Daily Egyptian

National Science Foundation approves funding for undergraduate research program

By Tyler Malone, Staff Writer

SIU’s Research Experience for Undergraduates program was approved $384,244 in federal funding for another three years to continue STEM research.

Chemistry and Biochemistry professor, Boyd McLean Goodson, sent the grant proposal earlier this year to continue REU program, which is funded by the National Science Foundation.

“We were excited to find out that our renewal proposal was awarded a new round of funding”, Goodson said.  

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Since SIU is a research university, approval by the National Science Foundation is always exciting and provides the university with research status and opportunities few other schools have, Goodson said.

“The National Science Foundation provides funding opportunities for universities to construct summer undergraduate research programs,” Goodson said. “The goal is to help increase the number of domestic students who chose to pursue careers in STEM fields.”

The university will sponsor research opportunities for undergraduates in Chemistry, Physics, and Engineering during the summer.

The departments of chemistry, biochemistry, physics, mechanical engineering and energy processes, the Materials Technology Center, the College of Science and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research use the REU grant.

“The most important thing our program offers is an opportunity to participate in mentored undergraduate research full time for nine weeks during the summer,” Goodson said.

According to the SIU REU webpage, students selected for the program will receive a stipend worth nearly $5,000, be provided with a paid for 2-person room in University housing, a travel allowance of $750, and a $1,000 research allowance.

Many universities have REU programs, but each program in the specific school has a different research focus based on what the school’s scientific concentration is and what faculty are experienced in, Goodson said.

The research program is important to the university’s students because it allows undergraduates to directly participate in scientific research and create new knowledge.

SIU students involved in the program have multiple opportunities to connect with other researchers, students, and faculty in various STEM fields at conferences. These opportunities provide networking skills for those involved, Goodson said.

Networking skills are essential to attract prospective employers, Goodson said.

“Once students see what they learn in class are actually good for, not only do they value the knowledge more, but it becomes easier for them to see themselves in a career in that field,” Goodson said.

Students receive opportunities in the research program to work with scientists that are all at different stages in their careers and become a part of a team.

Hannah Lepird, a senior studying Chemistry, participated in the program during the 2016 summer. She said when she first began researching she was under careful supervision.

“I was lucky to have a graduate student who didn’t mind letting me screw things up in the process of learning,” Lepird said.

Lepird’s research revolved around both biochemistry bacterial expression of fusion proteins and protein purification and the interaction between matter and electromagnetic radiation.

“[The program] is a great opportunity to become familiar with research and earn some money,” Lepird said.

Paul Kevorkian a senior studying Chemistry is participating in the research program currently. He began in January 2017 and will continue researching through May 2019.  

Kevorkian said through the research program he was able to work with Chemistry and Biochemistry Professor Plunkett on blending bonded ring-shaped hydrocarbon molecules to make an effective organic semiconductor.

“My research experience has been great,” Kevorkian said. “The supplemental labs that come with the science courses only teach the basics about a subject, but doing research teaches you much more in depth and gives you a better hands on experience.”  

Staff writer Tyler Malone can be reached at [email protected]

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