NSF REU: A COOPERATIVE INTERNATIONAL UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH PROGRAM AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CÁDIZ
Four years ago, we established a summer international Research Experience for Undergraduates (iREU) site in the Dept. of Organic Chemistry at the University of Cádiz, located in southwestern Spain. This program was a collaboration between Bucknell University (BU) and the University of Cadiz (UCA) which was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). During this REU, students had the opportunity to participate in one of several labs in the area of Ecological Chemistry. Students worked on individual research projects, each with their own assigned Spanish faculty member. Areas of research included Marine Organic Chemistry, Allelopathy, and Synthesis. Students were recruited from across the entire United States and her territories. In order to facilitate recruitment of the highest standard of students without prejudice against low-income students, all travel and living expenses were provided by NSF. A summer stipend was provided so students who needed to work during the summer could also participate. In years 3 & 4, students with independent funding were included only if they had been ranked in the top fifteen percent (15%) by the selection committee. The summer program was ten weeks long; nine of which were spent at the University of Cádiz. While the primary objective was to expose students to a rigorous and meaningful research experience in a highly diverse and international environment; outside cultural experiences were also very important. Students were encouraged to participate in optional weekend trips as well as to travel extensively on their own. The broader impact of this study included the integration of research activities into the experiences of eight funded and several self-funded undergraduate students per year. The project improved research skills, and students gained experience interacting with multi-cultural teams working on unique scientific projects. The projects were highly interdisciplinary, spanning ecology, biochemistry, organic chemistry and physiology. To assess the success of the program, the program coordinators used a series of metrics, including pre- and post- surveys, weekly objectives and interviews, student blogs, and internal and external assessment tools.
As the funding for this program is over, we are now looking to expand for the next cycle of funding, using best practices from the past several years’ experience. Future plans include adding mentors from the Inorganic Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Departments.