Research Internships – REUs

Research Experiences for Undergraduates – REUs – are summer alternatives to traditional work internships.  Instead of working for a company in industry for a summer, undergraduate students are matched with university research groups, working alongside graduate students and their supervising professors on a specific projects.

Students in their sophomore and junior years, who are considering graduate school are encouraged to apply.  Normal application deadlines for summer positions are February-March.

Jackie at UC-Santa Barbara.

Most REUs are funded by the National Science Foundation – NSF, and are hosted by universities across the country.

  • What’s in it for the universities?  They get you on their campus to consider them for grad school.
  • What’s in it for you?  Usually, 10 weeks of paid research, housing, travel, and an incredible summer with college students from around the globe.

Read here about MSE senior Jackie Ohmura, and her summer REU at UC-Santa Barbara.

For more information about NSF-sponsored REUs, visit this site:




WOSUColumbus | March 02, 2010

Scientists find a groundbreaking new way to fight cancer with the development of a futuristic nanofiber. WOSU produces O-H-I-O for Ohio State to air on the Big Ten Network and to air on WOSU TV. The show is produced by WOSU Public Media, and licensed by The Ohio State University.

Back in the saddle again

You may vaguely remember a blog post in which I mentioned wanting to get a master’s degree in materials science and engineering eventually. Well, “eventually” came sooner than I expected!

I’m back in the saddle again
Out where a friend is a friend
Where the longhorn cattle feed
On the lowly gypsum weed
Back in the saddle again

I returned to Ohio State about five weeks ago to begin a master’s degree. This serendipitous change of plans came about this past autumn. I had the opportunity to meet an MSE professor I’d not met before, and he mentioned that he had an opening in his research group. The research project he described sounded right up my alley, and before I knew it, I’d signed on for yet another round of education!

Since my master’s project is ceramics-based and my undergraduate coursework was metals-based, I’ve spent every day of the last few weeks trying to feel less clueless than I did the day before. My research group is fabulous and so helpful, which makes summiting this learning curve a little easier on the ego. I even already have a defined role within the group: resident proofreader. I knew my humanities degree would come in handy!

The biggest difference I’ve found between my undergraduate and graduate experiences so far involves how I spend my time every day. As an undergrad, I’d spend my entire day on campus, but I would spend it running from classes to meetings to my TA-ing job with little time to catch my breath. (In fact, I’m still finding it to be a novelty that as a grad student, I have the luxury of sitting down and eating lunch for as long as an hour. An hour!) As a grad student, my day revolves around my group’s labs in MacQuigg. We venture to the fourth floor of Watts as a group for coffee and tea periodically throughout the day (Hallee wasn’t kidding!), sometimes eat lunch together, and help each other out when needed. I’m looking forward to seeing where my graduate experience takes me!

Spring Break, Grad Student Style

If you would have asked me a year ago what my plans for spring break were I would have given you the location of a great beach, warm weather, and no textbooks in sight.  However, after successfully finishing two quarters of PhD core classes, my definitions of fun are significantly warped.  I had two very different parts to my spring break; I spent the majority of the week working on my creep tests, and a small portion traveling visiting my undergrad institution.

The big highlight of SB09 was going to visit my alma mater.  It felt wonderful to go back down to southwestern Ohio and pretend to be an undergrad, go out with my sorority sisters, and visit my old professors.  Driving into town felt so familiar and comfortable, and walking into the engineering building felt coming home.  My boyfriend even remarked about the differences between my two-year-old undergrad engineering building and the 1950’s engineering building where I now spend all of my time.  It was amazing to sit on High Street in the sunshine and eat my favorite bagel, and to continuously run into people I had spent years of my life getting to know.

But, as much as I loved returning to the place I called my home for four years, I was too much of a grad student to fully enjoy it.  I used to be able to enjoy being with my sisters and friends, not dwelling on my advanced mechanics homework or upcoming machine and tool design project.  Instead, I couldn’t mute the voice in the back of my head reminding me of all the things I needed to accomplish when I returned to Columbus.  Watching my sorority sisters interact made me realize that as much as I hated it, I had moved on from undergrad and become one of those harried looking, sleep deprived grad students.

So here I sit, reflecting on what the rest of my spring break was like.  Instead of wondering what time I was going to meet my friends and sorority sisters at our favorite bar, I spent my spring break enjoying an empty building.  While this might seem boring, it is amazing how much more efficiently you work in a deserted academic building.  I finally appreciate that sleeping in now means rolling into the office at 9:30 am, and a good week means not having to drink as much coffee.  Unfortunately, growing up is inevitable.  But I’m working on translating my definition of fun, and enjoying the small perks of being an engineering PhD student.

We’re Off to See the Wizards

A few weeks ago I attended my first major conference as a grad student.  As per my research, I participated in the 11th International Symposium on Superalloys, an event that occurs every four years.  I was fortunate enough that I was able to attend the conference without presenting research, so I was able to actually sit and learn the entire time.  I’ve been to conferences before (I attended MS&T a few years ago), but obviously never as a grad student.  It was truly the most knowledge-filled several days of my life, and although it was draining, it was also very rewarding.

Since this was the first experience I’ve ever had with superalloys, I will admit there was a bit of a learning curve.  I read a few articles and one of the general books in preparation for the conference (the author of the book I read turned out to be the program chairperson, which was kind of neat), but still had a lot of questions.  I dutifully sat through each one of the twenty-minute presentations and took notes on the talks, pestering the closest group mate sitting next to me with questions every few minutes.  As I discussed in a previous post, I’m also very lucky in that my group mates are always more than happy to answer questions and explain things to me whenever I am at a loss (which is seemingly more often than not as I start my materials science and engineering career).  Although I was completely lost in the dialect of the field at first, by the end of the week I was throwing around “M23C” with the rest of them.
The conference itself had a very unique set up; it was held at Seven Springs Resort in Champion, PA, so we were all more or less trapped on site.  However, the conference gave us afternoons off to explore the resort.  So we all froze in the air-conditioned tundra during the morning and evening sessions, and thawed out in the glorious sunshine during the afternoons.  We played tennis, volleyball, hiked, ran, and took the alpine slide down one of the hills.  There was even an OSU-Michigan alpine slide race, with our advisor vs. the Michigan advisor.  Our advisor won the race, and we all celebrated a (hopeful) foreshadowing of this year’s OSU-Michigan football game.Perhaps my favorite part of the conference was this interaction with other attendees.  The other OSU girl and I roomed with the Michigan girls, which gave us the opportunity to get to know other students doing similar research.  We were able to interact with people from all over the world, from the universities all over the United States, to the UK, and even to China.  Also, since I just started my research, being able to meet and hold face-to-face conversations with the gentlemen I share Friday morning teleconferences with was important to me.  We also all participated in social gatherings every evening together, which provided an open forum of discussing everything from differences in culture with students from out of the States, to common research topics and our understanding of them.

I left Columbus, Ohio Sunday morning with very little understanding or connection to my field, and returned Thursday night with a much deeper understanding, and lots of different connections.  The social interactions with other people in the field provided the opportunity to make connections to bounce ideas off of, and an opportunity for open discussion about common issues.  Most importantly, I was able to interact with the wizards of the field as a first year PhD student, the people who are at the top of the Superalloys game, and are even experiencing the same problems we are facing in our research.

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