NSF-Funded Research Experiences For Undergraduates

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REU@UB Tour of MOOG (left to right): Matthew Crawley, Josh Hazelnis, Daniel Petrov, Dan Lord, Prof. Tim Cook, Jenylan Negron, Valerie Rodriguez, Mariela Santiago, Karoline Garcia, David Miller, Elaina Spendio, Elizabeth Hinterberger, Andrew Fortin, Shermain Aponte, Gabriel Garcia, Jonathan DeMaria, Prof. Jason Benedict, Shea Myers.

An undergraduate research experience is a defining moment for many chemistry majors and often shapes their next steps towards a rewarding career in the sciences. The Department of Chemistry was recently awarded a $343,231 grant from the National Science Foundation to establish a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) site titled “REU Site: Chemistry 360°: A Comprehensive Research and Career Development Experience @UBChemistry” led by Profs. Jason Benedict and Timothy Cook.

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REU@UB Students from Puerto Rico (left to right): Mariela Santiago, Jenlyan Negron, Gabriel Garcia, Shermain Aponte, Valerie Rodriguez, Karoline Garica.Patrick Burns, a UB PhD graduate and a company chemist.

The Department has an established record of excellence hosting REU students beginning with the first NSF funded program from 2005-2007 spearheaded by Prof. Janet Morrow and Prof. Sherry Chemler. The most recent award marks the fourth time that Chemistry will host a three-year REU program. The newest site places an emphasis on maintaining an impactful research experience while also providing professional development resources to prepare students to make informed career decisions as they transition beyond their undergraduate studies. A flagship lecture program dubbed “Chem 360°” helps students develop and improve their soft skills and professional networking strategies. A series of industry site visits, seminars, workshops, and presentations rounds out ten weeks of cutting edge research working alongside faculty mentors, students, and postdocs. For the 2019 summer session, eleven students were hosted at UB. Some students were local, hailing from area schools including Niagara University, D’Youville College, and Niagara County Community College.

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Shermain Aponte (fourth from left), a University of Puerto Rico at Cayey student, is a participant in UB’s CHEM 360° summer research program. UB chemists supporting her include (from left to right, excluding Aponte): Prof. Diana Aga, Aponte’s faculty research mentor; Profs. Timothy Cook and Jason Benedict, the program’s organizers; Prof. Luis Colón, who helped recruit Aponte to the program; and PhD student Grace Guardian, a research mentor.

Others travelled much farther, including six students from the University of Puerto Rico Cayey, following in the footsteps of highly successful REU participants from past sites including a few that went on to attend UB for their PhD studies. This year’s program kicked off during the first week of June and continued through the beginning of August. After a welcome picnic and safety seminar, the students began their research experience across one of many participating labs that span synthesis, energy and sustainability, spectroscopy and measurements, biological and medicinal chemistry, and materials and nanochemistry. Weekly program events brought together the REU participants throughout the summer where they were joined by UB students supported by departmental fellowships or individual labs, bolstering the undergraduate research community. The department is excited to have this REU site in place through the summer of 2021 and looks forward to providing a safe, diverse, and comprehensive experience for all of our visiting students!