Research Experiences for Undergraduates

What’s an REU?

The National Science Foundation funds Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) at colleges across the country. While participating in an REU, you are essentially a full time graduate student for 10-12 weeks during the summer. Participants receive a stipend and complete their own research project alongside professors and grad students.

Two members of the SWE executive board participated in REUs last summer and wanted to share their experiences with you!

Tell me about yourself!

Fiona O’Dowd: I’m a junior in Materials Science & Engineering, and am currently one of the Outreach Co-Directors for SWE. Last summer, I participated in the REU program Polymer Innovation for a Sustainable Future at the University of Southern Mississippi in their School of Polymer Science and  Engineering.

Megan Lim: Hello! I am a sophomore in Chemical Engineering and a professional chair for SWE. I spent the summer after my freshman year in a Security Printing and Anti-Counterfeiting Technology program at South Dakota State University in an analytical chemistry lab.

 How did you learn about this opportunity?

FO: I first learned about it from the MSE department seminar in the fall, and was encouraged more by the professor I was doing research with last year.

ML: I was job hunting for a summer experience and stumbled upon the opportunity.

What did the application process consist of?

FO: Most of the schools I looked at required 2-4 short essays (~250 words) about our relevant experiences and why we wanted to take part in the specific REUs. We also had to send two letters of recommendation along with our transcripts.

ML: One tip would be to thoroughly research what past REU and/or grad students working under that lab have done before to make your personal essay stand out. Don’t be afraid if you think you have no experience – apply anyway if it interests you.

Tell me about your project!

FO: I studied a fabrication method for nanocapsules made from highly controlled synthetic polymers. They have future applications in specialized drug delivery, such as when treating cancer, or in medical imaging.

ML: I developed a new method to create chemical fingerprints for aspirin brands by altering a gas-chromatography mass-spectrometry preparation method. Ideally, we can more easily detect counterfeit drugs in a cost-effective method that will not require expensive machinery or extensive knowledge.

What was your social life like during the summer on a new college campus?

FO: It was really fun! I was in a part of the country I’d never been before, which was a cool experience. I spent my weekends going to Alabama and Florida beaches, spending time with other REUs and current grad students at local places, eating amazing Gulf coast seafood, and exploring Hattiesburg and New Orleans!

REU_3            REU_4

ML: I had never been to South Dakota before, and believe it or not it is more interesting than one might assume. I was able to visit Mt. Rushmore and climb the Crazy Horse Memorial (which you can only do on 2 days of the year!) with my lab group, attend a conference in Pierre, spend a few days in Sioux Falls, and visit downtown Minneapolis along with an amusement park there. Because all the REUs lived on the floor, it was convenient to hitch a ride to the supermarket and insightful to hear about the different projects we were all doing.

REU_1

Was being on a new campus surrounded by new people stressful at all?

FO: Not for me personally. I really like being in new environments, and I kept busy the whole time. There was a large support network of the grad students in the department who helped us find things to do and were able to answer any questions we needed.

ML: It was a bit daunting at first, but like Fiona said, I was pretty busy between lab work and cooking on my own. As we all lived together, it was pretty easy to find friends from disparate universities. Also intimidating was working with a bunch of professors and grad students on a closer level, but it ultimately turned into a productive learning environment.

How was your housing situation handled?

FO: All of the REUs lived on the same floor of a dorm, which was reserved and paid for by the program. We filled out a survey before arrival that paired us with a roommate. It was great to be in an environment with only other REUs.

ML: I actually got a single suite-style room in their renovated residence hall, but most other students had roommates who were in the same lab as they were. The reservations and cost were also taken care of by the program.

Would you recommend REU for students who are unsure if they want to pursue grad school?

FO: YES!! My REU experience really solidified my decision that I want to pursue my PhD. For others, it could help you decide that you really don’t want to go to grad school. A 12 week summer program is a much smaller commitment than 6 years of grad school.

ML: Yes! Unlike Fiona, while I had a great experience working in the lab, I decidedly do not want to go to grad school after talking to the current grad students both in South Dakota and Purdue. I would say an REU is a low-risk way to find out what it is like doing research full-time, as opposed to doing it on campus while taking classes.

REU_2

Why did you choose your program?

FO: All of the REUs I applied to had a sustainability focus, which really helped to narrow down my search for schools. I’m interested in the polymers/composites area of materials engineering, and USM is one of the top polymer schools in the country, so that was a major deciding factor for me.

ML: At the time being, I thought I wanted to do something medical-related career wise. I applied to five different programs and only got accepted into one, so I went with that route.

Why did you apply to REUs?

FO: I didn’t get in internship during IR, and it turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me! Over winter break, I decided I wanted to do research over the summer instead of continuing to look for an internship opportunity. I opted to do an REU over SURF or any other program at Purdue because I wanted to learn more about Materials Engineering at other universities and wanted a change of scenery. Also, my advisor told me to.

ML: I was looking for some sort of industrial or research internship. The nice thing about REUs is that they often have a late application due date, so I applied for both industry internships and REUs simultaneously. The pay wasn’t half bad either, considering most pay for room, food stipends, and you get a salary stipend. Some will also pay for travel.

What is your favorite memory from your REU?

FO: An undergrad who was doing research at USM and was from Hattiesburg was shocked to hear none of the REUs had ever been to a crawfish boil. She and her family threw a HUGE crawfish boil for a lot of people in the department, which is when you cook crawfish, potatoes, corn, and an unreal amount of spices in a HUGE pot over a fire outside. After it cooks, you dump all the food on a paper-covered table to share. It was the most fun I’ve ever had eating and was an experience I couldn’t have had anywhere else in the country.

ML: I really enjoyed hiking up the Crazy Horse Memorial because it was a unique experience and allowed me to bond with my lab group. I was slightly embarrassed when my decidedly older mentor half jogged the 5 mile uphill hike as I struggled along, but in the end we all made it. Another fun event was going to ValleyFair Amusement Park with my lab group.

What advice would you give to someone interested in REU?

FO: Apply to a bunch of them! They are pretty competitive to get into, and they’re all looking for something else. Some want people with significant research experience, some want students with no experience, and most want a mix. The more you apply to, the better your chances. Plus, the essay questions are all pretty similar so once you write a couple you can kind of Frankenstein them together with pretty minimal effort.

ML: What Fiona said! Also, consider applying to lesser-known universities as that may increase your chances as well.

What kind of things did you do at the school besides research?

FO: For the first few weeks, we had class every morning where we were essentially given a super-condensed crash course in polymer science. Throughout the summer, we gave oral and poster presentations on our work to the rest of the department. We also organized and volunteered at two polymer science outreach events for local kids attending camps at USM.

ML: We would have weekly seminars from industry experts on counterfeiting, and we also had weekly lab lunches. At the end of the summer, we presented our research along with all the other REU students in the state of South Dakota.

How do I apply??

Go to the NSF website, and start searching!

https://www.nsf.gov/crssprgm/reu/reu_search.jsp

 

 

 

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Callout Recap

This past Wednesday we kicked off the semester with our Spring Callouts!  Members were able to learn about the different ways they can get involved in SWE by hearing about the upcoming events for the semester, and learning about the committees each directorship offers.

The Purdue chapter of SWE has four directorships: Communications, Outreach, Professional and Technical.  Each of these branches has a committee that can help the Chairs and Directors with input on event planning and activities.

This semester the Communications Committee members can expect to help with painting the sheet sign for Trade Show. Members will also have the opportunity to assist with generating ideas for the blog as well as writing articles. A few additional activities could include testing games for the AMM’s and assisting with the planning of social events, multicultural events, and community service projects. One of the requirements for this semester to be on the committee will be to share and like SWE’s social media posts. For more information on the Communications Committee feel free to email Communications Director Audrey Conrad at conrad26@purdue.edu.

The responsibilities of an Outreach committee member are to attend 1 committee meeting each month (2 will be offered on different days of the week), volunteer at least 4 hours each semester, and committee members can choose what events they participate in.  Committee members are also expected to fulfill all responsibilities they commit to (volunteering to organize an activity, design flyers, etc.).  This is a great way to have FUN, make FRIENDS, and ENTHUSE others about SWE & Engineering!

Interested members can join the Outreach Committee at their first meeting on Monday, Jan. 29th from 5:30-6:30 pm in ARMS 1021 to put together activities for Girl Scout Day.  To join please fill out this survey by 2/1: https://goo.gl/forms/aQt1aq8ZKk313KaR2  To learn more about the events the Outreach Committee is responsible for follow this link: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1XbunH8B8-jA1msYei9HgZz0mi76ubcQlq6CztB1K85U/edit?usp=sharing  If you have any questions feel free to email Outreach Co-Directors Susannah Pritchett-Montavon at pritche2@purdue.edu or Fiona O’Dowd at fodowd@purdue.edu.

The Professional Committee is looking for new and returning members to help plan our upcoming professional development events like company tours, industry talks, and professional skill workshops. The committee works together to plan the events that you are interested in while also giving constructive feedback on past events so SWE can continuously improve and develop events that are enjoyable and valuable to attendees. If you are interested in gaining some leadership experience and being more involved in SWE or if you have any questions, please email the Professional Director, Jenna Klinedinst (jklined@purdue.edu). The committee usually meets about once a month unless members would like to meet more frequently to plan specific events. We value your input and can’t wait to work with you!

The Technical Directorship consists of Team Tech and Grand Prix.  The Grand Prix team has already begun meetings, but still has a need for girls to get involved.  You don’t need prior technical experience to be on the Grand Prix team as all necessary skills that are needed for the race are taught throughout the semester. The point of our Grand Prix team is to give young women the desirable technical experience that they often don’t get exposure to in a fun and challenging way. Members of the committee are expected to come to as many of the build meets and practices as they can. There are some required dates such as the Rookie Practice, Qualifications, and the Grand Prix itself.  This is a great way to make friends with women who are also passionate about STEM, and to network with engineering alumni.  If you have any questions feel free to email Grand Prix Chair Kait Hauber at hauberk@purdue.edu.

Team Tech is also looking for new members! Team Tech is a design contest sponsored by Boeing where members get to work closely with industry in solving an engineering problem. There’s no prior experience necessary to join and there are opportunities to gain some technical skills. This year we are partnering with Mazzetti Inc. to design an energy flow sensor for steam pipes in hospitals. If you are interested in joining, please contact either Jessica Bartling (jbartlin@purdue.edu) or Juhi Kekre (jkekre@purdue.edu) for more information!

We look forward to seeing you at our upcoming events!

Stephanie Godoshian

 

Thanksgiving Destresser

Happy Fall PSWE!

We are so close to Thanksgiving break! As final exams draw near, remember to take some time to enjoy the company of friends and remind yourself of all the wonderful things life has to offer. It is the season to be thankful, after all. Go big and plan a Friendsgiving, or stay in and treat yourself to some homemade easy pumpkin pie pops (recipe below). Either way, be sure to check out these fun Thanksgiving themed ideas and activities!

  • Recipe for Mini Pumpkin Pie Pops HERE

  • Watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
  • Make a list of things you’re thankful for and share with friends
  • Do some Thanksgiving or fall-related coloring pages (which can be SUPER stress-relieving)
  • Play some festive games with your friends, like Pin the Tail on the Turkey, bobbing for apples, or Thanksgiving Bingo
  • If you’re thinking of hosting a Friendsgiving dinner, prepare for it by reading these Stress-Free Party Hosting Ideas and Guidelines HERE

 

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving break!

-Jenna Greene

Study Tips and Tricks

Hello SWEpole,

We know that midterm season can be stressful. To combat this stress, promote good study habits, and help you to be successful, the Communications Committee brainstormed some helpful study tips. Check out the list below:

  • Make a study guide using the course learning objectives
  • Hicks and WALC are now both 24 hours! Try a change of scenery (which can boost productivity) and study in one of those libraries
  • Do practice problems and take notes on how you did them (steps, thought process, formulas, etc.). Don’t forget to check your work with an answer key!
  • FYE students: look for practice exams for your FYE classes—there are tons of them that you can find online, or even get from upperclassmen
  • Weekly Joys has exams to practice with (visit https://weeklyjoys.wordpress.com/)
  • Network with upperclassmen
    • Your SWisters have endless insights they’d love to share with you
  • Go through your lecture notes after class and highlight important information
    • When doing homework, you can also highlight what information from the notes was particularly helpful
  • Read (or skim) the sections in the book. Reading the textbook is NOT overrated, and it doesn’t take as long as you might expect
  • Check out the “Practice another version” (if available) and “My Class Insights” tabs in Webassign for extra practice problems and information about topics you might want to spend extra time studying
    • You can also check out the “Past Assignments” tab, where there may be extra help available to you on problems from assignments that are past due
  • If your professor posts a practice exam, take it under exam conditions (quiet, timed, etc.) to accurately see how well prepared you are for the real exam
  • Put your phone away so you’re not distracted. Isolate yourself.
    • Put it on airplane mode, use a timer that locks your phone, or get the Pocket Points app, and earn points (for coupons) while your phone is not being used
  • Reward yourself! (my personal preference is to reward myself with food, but to each her own)
  • Take study breaks! They will help you to focus better while you’re studying
  • Sure, coffee and tea can really help get you through study sessions, but the healthiest thing you can be drinking is water, so don’t forget to bring a water bottle to your study sessions
  • Take care of yourself! Don’t forget to get good sleep around exam time. Your brain works best after a good night’s sleep

We hope you find these tips to be helpful. Good luck with exams! We believe in you!

-Your SWE Communications Committee

Weekly Destresser: October 20, 2017

Hello, and welcome to the first weekly destresser of the school year! After over a month of school and a seemingly endless round of exams, a good destresser is just what I need right about now.

Since it’s officially October, I’m sure most of us are starting to get into the Halloween spirit. If you like spooky, funny, and/or cute things, you’re in the right place. And, for those of you who, like me, don’t have a Halloween costume picked out yet, this is the perfect inspiration for you. Note-taking is optional (I mean, this IS a destresser, people).

Check out these pets who TOTALLY nailed their Halloween costumes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYAGo7URkek

https://www.boredpanda.com/halloween-pet-costumes-animals/

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/16/pet-halloween-costumes_n_4102437.html

Take some time to relax this weekend, perhaps by creating your (or your pet’s) epicHalloween costume.

By Jenna Greene

Some Thoughts on Bathrooms and Women in STEM (from a Woman in STEM)

I want to take you on a tour of the Physics Building on campus. Based on what I found in a brief search online, the current building was opened in 1941. It is still used frequently today for the physics courses all engineers are required to take.

To get to a women’s restroom, you have to follow signs like the one I’ve posted here. Half a dozen of these signs will lead you through numerous hallways, past most of the classrooms, past two men’s restrooms, until finally you reach a women’s room in a barely used hallway. Without the signs, you would probably never find it. Once you’re there, the bathroom itself appears to literally be a closet that was converted into a bathroom.

Here’s why I find this so compelling.

When this building was made over 70 years ago, women were pushed so far out of the picture of STEM fields, the original designer didn’t even need to consider that women would be there at all. There was no thought that a woman might need to be inside a Physics Building.

I want to make it clear that I am not offended by this. I understand that a whole building can’t be remodeled just to add a bathroom in a more convenient place. Rather, I find it somewhat inspiring, motivational even. It shows how far we have come, that women are now in these buildings and taking an active role in STEM fields. Obviously there is a long way to go given current statistics on women in the STEM workforce (an estimated 24% according to the most recent census), but it’s nice to look back and see what steps have been made.

I have also run into a similar bathroom problem in the old Mechanical Engineering Building (Built in 1932). However, it motivates me to know that I am studying in a field that 70 years ago, I would have been seen as unfit for. 70 years ago, the idea of me being in the Mechanical Engineering Building was so unthinkable, they didn’t even include women’s restrooms.

And it’s a comfort to know that when I leave thermodynamics and need to find the bathroom, I can go to the new wing of the Mechanical Engineering Building (Built in 2009) and easily find a women’s room right next to the men’s.

By Lexie Ziolkowski

PSWE Month in Review – September

Looking back on September, it has been quite a busy start to the year. As we get back into the swing of things, it seems all PSWE members – new and old – are looking forward to a fun-filled semester.

We kicked off the year with our annual Executive Board Retreat. Officers, Directors, and Chairs took on the Boiler Challenge Course – and won! We rewarded a successful day of bonding and team work with a spontaneous, late-night trip to IHOP!

Excited for recruiting new members, the Communications Committee hosted a Paint Party to make the sheet sign for callouts.

Callouts were a huge success and we are grateful for everyone who attended. We hope this opportunity provided you with the chance to learn more about what SWE does and how you can become more involved!

And there are so many ways to be involved – from yoga to scavenger hunts and more! Molly Wagner, Social Chair, organized SWoga (SWE Yoga) in the feature gym of the CoRec with a GroupX Yoga instructor as a de-stressor after Industrial Roundtable (IR). Here is a picture of us practicing our tree poses!

But we’re not all fun and games here at SWE – we work hard too!

Katie Atherton, All Member Meeting (AMM) Chair, hosted the first AMM of the year with over 100 participants. The meeting was paired with great food (thank you Noodles & Co.!) and an informative presentation from the Krannert Graduate Business School. Members also learned about each other through icebreakers and how to get the most out of their summers. We can already tell our members are going to do amazing things this year!

We also had the first professional event of the year Day with Industry, hosted by Megan Lim, Day with Industry Chair. It was the perfect way to kick off the IR week and begin networking with industry leaders. Additionally, Jordan Ganley, Networking Night Chair, hosted Networking Night that same week to give members the opportunity to speak with company representatives in a relaxed setting. Mock interviews were also conducted during the event, giving SWEeties a chance to refine their interviewing techniques.

SWE wrapped up the month with a bundle of volunteer and outreach activities. Abby Mitchell, TEAMS chair, hosted a successful Family Math Night where volunteers worked with kids in the West Lafayette community to better their math skills! Members also collaborated to design engineering-themed coloring pages for elementary students.

Congratulations to all of these ladies, and everyone else who was a part of these events (especially the volunteers!), for doing a great job kicking off the year with SWE! We hope you had the opportunity to attend some of these events and look forward to seeing you all at upcoming events!