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Students pursue summer research through virtual REUs

Alan Flurry

REUs or Research Experiences for Undergraduates programs, funded by the National Science Foundation, typically offer students hands-on research experience through campus-based programs dedicated to a variety of topics. Shady Kuster is participating in an REU focused on genomics and computational biology that’s led by Jonathan Arnold. Additional REUs hosted online at UGA this summer include programs on nanotechnology and biomedicine, led by Leidong Mao, and biology education research, led by Peggy Brickman:

For Kuster, a student at Tarleton State University in Texas, the genomics and computational biology program offered a chance to gain research experience and narrow down her interests in genetics before applying to graduate schools.

“I heard back from other REUs that cancelled fairly early, and I was expecting all the others to follow suit,” said Kuster, a senior majoring in biomedical science. “Given the circumstances, I’m very thankful that the UGA program is still happening.”

Twenty-seven students from a variety of states—including California, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Oregon and Texas—are participating in UGA’s REUs, though they’ll never actually set foot in Georgia. The shift to an online format meant that some of his students had to learn new skills, according to Arnold.

“They’re working on a variety of projects, but for some it’s considerably outside of their comfort zone. They’re all doing bioinformatics and computational biology—things that can be done remotely,” said Arnold, professor of genetics in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “They’re still working in a lab, but it’s a computational lab.”

The students are working with faculty mentors on a variety of projects. Olivia Asher, for example, is working with Arnold on a project examining mutually beneficial plant/fungi collaborations and the circumstances that can change those relationships.

More at UGA Research News.


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