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Western Kentucky University

REU Activities

REU Activities

There are four major components to this REU program:

  1. The research project;
  2. Participation in research workshops, training sessions, and field trips.
  3. Presentation of the results of their research project
  4. Mentoring by the faculty.

Our weekend field trips have been carefully selected so that they are culturally and historically significant.  Each will be tied to the local land use/land cover issues.  We also intend to take students to a professional meeting, if one is available at a cost-effective distance.  During the first week, the REU student group will complete several essential tasks as seen in the proposed program schedule in Table 1.   They will first meet on campus for check-in to the University and to their apartments.  On the first weekend, students will travel to MCNP Environmental Education Center for an overnight trip and tour of the Upper Green River Watershed.  At the first brown bag lunch, faculty mentors will present an overview of their projects in order for the group to see and understand the unifying relationships between the individual research projects and to meet with all of the faculty mentors.  Each student researcher and faculty mentor will be “paired” with a student and mentor who will be working on a closely related research project.  There will also be an informal social evening. The group will be introduced to the WKU campus and research environment through a series of short orientation meetings.  In particular, the initial orientation will include a tour of the campus, campus research centers and facilities, safety procedures, waste disposal requirements, library facilities, computing and network facilities, and athletic facilities in their first two days on campus. Students will be provided with internet access and also be taught how to conduct library searches.  WKU student identification cards will be issued in addition to a picture badge and shirt designed especially for the REU site members.  The group will tour all REU mentor offices and laboratories.

Weekly “brown-bag” (BB) will be hosted by one of the faculty mentor pairs starting the second week of the program.  The lunch will serve two main purposes – to investigate issues surrounding professional ethics and to stress the focus of the multidisciplinary aspects of the research projects.  Students will develop an appreciation how each individual project complements the others in order to achieve the overall understanding of the REU project. Instrumentation and fieldwork training sessions will be held to provide students opportunities to use sophisticated equipment which may not be available at their home institution.  Examples of the types of skills and instruments with which students will have hands-on experience include x-ray diffraction (XRD), inductively coupled plasma/mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and atmospheric modeling and data analysis software. 

A significant effort in the work will be student training in the field methods required to support each of the projects that has a field and/or sample collection component. This enhances the training aspects of the program as well as ensuring the appropriate level of quality assurance and control required for the data. Indeed, the critical nature of data integrity and the role this plays in the overall scientific effort will be a constant theme during both training and the implementation of the projects. Training in standard field methods will be jointly coordinated and conducted by Dr. Webb and Dr. Groves.

Two sessions on oral and written communications skills have been scheduled.  One of the brown bag lunches will be devoted to professional career development, such as the preparation of a resume.  Representatives from public and private entities will be invited to participate in a panel discussion on career opportunities.  A workshop at the beginning of the summer and an ending session are devoted to ethical considerations in scientific research.  A more complete description of the ethical component of this REU site is provided in supplemental documentation.

REU students will each be assigned a “budget” of $250.  Each student will be responsible for managing purchases for laboratory notebooks, coats, and other small supplies.  They will be required to assist in ordering laboratory materials.  This will provide valuable experience in the management of research projects, including funding.  The final report will include an account of the funds.

As soon as a student is accepted into the program and their interests are assessed, the principal investigators in collaboration with a faculty mentor will contact the student.  It is expected that the student participants who enter this program will have varying degrees of research experience and backgrounds.  Therefore, the mentor will guide the student in familiarizing them with relevant literature and initial hypothesis development.  It is anticipated that most students will require considerable guidance from the mentor.  The goal is to have students “primed” to begin experiments as soon as possible.  Emphasis will be placed throughout the summer on enhancing the critical thinking and communication skills (including written, oral, listening, and computer-enhanced presentations) of the students.  The importance of maintaining a laboratory notebook to professional standards will be stressed.  Notebooks will be kept by the REU mentors.  Photocopies will be provided to the students for help in future presentations.  

Data collection for most projects should be completed by the end of the eighth or ninth week.  Students will be required to prepare a poster suitable for presentation at a regional or national conference.   There will be a canoe trip in the Upper Green River Watershed for a final wrap up of the project.  This is scheduled immediately after students have turned in their draft posters for review.  At the end of the final week, students will present their posters to the group at a mini-conference to which all of the Ogden College faculty and administration will be invited. There will be a final social event, which will formally conclude the REU program.  Parents will be invited to attend these activities.   The final written report of each student will consist of the text and graphics of the poster reformatted for compilation in a bound volume that will be copied and disseminated to the entire REU group and faculty. 

It is one of the goals of this REU site to have each student achieve sufficient research progress necessary for a poster presentation at a national meeting.  To overcome potential technical issues, close mentoring and appropriate assistance will be provided to individual students throughout the summer.  This interaction will be designed and based on the degree of the incoming student’s technical expertise.   Faculty mentors will meet twice a week to monitor student progress in order to achieve the objectives of this project.  Students and mentors will be encouraged to have daily interaction, both formally and informally.  Frequent interaction between the “paired” student/mentor teams is expected.  This will ensure every student will be able to complete a research poster, either as a primary or secondary author. Whenever possible students will participate as a co-author of publications.

It is recognized that poster preparation is time-consuming and challenging.  The advantages of having a poster completed prior to leaving the REU site is that the student has a poster ready to present anywhere.  Students will be required to share their achievements with their home institution and peers.   A “poster in a tube” can be stored and transported easily to any conference the student chooses to go to.   Students will be required to submit an abstract to one local or regional and one national conference prior to leaving the REU site.   

The selected national conferences are those which the faculty mentors typically attend, such as the annual meetings of the ACS and the AGU. The local or regional conference will give the students experience in presenting a poster in preparation for the national meeting.  The national conference will be chosen in consultation with the faculty mentor.   The PIs of this REU site pledge and ensure that one of the faculty mentors in the site will attend the selected national conference if the student’s abstract is accepted.  This will guarantee the success of the student’s participation and will provide on-site mentoring.  Faculty mentors will continue working with students during the academic year to assist them in preparation for the conference.

 

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 Last Modified 9/25/14