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Biology department’s REU program has been renewed for three more years

Biology Professors Wendy Smith and Rebeca Rosengaus are gearing up for their fourth consecutive year running a summer research experience for undergraduates (REU) in Northeastern University’s Department of Biology. Thanks to the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Biology REU has been renewed for its second, three-year run. 

This year Smith and Rosengaus will host their largest class yet, a cohort of 12 students from across the country representing a variety of colleges, backgrounds, and interests. The group comes from many colleges and universities without access to STEM/PhD research opportunities, and by coming here, they’re able to participate in cutting-edge biological research that can help better prepare them for the rest of their careers. In addition to the research, students will gain collaboration and leadership skills, and become part of a tightly-knit group of scientists that can explore Boston over the summer.  

Professor Rebeca Rosengaus.

Smith and Rosengaus have the challenge of accepting 12 eager students out of over 400 applications they receive each year. “Our students come from schools as underrepresented minorities in the sciences, first-generation college students, military veterans, and it’s worked quite nicely,” said Rosengaus. “We feel we are successful in that we are bringing in students who would benefit the most from this opportunity, and they really take full advantage of this. They gain research experience, leadership skills, and learn to work in teams as they come to this program, tackling the same question from different perspectives – that’s what science is all about.” 

This year’s class is coming from as close as Wellesley College and as far away as University of California, Merced. With two veterans, the ages of students vary from rising sophomores to rising seniors, and they all come with diverse foci in biology, chemistry, biochemistry, or biotechnology as their majors. 

“Our students are always terrific. Through all four years of enrollment, we’ve been so impressed by the commitment and vitality,” Smith said. “We look for students who are adventurous, looking to try something new and different, and have strong leadership skills and a desire to grow in that.” 

Through each of the past three summers of the Biology REU, students have shown their success after the 10-week course ends. Some students have been able to contribute to research publications, while many others present their work at scientific meetings around the country. These have included the National REU Symposium, the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, The Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students, the National Conference of Undergraduate Research, and more.  

Smith and Rosengaus keep in touch with all of their past students and now are watching them continue in careers in science – through medical school, PhD programs, the biotechnology industry, and teaching. Smith and Rosengaus are proud of the success in the sciences and leadership skills that they’ve seen through the past three years of the program, and they are excited to see what lies ahead this summer.  

Professor Wendy Smith holds a specimen in a lab and explains something about it to two female students. The students and professor stand next to a lab bench with lab equipment and a microscope. Other students work on the experiment in the background,

Professor Wendy Smith in lab.

“I always love meeting and getting to know the students, they’re always wonderful, lively, curious people, like students at Northeastern – but they’re coming from very different perspectives, backgrounds, and colleges which is broadening for everyone in the program, including the faculty,” said Smith.  

The 2018 Summer Biology REU students will arrive on campus the last weekend in May and will work in the labs with research teams Kim Lewis and Anthony D’Onofrio, Erin Cram and Javier Apfeld, Justin Crane and James Monaghan, Konstantin Khrapko and Dori Woods, Wendy Smith and Rebeca Rosengaus, and Yunrong Chai, Edward Geisinger, and Veronica Godoy-Carter. (Learn more about each of their research topics here). PhD student Erin Cole is also an essential member of the team, assisting Smith and Rosengaus in coordinating logistics and organizing weekly professional seminars. Throughout their time over 10 weeks, daily research will be accompanied by leadership sessions hosted by US Army Colonel and Professor Steve McGonagle and field trips and activities around the Boston area, including to Northeastern’s Marine Science Center in Nahant, Mass. 

“They’re a great bunch of kids and there’s a different dynamic every year – we can’t wait to meet them,” said Rosengaus.