Multi-Site Research Experience for Undergraduates Supports Emerging Work in Cell Manufacturing

Achievement date: 
2018
Outcome/accomplishment: 

A multi-site Cell Manufacturing Technologies Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program was initiated by the National Science Foundation (NSF)-sponsored Cell Manufacturing Technologies (CMaT) Engineering Research Center (ERC), headquartered at the Georgia Institute of Technology (GT). Fourteen students participated in the initial implementation, which funds research at partnering CMaT labs including GT, the University of Georgia (UGA), and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW).

Impact/benefits: 

The program seeks to fund work for 10-15 science or engineering students in CMaT labs annually. Students from underrepresented groups, women, and individuals with disabilities are strongly encouraged to apply. In its first year, the REU reported support for 13 women entering STEM fields; CMaT also said 11 of the participating students were part of groups not traditionally privileged. Participating students benefit from unique peer networking experiences that allow them to generate micro-communities focused in the fields relevant to their research interests. Other core benefits of REU participation include graduate school preparation, faculty mentoring, professional development, and social engagement opportunities.

Explanation/Background: 

The program kick-off funded experiential research projects at the three partnering sites, with students distributed across hosting sites for a 10-week summer semester as follows: GT, six students; UGA, four students; and UW, four students. As the REU program continues, opportunities have been enabled at additional CMaT partnering institutions, such as the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (UPRM).

The REU program afforded each student a research stipend, free housing and some meal and travel allowances in support of their work. Students also connected beyond their hosting institutions, through a range of shared events during and after the term; events included a virtual symposium; annual retreat; industry partner career panel; and other events. REU students completing the program were able to benefit from additional professional development opportunities such as poster and oral presentations on their work for the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES); the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS); and the NSF’s annual Emerging Researchers National (ERN) Conference in STEM.