Beginning this summer 10 undergraduate students from across the nation will have the opportunity to get hands-on experience working with UCF biologists to see how they conserve, restore, and communicate what they do and why it matters.

The U.S. National Science Foundation has recently awarded UCF $369,000 over three years to run the new program. The new biology program is the sixth to be located at UCF. The other programs are in engineering, GIS, computer science and computer vision, which is the longest running in the nation.The NSF established Research Experiences for Undergraduates Programs (REUs) in 1987 to address a predicted shortage of scientists and engineers by the year 2010. Those who are chosen receive stipends, a food allowance, housing and travel to the REU site. REUs must be renewed every three years and are fiercely competitive to obtain. First-generation students and those from underrepresented groups are especially encouraged to apply to REUs.

UCF’s newest program will have students working with UCF on diverse conservation and restoration topics in both the field and laboratory. Each student will work with a faculty mentor throughout the summer as well as participate in science communication training, cohort building, and professional development workshops. In biology, students will have the opportunity to studying nesting turtles, restore oyster reefs with biodegradable materials, research amphibian diseases, examine fish abundance and diversity, conserve honeybees, dive into sunflower genetics, among other topics. Students will additionally travel to zoos and non-profits to meet conservation/restoration scientists and shadow these individuals in their careers.

Biology professors Linda Walters and Kate Mansfield are leading a group of 11 biology faculty plus one engineer faculty member to get the program ready for this summer. Applications will be due in mid-March.

“We’re very excited,” says Walters. “It’s a bit of a sprint to make it happen, but we’ve been developing this program for years. We know it will benefit many students and are eager to get started.”

REUs can have a big impact. The REU based in UCF’s Center for Research in Computer Vision has impacted more than 200 undergraduate students from 75 different schools over the past 34 years, says its director, Engineering Professor Mubarak Shah.

So far, all previous participants have completed degrees in computer science related fields and several participants are now faculty members at various universities. Others have started their own companies. More than 80 innovative and exceptional conference and journal publications have been produced from this REU, Shah says. Deadline for this year’s candidates is March 7.

The other REUs at UCF are:

Engineering and Nanoscience of Materials and Device Applications in Biotechnology and Medicine

Lead: Associate Professor Andre Gesquiere

Deadline: March 15

The program aims to study and to develop materials and devices with application in biotechnology and medicine by bringing together engineering, computer science, photonics research, chemistry and biochemistry, and nanoscience and technology in interdisciplinary teams. Students are expected to gain hands-on research training in topics such as 3D microelectrode in vitro chips, electronic biosensors, scaffold materials, wound healing patches, on-chip plasmonic biosensors, molecular bioimaging and drug delivery systems. The research will involve both experimental and theory-based learning.

Internet of Things

Lead: Professor Damla Turgut

Deadline: March 4, 2022

This program looks at the theory and applications of the Internet of Things (IoT), which extends the connected nature of computing devices to the objects of the physical world. IoT devices can sense their environment, communicate locally with their peers or globally over the internet. They can also potentially power actuators that directly affect the physical world. These IoT enabled systems are often characterized with the “smart’’ label: smart cities, smart grids or smart healthcare. As this label suggests, beyond the purely sensing, networking and actuation aspects of IoT, these systems are increasingly characterized by the latest advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics. Many of the proposed research topics require the students to utilize state-of-the-art techniques of artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics.

HYPER: Advanced Technologies for Hypersonic Propulsive, Energetic and Reusable Platforms

Lead: Professor Ali Gordon and Associate Professor Jeffrey L. Kauffman

Deadline: March 13

This program is a multidisciplinary program looking at advanced structures and systems with application to hypersonics, space, propulsion, and energy. Participants will gain hands on research training in contemporary challenges, such as utilizing advanced manufacturing techniques for high-value components, integrating in site monitoring of stress-strain evolution, developing novel methods for improved internal cooling and heat transfer effectiveness, and mitigating flutter through advanced rotor dynamic control. Many of these challenges rely on approaches that cut across disciplines and research techniques.

REU/RET: Preparing the Next Generation of Scholars through Community Information Systems and Citizen Science

Lead: Professor Tim Hawthorne

Deadline: March 18

The program based in Orlando and Belize emphasizes engaged, community-based research while also preparing students for future academic and non-academic careers in GIS, geospatial technologies, geography, geosciences, sociology, education, community development, public health, and land-use planning. The research training program is the first of its kind for U.S. undergraduates given its explicit international focus on community geography/GIS and participatory methodologies. Student mastery of geospatial STEM research skills will be accomplished largely through students creating an open and freely available geospatial data infrastructure to address social and environmental disparities related to marine debris and flooding/disaster management in Belize. This objective will include the creation of an online, interactive geospatial data and mapping portal through ArcGIS Online.