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Undergrads wanted for paid summer research program

March 7, 2012

By Tom Parisi
NIU Media and Public Relations

DEKALB, Ill. — OK, here’s a cool summer gig for bright college kids.

Northern Illinois University (NIU) in DeKalb, Ill., is looking for as many as eight non-NIU undergraduate students who are interested in environmental issues to work closely on research projects with university scientists.

Selected students will rub elbows with researchers at federal laboratories, participate in a number of regional workshops and share ideas about topics related to the environment, energy, the economy and ethics.

Best of all, each student will receive free housing on campus — and be paid a stipend of $4,304.

The research-immersion opportunities are being made possible through a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program hosted by NIU and funded by the National Science Foundation.

The program aims to operate an interdisciplinary research-based think tank, known as Operation ETank, to engage undergraduates on perspectives of sustainability as they work with scientists.

The REU program will run from Monday, June 18, through Friday, Aug. 10. To be eligible to apply, students must have at least 60 earned credit hours, a minimum grade-point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, and be citizens or permanent residents of the United States. A limited number of slots in the program also will be reserved (under NIU funding) for NIU students, who will participate in the program and serve as ambassadors.

Community college students and undergrads at any college studying biology, chemistry, engineering, environmental sciences and the earth sciences are especially encouraged to apply, although all student applications will be considered.

More about the program — including a list of professors, their research projects and application information — is available at http://niu.edu/reu/. All application materials must be received by 4:30 p.m., Friday, March 16.

Operation ETank will focus on developing personal and scientific skills that will help students mature into young scientists,” said Lisa Freeman, NIU vice president for research and graduate studies.

This is the first REU site award to NIU and holds special significance for us because it realizes one of our Vision 2020 Initiative benchmarks — and we’re achieving that goal two years ahead of schedule,” she added.

The Vision 2020 Initiative seeks to create and implement a new vision for NIU: becoming the most student-centered public research university in the Midwest and establishing strategic goals for the coming decade in areas of student, faculty and facility excellence.

Students supported under REU site awards typically come from institutions where research opportunities for undergraduates are limited. NIU benefits, too, because Operation E-Tank will help recruit students to upper division and graduate programs, particularly in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields.

The NSF award serves to highlight NIU programs that are strong in terms of the quality of interdisciplinary research, as well as the opportunities provided for undergraduate student engagement,” said Freeman, who had been involved in developing REU sites in her previous post at Kansas State University.

She spearheaded the effort at NIU, bringing together a team that included professors David Changnon in geography and Cliff Mirman in technology; Julia Spears, coordinator of the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning; and professor Lesley Rigg, associate dean for research and graduate affairs in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

This will be a very intensive eight-week period where the students will really find out what research is all about,” said Changnon, who serves as the program coordinator. “We’re looking for undergraduates from any institution, but we do hope to have strong participation from students at community colleges, where there are fewer opportunities for students to conduct research.”

For more information, contact Changnon at (815) 753-6835 or via email at etank@niu.edu.

From the March 7-13, 2012, issue

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