Rochester Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) in Physics and Astrophysics Grant Renewed for Three Years

April 30, 2009

The Department of Physics and Astronomy has been awarded a grant to renew its successful Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) program for another three years (2009-2012). The grant totals $434,468 and is the sixth award since the program was initiated in 1994. It is co-funded by the Physics and Astronomy Divisions of the National Science Foundation and the ASSURE program of the Department of Defense.  The Department's REU program is under the direction of Professor Arie Bodek and Project Administrator Ms. Connie Jones.

REU students have earned many prizes and awards, including the 1999 American Physical Society's Apker Award for best undergraduate research. Two REU students were selected as APS Apker Award Finalists in 1999 and 2000, and a third won second place in the APS conference poster competition in 2001. Three REU students won APS NY section Physics Outreach awards and four REU students won the Astronomical Society of New York Undergraduate Student Prize for best research publication. Since 1994, eight female REU participants have been nominated for and won University of Rochester awards recognizing outstanding research by female students, including the Susan B. Anthony Prize, Catherine Block Memorial Fund Prize, and Janet Howell Clark Prize. At least twelve National Goldwater Fellowships and at least six National NSF scholarships have been awarded to REU students. In 2002, REU student Stephen Thorndike and Professor Alice Quillen discovered an extra-solar planet.

The University of Rochester's REU program in Physics and Astronomy enables sophomores and juniors nationwide to undertake summer research projects with members of the Department, and aims at 50% participation by women and under-represented minorities. Since 1994, the fraction of women funded or partially funded by REU funds is about 50%, and the fraction of under-represented minorities is 13%. The number of applicants to the program is about 200 per year. A total of 12 undergraduates per year are funded by the NSF site REU grant and an additional 25 are funded by other department grants.

From 1994-2008, 536 undergraduates funded by the REU program and other sources have performed research at the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Rochester. During that period, REU participants gave over 330 presentations at professional and student research conferences, and REU students have co-authored roughly 286 journal publications and conference proceedings and an equal number of abstracts. In addition, University of Rochester participants have written 76 theses in support of their Bachelor of Science degree.

The program also incorporates a research experience program for high school teachers (RET). Since 2003, 22 high school teachers have participated in REU/RET activities.

Most REU students continue to graduate school (83%), and some go to industry (13%). A few students (4%) choose to delay graduate study to teach science (for example, through Teach for America) for approximately 1-2 years.

Other REU programs at Rochester include the REU/RET program in Chemistry and the REU program in Cellular and Molecular Biology. Additional information about undergraduate research programs at the University of Rochester can be found on the website of the Office of Undergraduate Research And Mentoring, which is directed by Steve Manly, Professor of Physics and recipient of the New York State Professor of the Year Award.