REUs Bring Students to Campus for Summer Research and Mentorship
Next summer, a group of ten students will gather at UMass Amherst to work on making transportation systems safer and more equitable.
Dr. Shannon Roberts, assistant professor in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department, and Dr. Eleni Christofa, associate professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, have had their proposal for a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) selected for funding by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The award provides $400,489 to fund a summer program at UMass Amherst. REU programs provide stipends to undergraduate students and pair them with faculty to jump-start their research careers.
This REU, titled Research for Inclusivity and Driving Equity (RIDE), will bring ten student participants to campus per summer for an immersive ten-week program. Students will conduct interdisciplinary research in a variety of fields—ranging from civil engineering and industrial engineering to health policy and information management, and beyond—but the research will be united by its connection to community-engaged transportation.
A key feature of RIDE will be its focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion in both the topics researched and the students conducting that research; RIDE will seek to provide students from underserved communities with the tools necessary to address transportation issues that disproportionally impact underserved and underrepresented communities.
Reflecting on the news of this NSF award, Roberts commented: “I’m very excited that we were awarded this REU site because it means we can attract talented students to UMass to do impactful work that affects underserved communities’ transportation decisions. Our goal is to recruit high numbers of female and underrepresented undergraduate students. Hopefully, we can also convince them to come back for graduate school at UMass, too!”
Christofa added: “We are excited to work with students from across the country and community partners to advance transportation equity in our region and beyond.”
While RIDE will commence during the summer of 2023, two other REUs successfully took place in the college over the summer of 2022.
The Energy Transition Institute (ETI) REU welcomed nine diverse students from UMass as well as programs across the country. Students collaborated with ETI faculty to conduct intensive research on subjects at the intersection of energy technology and social equity. Research projects included investigations into the sustainability of lithium extraction, the effects of hydropower on the communities that rely on rivers for sustenance, and the feasibility of bringing solar powered community refrigerators to Massachusetts communities.
The ETI REU is led by Dr. Erin Baker, distinguished professor in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department and faculty director of the ETI. More information about the ETI REU, including details about the student research projects undertaken this summer, is available here.
Materials-focused Undergraduate Research Applied to the Life Sciences (MURALS) brought ten students to UMass to gain hands-on experience working in research laboratories, with a focus on creating advanced materials and using those materials to tackle pressing challenges in the life sciences. In collaboration with Chemical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering faculty, students researched the utility of microneedle patches for transdermal drug delivery, the automatic analysis of neural recordings, and the role of type 3 collagen in the spread of breast cancer, among other topics. Experiences designed to aid professional skill development were also part of the program, including a trip to Boston for an industry site visit.
MURALS is led by Dr. Shelly Peyton, who is a professor in the Chemical Engineering Department, adjunct faculty member in Biomedical Engineering Department, and Armstrong Professional Development Professor. More information about MURALS is available here.
Like RIDE, both the ETI REU and MURALS actively recruit students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds and emphasize inclusive models of mentorship and collaboration. In addition to faculty mentorship and access to research facilities, both programs provide participants with weekly stipends, housing, and round-trip travel to UMass Amherst. Both programs will run again next summer.