Summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program at Northeastern

Teamwork in Biology

Spend the summer in the heart of Boston living with a small cohort of like-minded undergraduate students learning about and doing exciting research. Ten students will be selected to participate on interdisciplinary research teams for ten weeks, from May to July.

This summer program immerses students in the world of research science, exposing them to various aspects of scientific investigation and preparing them for biologic science careers via workshops, lectures, presentations, and field trips. The program culminates in a Summer Research Symposium, where students present their research.

On This Page:

Essential Program Information/Apply

Schedule of Activities

Apply Now

Research Teams

Essential Program Information/Apply

Students learn how research is conducted, and many will have the opportunity to present the results of their work at scientific conferences. Students will use techniques at the cutting edge of biological research to answer new questions and will enhance their abilities to lead and perform in research teams.

Participants work in pairs with a pair of faculty advisors and lab members. Our team based approach fosters a community of learning to help students grow as independent scientists and as members of research teams with common goals.

2021 Program Details

  • 10-week schedule: June 1 – August 6, 2021
  • $5750 stipend, paid in two installments on weeks 5 and 10 of the program
  • Free on-campus housing with kitchenette plus meal card with 50 free meals
  • Students are responsible for their travel expenses
  • 35 hour/week laboratory research in lively, interactive teams
  • Seminars, educational and social activities, final research presentation

Am I Eligible?

Applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • Undergraduate college students (rising sophomores through rising seniors, as of Summer of program)
  • US citizens or permanent residents only
  • Students majoring in biology, biochemistry, or other related disciplines
  • Strong interest in a career that involves scientific research
  • Women, first-generation college students, and students from groups underrepresented in the sciences are encouraged to apply
  • Active and prior service US military personnel are encouraged to apply
  • Preference will be given to students from institutions lacking doctoral research programs

Apply Now

Thank you for your interest in the REU program in the Department of Biology at Northeastern University. The deadline to submit your complete application is February 1, 2021.

Apply Here

The application requires the following:
  • College/School is “Science”
  • Program is “Research Experience for Undergraduates – Biology” NOT INTERNSHIP
  • Degree is “Non-degree”
  • Concentration/Specialty/Track is “Not Applicable”
  • Enrollment status is “Full-Time”
  • Entry term is “Summer” and year

Copies of unofficial transcripts

  • Enter this is the Supplementary section
  • In 500 words or less, please tell us about your aspirations as a scientist and how participating in this summer program fits in with your academic and career goals.  Please be sure to include your research interests.

In the Recommendations Provider List, add the names and contact information of two recommenders. The recommenders will receive an automated e-mail from the application system with a link to submit their recommendations online.

Select that you will be paying the fee by check and we will WAIVE the fee upon submission of your application.

Not required:

Test results, employment experience

If you have any questions about the application, please contact:

Schedule of Activities

Memorial Day Weekend

Move in to your dorm in downtown Boston!

Week 1

  • Welcome and orientation
  • Introduction to labs/lab safety training
  • Team building
  • Proposal writing
  • Visit the New England Aquarium

Week 2

  • Research projects
  • Proposal revisions
  • Science of teamwork and team dynamics

Week 3

  • Research projects
  • Ethics – Responsible conduct of research
  • Visit Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts
  • Research projects
  • Writing scientific papers
  • Faculty member Dr. Dori Woods presents: Mighty Mitochondria
  • Visit Boston’s Museum of Science

Week 5

  • Research projects
  • Oral presentations and posters in science
  • Faculty member Dr. James Monaghan presents: Gene Regulation of Limb Regeneration – Insights from the Axolotl
  • July 3-5: Enjoy the holiday weekend! Fireworks on the Esplanade!

Week 6

  • Research projects
  • Graduate student panel
  • Faculty member Dr. Rebeca B. Rosengaus presents: The Termite Microbiome and its Role in the Evolution of Social Immunity
  • Walk Boston’s Freedom Trail

Week 7

  • Research projects
  • Ethics – Sticky situations
  • The science of teamwork and leadership
  • Faculty member Dr. Erin Cram presents: Feeling the squeeze: Mechanotransduction in the C. elegans reproductive system
  • Visit Boston’s Room Escape

Week 8

  • Research projects
  • Careers in biology (Speaker panel from industry, academics, and entrepreneurship)
  • Faculty member Dr. Veronica Godoy presents: Bacterial DNA Damage Repair Pathways
  • Kayaking trip

Week 9

  • Research projects
  • Program evaluation

Week 10

  • Research projects
  • Faculty member Dr. Kim Lewis presents: Thinking About Antimicrobials: From Puzzles to Discovery
  • Final presentations
  • Celebration Picnic and Lab Olympics!

Research Teams

REU students will work to creatively shape the projects to match their interests. REU students will be full participants in all usual lab activities including lab meetings and journal clubs. Mentoring and support will be provided by faculty advisors and lab members throughout the experience.

Research Project Summary: The goal of the project is to discover and characterize new antimicrobial compounds. The project brings together two experts in antimicrobial discovery, Kim Lewis and Anthony D’Onofrio. REU students will screen a library of synthetic compounds, but in addition, attractive antimicrobial-producing microorganisms will be specifically captured from environments where their presence will be determined by their DNA signature, obviating traditional Petri dish isolation. The screen will uncover compounds acting selectively against a given pathogen, providing a new type of specific antibiotics. The compounds will be characterized for activity against a variety of human pathogens.

Student Involvement in Project: Under the direction of Drs. Lewis and D’Onofrio, the REU students will screen a compound library for selective activity against Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease, and screen producing microorganisms against E. coli and S. aureus. Once compounds are identified, their mechanism of action will be studied.

What Students will Learn: Through this interdisciplinary work, the students will gain first-hand experience in experimental design, and in current techniques in microbiology and natural product chemistry.

Broader impacts of this project: There is a great unmet need for new antimicrobials, and this project will examine novel approaches to their discovery – species-selective screening; and focused access to attractive producers. Identifying compounds will validate these approaches, leading to their broad application. Beyond this study, the project will provide students with fundamental skills needed to address a broad range of questions in microbiology, natural product chemistry, and drug discovery.

Research Project Summary: The goal of the project is to understand how animals cope with stress. We use the nematode C. elegans, a small transparent roundworm with many advantages for genetics and cell biology for our studies. The Cram lab is focusing on how oxidative stress affects the reproductive system and the Apfeld lab is focusing on neuronal control of oxidant protective responses. We expect to identify genes and processes that are important, not just for worms, but in the biology of all animals.

Student Involvement in Project: Students will help design experiments to reveal the importance of oxidative stresses in animal physiology. Dr. Apfeld will focus on neuronal control of response to oxidative stress and Dr. Cram on the role of redox signaling in the worm’s reproductive system. Students will select candidate genes to study and will design and test their own hypotheses about how these genes might affect the animal’s response to oxidative stress.

What Students will Learn: Students will learn the fundamentals of designing, implementing, and interpreting experiments and communicating their results to others. They will learn how to disrupt gene function in C. elegans using RNA interference and genetic approaches including CRISPR-Cas9, will perform molecular cloning techniques including PCR, DNA electrophoresis, and DNA purification, will help make their own transgenic nematodes, and will visualize fluorescent proteins in living cells using 4D confocal microscopy. Students will learn how to properly use statistics and how to explain what they are doing to a broad range of scientists and non-scientists.

Broader impacts of this project: Our students will learn to use the tools of molecular cell biology and genetics to address scientific questions. Through working in our research team, they will gain in confidence in themselves as capable scientists. Our program is designed to also help them build leadership skills and to learn how to communicate their passion for science to others. This will help them serve as ambassadors for STEM education when they return to their home institutions and move forward in their careers.

Research Project Summary: There is an amazing orchestration of cells that come together to build and repair animals. Some animals such as salamander have the amazing ability to repair skin wounds without a scar and even regenerate entire limbs. In contrast, mammals such as mice and humans scar after injury. The common goal of Monaghan, Crane and Ionescu groups is to understand tissue regeneration in response to injury. The Monaghan laboratory studies the cellular basis of wound healing and regeneration in the axolotl salamander. The Crane laboratory studies skin repair in mice, while the Ionescu laboratory investigates the role of resident stem cells in cartilage regeneration. In this REU project, students will be comparing differences in wound healing between these two species using histology and studying gene expression of injured wounds. In a related project with the Sive laboratory, students will research how cells build the face during frog development. Frogs are a great system, as they develop externally, and every step involved can be followed. In this REU project, students will assess the role of nitric oxide (NO), a chemical signal important for facial formation.

Student Involvement in Project: Students will be performing recently developed staining and imaging techniques of mRNA molecules in tissue sections. The approach, called Fluorescence in situ Hybridization, is capable of imaging many mRNA species simultaneously. Students will evaluate gene expression differences between mice and axolotl in order to determine the underlying differences that may lead to scarring versus regeneration. In addition, students will perform fluorescent lineage tracing of the resident stem cells in response to injury. For projects related to face formation, students will evaluate gene expression using transgenic lines, by in situ hybridization, and using fluorescent indicators of NO signaling.

What Students will Learn: Students will learn multiple complex laboratory techniques including histological tissue sectioning, histological staining techniques, fluorescence in situ Hybridization, immunohistochemistry, fluorescence microscopy, and how to quantitatively measure and evaluate gene and protein expression in tissue sections. Overall, the students will become proficient at tissue staining, imaging, and how to use bioinformatic approaches to understand gene expression.

Broader impacts of this project: Discoveries that improve tissue repair and regeneration have vast implications for a host of conditions, including burn injuries, chronic infections, cancer and developmental growth defects. These projects will enlighten students as to how basic research can have future translational impact. Having students compare Axolotl and mouse mechanisms of cellular repair, and evaluate mechanisms of facial development will provide a strong foundation for further study of cell and molecular biology. Students will gain experience in formulating and testing hypotheses, essential for a research career, and useful for almost any future career direction.

Research Project Summary: The goal of this project is to explore the control of human movement through complex, natural environments. Dr. Sternad’s lab focuses on motor learning and how humans learn stable solutions to complex motor skills and Dr. Matthis focuses on the visual control of full-body movements, such as locomotion over rough terrain.

Student Involvement in Project: The REU student will assist in the design, execution, and analysis of research to explore neural, mechanical, and computational questions in human sensorimotor control.

What Students will Learn: Students will receive training in the design of human experiments, data analysis, use of state-of-the-art technologies, such as optical motion capture, mobile eye tracking, augmented and virtual reality systems, EMG recording, robotic interfaces, and more.

Broader Impacts: Decades of research on human sensory and motor systems has yielded a wealth of knowledge of the neural bases of simplified behaviors in controlled laboratory environments, but far less is known about the way these low-level systems interact to support complex behaviors in the natural world. By leveraging new technologies to quantify large-scale behaviors that were beyond the grasp of previous generations of researchers, we will extend the scope of scientific inquiry to include the real-world behaviors of everyday life.

Research Project Summary: The common thread guiding collaborative research between the Chai, Day, Geisinger and Godoy-Carter groups involves the study of stress responses that drive survival and proliferation of pathogenic cells. The Chai, Geisinger and Godoy-Carter groups examine responses to DNA damage and other forms of stress in bacteria and the Day Lab studies analogous DNA damage responses in eukaryotic cells. We will investigate how these responses enhance cellular protective structures including cell envelopes and biofilms, lead to horizontal transfer of genetic information, and play roles in tumorigenesis. 

Student Involvement in Project: Students will develop hypotheses and design and execute experiments to elucidate consequential stress response networks that promote resiliency in bacterial and mammalian cells.  Experiments will measure effects on drug resistance, biofilm formation and virulence in bacteria, and drug resistance and survival of DNA damage in mammalian cells.

What Students will Learn: All students will gain facility in the process of science including hypothesis development and testing. We will use techniques in bacterial and eukaryotic cell culture, molecular biology, and genetic analyses employing next-gen sequencing. Further, students will engage in extensive data analysis, gain experience in presenting results in small and large groups, and learn to coordinate efforts in a complex and diverse research team.

The Broader Impacts of this project: Answering basic questions on the stress response systems that protect bacteria and eukaryotic cells will allow an appreciation of the sophisticated regulatory networks in cells, how they differ between bacteria and eukaryotes, and their importance in the development of a variety of disease processes ranging from infections to tumorigenesis.

Start your research today.