For those of us in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, it can be challenging to find real world applications for the material we are learning in the classroom. We also run into problems when we graduate all of the entry-level jobs requiring experience beyond our degree. GPA is meaningless if you can’t apply it to the lab. Because of this problem, scientists around the globe have come together to provide research experiences for undergraduates. These REU opportunities are available to all students, even us here at Clark.
Although there are many other programs available, one of the biggest is the National Science Foundation’s REU program. Their opportunities are available to all undergraduates and can take you all over the world. The NSF’s grants provide students in the program with considerable stipends and can sometimes provide gas and housing compensation. Through the NSF, certain locations such as Universities and Research sites can be approved as hosts for REU interns. These students are paired with faculty and researchers who help them develop a research plan to either work on the mentor’s projects or develop their own project to complete during about 9 weeks in the summer. One site that is local to us here at Clark is WSU-V’s campus. They host approximately 10 interns each summer. There are also sites at PSU, UW-Seattle, and WSU-Pullman, each specializing in their own topics and projects.
Another, more long-term, opportunity for STEM majors is the BUILD EXITO program through PSU. Clark, PSU, and several other sites are all part of the EXITO program that provides research opportunities to undergraduates who join the program during the first or second year of their degree. This program focuses on the medical side of the field and integrate hands-on research into all of your undergraduate work. To be a part of this, students must attend PSU after their first year of undergraduate work and must finish their degree through PSU. In addition to the opportunities during the year, EXITO students also have many opportunities to be a part of paid research experiences and often receive help with their graduate school applications from their mentors.
In today’s experience-intensive environment, having a bit of experience working on research can make the difference between landing that job or not. Not only do REU and EXITO students gain valuable skills, they also make lifelong connections with their mentors and other interns that are invaluable to their future education and careers.
Links to some useful websites: