Research Experience for Undergraduates 

Program Overview

   
Wayne State
WSU Pipeline
College of Sciences
Physics Department
NSF

The Wayne State REU site, created over ten years ago, established a very successful record of introducing young undergraduate students of diverse backgrounds from the Detroit Metropolitan Area to leading edge scientific research in astrophysics, elementary particle physics, nuclear physics, and related technologies at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (FNAL), Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC), and locally at Wayne State University (WSU). WSU is the only Carnegie I Research Intensive University in the area, whose mission combines research excellence and service to over five million people living in Metro Detroit.

Our REU program is specifically tailored as an introductory experience for beginning undergraduates. We often work with students who have no prior connection to science, and are often first in their family to experience higher education. Our aim is to introduce them to the notion that they can have a scientific career if they choose. Following their REU experience, we encourage returning students to continue in research in our department, supporting their work with research funds when possible, or to experience other REU programs in other locations. Our philosophy is that this REU introduction followed by further research experience can prepare a substantial fraction of our students for admission in the best graduate schools in the nation. From the faculty standpoint, the experience is a year-round endeavor, with recruiting, preparation, the summer research experience, and post-REU follow-up. The support provided after the REU is an integral part of the program. Oftentimes, we are our students' only role models, and they only have us to fall back on for advice, encouragement, and letters of recommendation.

The goals of the REU program and our local environment, described above, suggests an unusual approach for our REU site. We recruit students both nationally and locally, giving careful consideration to all applicants, including those from local Community Colleges. Student admission to the program requires a good GPA, and two strong letters of recommendation. Students receive training prior to their research experience during the winter through a weekly one-hour class consisting of 13 lectures (also available on-line). These lectures orient students in the relevant physics concepts and computer skills, and include reading assignments. Candidates are paired to research projects and mentors in April. They study relevant literature recommended by their mentor, and prepare a short oral presentation featuring the context and goals of their planned summer experience. Presentations are delivered in class at the end of the winter semester. May is spent improving computer literacy, and reading in preparation for the experience. The REU experience start on June 1 and lasts 10 weeks. REU projects and experiences are varied and may involve electronics, detector R&D, or data analyses in nuclear physics, particle physics, or astrophysics. The REU participants are required to submit a report at the end of their experience and to deliver it as an oral presentation to their REU peers.

We have completed fifteen years of the Wayne State Nuclear/Particle/Astrophysics REU program. Profs. G. Bonvicini, D. Cinabro, S. Gavin and C. Pruneau directed the program during its existence, and it grew significantly since its inception in 1998. We partnered with a Cornell REU coordinated by Profs. R. Galik, and E. Fontes. The collaboration with the Cornell REU, in particular, was especially successful with more than 50% our REU students taking part of projects hosted by Cornell faculty during the early years of the program. We have sent 58 students to the Cornell Laboratory of Elementary Particle Physics (LEPP), 8 students to BNL, and 7 to FNAL, and 16 worked locally at WSU. Additionally, 22 teachers from the Detroit Metropolitan Area participated in LEPP, BNL and Wayne State research projects. Recruiting a diverse group of students is natural at WSU, which is a large urban university located in the center of Detroit. Participating students consisted of 26 women (30 %) and 17 ethnic minorities (20%). We note also that in the last four years, 19+6 students (70%) were "first generation students," i.e. first in their family to attend college. The teachers were from the inner city (40%), inner suburbs (40%), outer suburbs, and one from Battle Creek, MI.

 

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Last modified: October 11, 2007