One approach to the discovery of new antibiotics is through testing soil bacteria for the production of antimicrobial compounds. A typical 10 gram soil sample can contain up to 2 billion bacteria, each producing hundreds of different organic compounds. Considering that most of the known antibiotics are produced by soil bacteria, some of these compounds could have antimicrobial activity. In this study, soil bacteria from the New Jersey Pine Barrens were isolated, cultured, and screened against non-pathogenic bacteria closely related to common pathogens. Organic compounds were extracted from these soil bacteria and subsequently characterized using gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy (GC-MS). Of the compounds in the extract, some are known for their antibiotic activity (e.g. phenazine). The bacteria were identified by DNA sequencing of the 16S ribosomal RNA gene. Preliminary sequencing results suggest some belong to the genus Burkholderia. The following study improves our knowledge of antibiotics produced by soil bacteria. In addition, this study offers novel compounds with possible antibiotic activity.
Second Place: Biology
Analysis of double-stranded DNA break repair in haploid Saccharomyces cerevisiae under spaceflight conditions
Matthew Elko, Joseph Romanowski, and Daniel Stoyko
Due to the advancement of space age, all spaceflight-associated health risks should be studied in detail. Mistakes in double-stranded DNA break (DSBs) repair can lead to carcinogenesis. Previous studies reported contradictory results regarding the effect of microgravity on DSB repair. Cells have two major mechanisms that repair DSBs: homologous recombination (HR) and non-homologous end joining (NHEJ). HR requires a second, good copy of the damaged DNA for repair, while NHEJ adheres two DNA ends together. The goal of this experiment is to determine how spaceflight impacts NHEJ. To accomplish this goal, we will use the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae as an experimental model. Yeast have several advantages for this line of investigation: 1) Their NHEJ repair mechanisms are well conserved with humans; 2) Their fast proliferation rate generates sufficient material for cellular and molecular analyses; 3) Yeast can live as either diploids or haploids; haploids must exclusively use NHEJ to repair DSBs; 4) DNA damaging agents have been well-studied in this model. Using the confines of a NanoRacks MiniLab, we have engineered an experimental system which will expose proliferating haploid yeast to bleomycin, a DNA damaging agent. Preliminary experiments have identified an optimal bleomycin concentration (1-5 μg/mL) and a sufficient cell density (2.5 x 106 cells/mL). Using these parameters, we will measure NHEJ in both an experimental sample sent to the International Space Station and an Earth control. The results of these analyses will be crucial in forwarding our understanding of NHEJ in space.
Third Place: Marine Science
Tidal variability of estuarine circulation in Little Egg Inlet
Nicole Ertle and Jaclynne Polcino
Characterizing estuarine circulation is important for understanding larval dispersal, sediment transport and water quality. Estuarine circulation varies with buoyancy inputs, mixing from winds and tides, and changes in bathymetry. This study aimed to quantify momentum balances with changes in the tide in Little Egg Inlet, New Jersey, a major connection point between coastal bays and the Atlantic Ocean. During a 14-hour survey in Little Egg Inlet, an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) was used to collect velocity data along set transects and a Sontek CastAway CTD was used to collect density profiles at several stations. Results presented here pertain to the Outer Inlet transect which spans from Little Beach (Pullen Island) to Holgate. Velocity data were used to determine vertical shear, and vertical density gradients were used to determine the buoyancy frequency. The Richardson number, a non-dimensional number that characterizes water column stability, was calculated from buoyancy frequency and vertical shear. Over the tide cycle there was variability in the tendency for the water column to go from turbulent mixing during the flood tide to slightly stratified conditions during the ebb tide. Overall net volume transport was landward (573.44 m3 s-1), and varied laterally across the inlet. The results add to our collective understanding of estuary-ocean exchange in well-mixed estuaries and can inform development of hydrodynamic models of the study area.
Honorable Mention: Biology
mTORC1 Activation Alters Neural Stem Cell Fate
Katie Nolan and Nicole DeSimone
In the postnatal brain, the subventricular zone (SVZ) is a niche that maintains neural stem cells and fosters ongoing neurogenesis. Previous studies have shown that neural stem cells in different regions of the SVZ are primed to produce specific types. For example, neural stem cells in the dorsal SVZ preferentially produce TH+ neurons. We examined whether neural stem cells in these areas differ in gene expression. RNA-Seq analysis demonstrated that Pax6 is enriched in dorsal neural stem cells, whereas Nkx2.1 is enriched ventrally. Immunostaining of the SVZ illustrates that Pax6 is restricted to dorsal regions while the mRNA is not. Driving protein translation by activating mTORC1 increased the protein expression of Pax6 and reduced Nkx2.1 expression in vitro. Additionally, mTORC1 activation can increase the number of Pax6+ cells in the SVZ. Taken together, our data suggest that terminal fates of neural stem cells can be modulated by protein translation control.
Honorable Mention: Chemistry
Synthesis and characterization of nickel and ruthenium complexes of primary amido-functionalized N-heterocyclic carbene ligands and evaluation of their catalytic activity for transfer hydrogenation
Tiffany Roach, Michelle Schmitza, Valkyrie Leacha, Dangkhoa Voa, Josef DeMarioa, Marcus Millera, Benny Chanb, and Steven Kalman
New nickel complexes of primary amido-functionalized N-heterocyclic carbene ligands have been synthesized, characterized, and evaluated for their catalytic activity for transfer hydrogenation, which is the addition of hydrogen across a π-bond using a dihydrogen surrogate. The nickel complexes show moderate catalytic activity for base-free transfer hydrogenation of ketones under aerobic conditions. Synthesis of half-sandwich ruthenium complexes featuring these ligands has also been explored. Current work is focused on studying the scope of the catalytic reactions with the nickel complexes, modifying the nickel catalysts for increased activity, and improving the synthesis of the ruthenium complexes. Once the ruthenium complexes have been successfully synthesized, they will be assessed as catalysts for base-free transfer hydrogenation in air.