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A NOVEL APPROACH TO AN INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH EXPERIENCE FOR UNDERGRADUATES

J. Romagni1, J. Garcia Galindo2, M. Colvin3, F. Macias2

1Bucknell University (UNITED STATES)
2University of Cadiz (SPAIN)
3University of St. Thomas (UNITED STATES)
We have established a new summer International Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) site at the University of Cádiz, in southwestern Spain in the Dept. of Organic Chemistry. This program is a collaboration between Bucknell University (BU), the University of Cadiz (UCA) and is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). During this REU, students have the opportunity to participate in one of several labs in the area of Chemical Ecology. Students work on individual research projects, each with their own assigned Spanish faculty member. The program currently is ten weeks long; nine of which are in Cadiz. The eight students are recruited from across the United States with particular attention to academic excellence and previous laboratory experience.
This program is unique in several ways. First, it is a true collaboration between Bucknell University and the University of Cadiz. Both institutions have dedicated time and funds to the success of the program. Secondly, unlike most international programs, this program does not use faculty from the United States to teach at a foreign locale, but rather uses the local faculty as mentors for undergraduate research students. It is also not an official class, but rather serious laboratory research experience. This is one of the few international experiences that are available to students in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines.
The program, in addition to chemistry research, integrates a semi-intensive Spanish class into the program, providing students with the tools to interact outside of the lab. There is a short pre-experience orientation that is held at Bucknell, followed by assessment and a research colloquium at the very end. Students are expected to remain in contact with their mentors for a minimum of two years following the experience.
The location is also unique. The southern coast of the province of Cádiz forms one of the sides of the Strait of Gibraltar. This unique position encompasses an area of great ecological interest, housing the greatest biodiversity of Europe's coasts. It has been declared a protected natural area. More than 2000 species of marine flora and fauna have been described in this region, some of them being endemic or with a restricted area of distribution.
The broader impact of this study includes the integration of research activities into the experiences of eight undergraduate students per year. The project improves research skills, and students gain experience interacting with multi-cultural teams working on unique scientific projects. These projects are highly interdisciplinary, spanning ecology, biochemistry, organic chemistry and physiology. While preparing them for careers in science, they also provide invaluable professional experience outside the United States, forging long-term international relationships. This project actively recruited women and underrepresented minorities. We expect that several of these students will be co-authors on peer-reviewed journal articles. They will also be encouraged to present their research at regional and national meetings.