Students in the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center’s summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program spent 10 weeks researching bioenergy alongside mentors in world-class labs this summer at Michigan State University and the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Fourteen students were selected this year to participate, traveling from across the country and Puerto Rico to work and live across three campuses.
Research spanned multiple disciplines including biochemistry, plant biology, genetics and microbiology. The program aims not just to embody the GLBRC’s mission: “to create biofuels and bioproducts that are economically viable and environmentally sustainable,” but to also offer opportunities to young, aspiring scientists.
Allison Bender, Outreach Program Coordinator for the program's partner, Wisconsin Energy Institute , said that for students attending a school that doesn’t have opportunities to study bioenergy, the GLBRC summer program provides a unique opportunity.
“This program is really great because it offers students a chance to test out what grad school might be like and to experience research,” she said.
At the end of the program, students had an opportunity to share findings at a well-attended research symposium, joined both virtually an in-person across both campuses by their mentors and collaborators. In five-minute presentations, they shared data collected over the previous weeks, reflecting their experiences designing studies and collecting and analyzing data.
One student, Janice Tran, spent her summer studying Zymomonas mobilis, a bacteria that is an efficient biofuel producer. In a show of support at the symposium, she was joined by her mentor, Amy Enright, a graduate student in the University of Wisconsin’s Microbiology Doctoral Training Program.
“I enjoyed seeing all the presentations to hear all the different facets of bioenergy research,” Enright said. “Lots of talented young scientists here.”