Research Experience for Undergraduates

Advanced Materials and Chemical Biology

The Department of Chemistry at Clemson University received support to restart the REU Program, as part of an on-going summer research experience for students. Participants from regional HBCUs, PUIs, and TYTCs were brought to Clemson each summer to perform research in the areas of Advanced Materials and Chemical Biology. In addition they were provided opportunities for personal and professional growth and development through numerous workshops, seminars, and panel discussions on topics ranging from the fundamentals of instrumentation techniques, research in the various disciplines of chemistry, career planning and preparation, and the role of women and underrepresented groups in the sciences. Our recruiting and selection process targeted female and underrepresented minority students whose, despite having academic metrics that limit their opportunities in conventional REU programs, featured noncognitive factors (positive self-concept, realistic self-appraisal, long-range goals, system navigation, leadership, and demonstrated community service) indicated a strong aptitude for research.

Intellectual Merit:  The REU students performed research in two high impact areas: Advanced Materials to produce high performance materials and process of importance for infrastructure and economic development, and Chemical Biology where contributions will improve the health and quality of life of our society. The research training received in the lab and professional development was fostered by the workshops, panel discussions, and seminars at Clemson and the subsequent presentation of their work at professional conferences; contributing to their ability to successfully pursue a productive career in chemistry and related sciences.

Broader Impacts: Beyond the scientific goals, the project aimed to form a cohort of top-performing candidates and students that (albeit having lower academic metrics) have aptitude and potential for performing productive research in chemistry. The goal was to bring at least 50% of these non-traditional / high-potential students. In addition, the project aimed to increase the diversity of the participants including women (goal >30% participants), minorities (> 30% to mirror the demographics of the surrounding area). It is critical to emphasize that while being minorities, these groups still display the highest growth rates; therefore highlighting the importance of the program for future generations of students in these groups. Our selection process also considered students from institutions where research training and infrastructure was not readily available. Participation in the summer program supplemented their education and encouraged them to pursue careers in science. Providing this group of students with research training and professional development opportunities and more importantly with the encouragement that they can succeed in a research career inspired them to enroll in advanced degree programs to that end. The ultimate result will be the cultivation and development of a previously unrecognized resource of highly motivated, hard-working young scientists. The annual evaluation and assessment of our selection methods will provide feedback that will lead to further improvement and subsequently additional successful outcomes.

Students will be expected to remain engaged in research activities and to present the results of the program in a scientific meeting.

Support offered

This program was directed by Drs. Bill Pennington, Carlos D. Garcia, and Tania I. Houjeiry (Coordinator). The REU program provided travel expenses (flight to GSP and ground transportation to Clemson), housing, meals, and a $5,500 scholarship. The REU grant did not pay for any other expense outside the scope of the sponsored activity. This program was financed by the NSF – Division of Chemistry, Awards #CHE-1560300 (2018-2021) and is now closed.

Papers Published with REU participants
2020 – Suspended