Nine Undergraduate Students Receive NSF Support for Research Internships at BIOS

The BIOS National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program got underway in late August when nine students from universities across the U.S., and including Puerto Rico, arrived on campus. The annual 12-week internship program provides undergraduate students with the opportunity to participate in research projects under the mentorship of BIOS faculty. The 2022 BIOS REU program features three research themes in coral reef science.

The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) designed its Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program in 1987 as a way to meaningfully involve undergraduate students in areas of research funded by the federal agency, including astronomy, biological sciences, mathematics, ocean sciences, and others. 

Each year, the BIOS REU program—funded by NSF’s Division of Ocean Sciences—runs for 12 weeks during the fall semester, roughly from late August through mid-November. The program combines the opportunity for students to conduct research projects under the mentorship of BIOS faculty with a series of field excursions, seminars, and workshops held throughout the semester. The workshops, led by BIOS faculty and scientific and education staff, cover a variety of topics relevant to the success of undergraduate students in scientific majors, as well as early-career scientists, such as data and presentation skills, scientific writing, and writing a curriculum vitae.

As a new addition for this year, the BIOS program also incorporates REU teaching assistants who provide field and laboratory support for both interns and mentors. Nicole Burt is a recent graduate from the University of Southampton (U.K.) with an Integrated Master of Science in Marine Biology whose thesis focused on the effects of inorganic nutrients on the growth of reef-building corals. She attended BIOS’s Research Diving Methods summer course this year and the 2021 Coral Reef Ecology summer course with support from the U.K. Associates of BIOS, who are also financially supporting her time as a teaching assistant. Cali Grincavitch was a 2020 BIOS REU intern as she worked toward her bachelor’s degree in integrative biology at Harvard University (U.S.). Following her internship at BIOS, she worked at the Institute for an additional two months as a research assistant in a molecular lab.

The 2022 BIOS REU program structured its projects around three distinct themes in coral reef science, each led by a BIOS faculty member: measuring coral reef community light-use efficiency (Eric Hochberg), environmental drivers of organism and community-scale metabolism (Yvonne Sawall), and coral larval settlement and recruitment dynamics (Samantha de Putron). This design allows for small groups of two to four interns to undertake individual projects within each theme while also working collaboratively toward a common research goal.

Introduction to the Interns

Nine students from colleges and universities across the United States, and including Puerto Rico, were welcomed to the campus for the 2022 BIOS REU program. The following section includes a brief introduction to each intern.

Talia Barry
University of Tampa (FL)
Major: marine science and biology
Mentor: Samantha de Putron
“To advance as a marine biologist I want to immerse myself in research and I am excited for a
chance to follow my passion and explore coral ecology. I am hoping to discover future career
paths and make long-lasting connections with faculty and other interns.”

Jada Brown
University of Tampa (FL)
Major: marine biology and environmental science
Mentor: Samantha de Putron
“I feel this program will provide me with a space to grow my research techniques as well as increase my knowledge of coral reef function under the guidance of the mentors. I look forward to building relationships with other team members and learning from my peers.”

Luísa Castro-Meirelles
College of William & Mary (VA)
Major: biology
Mentor: Eric Hochberg
“This program can serve as a vital bridge between the theoretical knowledge gained in university and the practical and applied knowledge in the world of research. Being able to conduct my own research project as an undergraduate would give me insight into the world of scientific research and introduce me to the current questions that scientists are investigating.”

Kaylee Cooper
University of California, Los Angeles (CA)
Major: marine biology
Mentor: Samantha de Putron
“I hope this program will improve my collaboration abilities, increase my research experience, connect me to like-minded peers, and help me navigate my passion for marine life into a smaller field of research.”

Natalie Graham
University of Louisiana at Lafayette (LA)
Major: biology
Mentor: Yvonne Sawall
“I am eager to use this as a chance to connect to people around the globe in the marine biology field in order to network for future career and academic opportunities. I also hope to collaborate with other researchers to broaden my understanding of how to properly propose, build, and execute scientific research.”

Min Han
University of California, Irvine (CA)
Major: ecology and evolutionary biology
Mentor: Samantha de Putron
“I want nothing more than to grow as a scientist and contribute to the world of scientific research. Being involved in the BIOS REU program means more than a couple months of work, but rather an experience that will contribute to my arsenal targeted at helping defend and protect our oceans.”

Ceridwyn Hunter
Michigan State University (MI)
Major: biochemistry and molecular biology
Mentor: Eric Hochberg
“This program will allow me to investigate on a short-term basis the research process, and help prepare me for the challenges and tasks that will be required of me during graduate school, as well as other educational opportunities.”

Emma-Sue Jones
Antioch College (OH)
Major: conservation ecology and ethnobotany
Mentor: Eric Hochberg
“The REU internship at BIOS would give me the opportunity to expand my knowledge and awareness of scientific technologies and develop a deeper understanding of the functions of ecological communities in a new environment. Exploring ecological sciences in a biome which I have not studied before would advance my career’s future in a positive direction.”

Isabel Martínez-Farrington
University of Puerto Rico, Humacao (PR)
Major: coastal marine biology
Mentor: Yvonne Sawall
“One of my biggest career goals is to put my knowledge and experience to use by teaching others about the importance of our natural resources in Puerto Rico. As a part of this internship, I am looking to expand my skillset to be able to actively work in the field of marine biology.”

Over the coming weeks, we will be profiling each of the 2022 BIOS REU interns on our Facebook and Twitter pages (@biosstation) with an in-depth look at their respective research projects. We invite you to follow us on social media to learn more about the research being undertaken by these students as they embark on their exciting internships.