For the next three summers, FAU will host visiting science-technology-engineering-math (STEM) undergraduate students from across the country. The students will participate in the National Science Foundation (NSF)-sponsored Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program, held at institutions selected for their strong research initiatives in a variety of innovative areas. Students are chosen based on academic excellence and research interests.
While FAU has regularly mentored individual undergraduate students through the NSF REU Supplement program, becoming an REU Site gives the university added distinction. The program exposes the university to highly talented STEM students who might one day consider attending the university for their graduate studies.
As the recipient of two separate REU Site grants, FAU received more than $345,000 each for three years. The grants will support program expenses, including student stipends, on-campus housing, training and field trips. Funding will ensure that each summer, 10 students will be placed at each site.
One REU Site will be based at the Institute for Sensing and Embedded Network Systems Engineering (I-SENSE); the other site will be located at the Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center (SNMREC). There will be programmatic crossover and opportunities for interdisciplinary research between the two sites. Jason Hallstrom, Ph.D., director of I-SENSE and principal investigator of one of the two REU Site grant applications, is keenly aware of the highly competitive process that the university went through to qualify for site status.
“I believe that FAU stood out because of our mentoring strength, history of funded work and current research opportunities,” said Hallstrom. “Having solid institutional support from the university will allow us to successfully run a project of this scale.”
I-SENSE brings together computer, electrical, ocean, mechanical and civil engineers to explore the emerging class known as the “Internet of Things.” With I-SENSE’s overarching research initiative covering the program areas of infrastructure systems, marine and environment, and health and behavior, REU participants will have, according to Hallstrom, “a transformative research experience across many domains. I believe there isn’t another REU site in the country that offers a more diverse research portfolio than what we are offering through I-SENSE.”
SNMREC will give science and engineering undergraduates the opportunity to conduct research in ocean current-based electricity production, using the Straits of Florida as a living laboratory. Each student will be assigned to a different project under the direction of a faculty mentor. James VanZwieten, Ph.D., a three-time FAU alumnus, serves as principal investigator and program manager.
“I see this as an exciting program for students and a perfect opportunity for faculty collaboration,” said VanZwieten. “With ten different projects taking place simultaneously on the Boca Raton campus and at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, we will be growing as a research community, and readying ourselves for larger grant awards. As an REU Site, FAU will be able to make its mark on STEM research by shaping the researchers of the future.”