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USF's First Virtual REU Program Kicks Off This Friday

This Friday 10 freshmen/sophomore students from around the nation will be participating in USF’s NSF funded Weather, Climate, and Society Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) Program. While many REU programs across the country had to postpone, Dr. Jennifer Collins (PI) from the School of Geosciences and her team of mentors from several disciplines across campus (Co-Pi Dr. Ersing, Dr. Bartesaghi, Leanna Smithberger, and Amy Polen) have been preparing a 9-week virtual program centered on an intensive research experience for the students.

Using remote communication platforms such as Microsoft Teams, and having access to software available to all USF students, these students will be exposed to research methods, gain research skills, and engage with the mentors on a research project as they analyze data and interpret the results.

Dr. Collins said that the words of former President John F. Kennedy speaking at Rice University on September 12, 1962 still resonates 50 years later which inspired her to make sure this research program forged ahead this summer. JFK said, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too. It is for these reasons that I regard the decision last year to shift our efforts in space from low to high gear as among the most important decisions that will be made during my incumbency in the office of the Presidency.”

Dr. Collins also said that “the importance of research experiences for undergraduates is likewise something that I cannot postpone or cancel. The research the students undertake may have considerable impact on the community and for the environment. These experience often have defined an undergraduate student’s trajectory and future career”.

She provides evidence of successes of her former REU students, one who received a prestigious opportunity from NOAA providing the student with a guaranteed career at the National Weather Service after graduation.

Dr. Collins said she is “thrilled that mentors were on board with continuing the program this summer. While we have made adjustments to how this program is being delivered to be 100% virtual, we are confident that we can offer an equally enriching and rewarding experience to both students and mentors to what we originally planned in person prior to COVID-19. This may be a model for future research opportunities, to be able to offer virtual experiences particularly to those who are limited to travel to such events which are typically on campus.”

Filed under:Arts and Sciences School of Geosciences