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2024 Summer Activities

Participant Activities Planned During the Summer of 2024

The program will offer an in-person program during the summer of 2024.  A similarly structured program was held during the summer of 2023. All participants should be fully vaccinated and boosted prior to arrival on campus in order to keep everyone as healthy as possible.

In addition to the independent research, student participants will be involved in a number of program, professional development, and social activities during the summer program. The program and professional development activities will take place weekly on Mondays from 9:00 - 10:00 am and on Wednesdays from 11:00 am - 12:00 pm. The different activities are described below.

Arrival and Orientation: Plan to arrive in East Lansing during the day on Friday, May 17th.  All participants will reside in single-sex rooms in an undergraduate residence hall within walking distance from the Chemistry Building. Food service will be available in a dining hall located within the residence hall complex. The student participants will also be able to use library resources, fitness centers (small fee charged), and bicycle rental (fee charged) resources.

The program orientation will be held from 9:00 - 11:30 am on Saturday,  May 18th, with a group lunch afterward. The event will provide the first forum for community building during which the student participants will introduce themselves and begin interacting with one another. The Program Director will provide an overview of the program, discuss the goals and objectives of the summer activities, review the research group assignments, discuss proper organization and maintenance of a laboratory notebook, and start to review laboratory and chemical safety practices. The students will be directed to the MSU Environmental Health and Safety Office website where training modules on chemical and laboratory safety must be completed before they can begin work in a laboratory. The students will also complete a written questionnaire on their goals for the program, what skills they hope to develop, what their longer-term plans are after completing their degrees, and how the REU program might help them achieve these.  A group photo will be taken.

Monday, May 20th, will be the first day in the laboratory. Safety training issues will be reviewed and the first of the RCRSCA discussions will be had on Mentoring and Mentor-Mentee Expectations. At the end of the meeting, the student participants will be introduced to their graduate student co-mentors and escorted to their respective laboratories. At this point, they will meet with their faculty mentors and other laboratory personnel. While the first face-to-face meeting between the faculty mentor and student participant will occur on this day, the two parties will have had at least one virtual meeting concerning the project prior to student arrival. All laboratory safety practices and standard operating procedures will be reviewed.

Research: The core of the REU participants’ experience will be an independent, interdisciplinary research project (9-5 pm, 40 h/wk.) with their faculty mentor and members of their laboratory. The research conducted by the participating laboratories (see Research Projects page) represents a blend of interests in the core areas of chemistry and chemical engineering with a common theme of “sustainable chemistry and chemical processes”. The projects are all cross-disciplinary in nature and involve multiple individuals, so teamwork is strongly emphasized. The participants will be expected to give at least one PowerPoint presentation on their summer work at a laboratory group meeting. This will be one of several activities focused on improving the students’ oral and written communication skills.

Scientific Literature Literacy: During Week One, we will have a special program activity where the Chemistry Librarian will hold a workshop on different types of databases available for use in chemistry research, key word selection for searches, filtering literature articles, and using the primary literature in projects. The discussion will be guided by two selected literature articles that will be provided to the participants ahead of time. In addition, there will be three take-home exercises in Weeks One-Three in which the students will be given a topic in green chemistry to search (e.g., state-of-the art membranes for reverse osmosis). They will have one week to conduct a search and to identify what they believe are the three-five most important papers in the primary literature. They will prepare a 1–2-page written report that describes the databases used, the key word combinations employed, and a summary of the five papers selected as most seminal. These reports will be reviewed by the Program Director  and the students will receive feedback on the quality of the search and suggestions for improvement. It is our experience that students have some experience searching Google Scholar, but little knowledge about using other quality databases like Web of Science, Scifinder Scholar, and PubMed.

Basic Statistics Training: Core competency in experimental design and statistical analysis continues to be a significant obstacle for student success. To educate the participants on the use of basic statistics for data analysis, a weekly problem set will be assigned that is focused on specific content. The students will be provided with the textbook “Statistics and Chemometrics for Analytical Chemistry, 7th ed/” (ISBN: 978-1-292-18671-9) to keep and use. During Week Three, the participants will be provided with a YouTube video on the basics of Excel use. Then starting Week Four,  a weekly take-home problem set will be assigned (3-5 questions) on key topics: Week Four – mean and standard deviation, data reproducibility, and confidence limits; Week Five - types of error and error propagation; Week Six - data plotting, linear regression analysis, and error bars; Week Seven – data outliers and Grubbs’ test; and Week Eight – significance tests, paired t-test, analysis of variance, and comparison of multiple means. The exercises will teach the participants how to use Excel for plotting data and performing linear regression analysis, and for performing simple statistical analysis of measurement data (means, standard deviations, F-test, t-test, etc.). The exercises will be given to the students each Friday with an answer key provided one-week later. There will be a designated Q&A period to field any student questions and to go over the answers. Students will also receive training in statistical analysis in their individual research groups utilizing data specific to their projects.   

Responsible Conduct of Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity (RCRSCA):  All participants will engage in several discussions (Monday sessions for three weeks (1h) to learn about the core components of RCRSCA education including (i) scientific conversations, rights to data and authorship, (ii) crediting the work of others and avoiding plagiarism, (iii) record keeping, data management and sharing information, (iv) misconduct and questionable research practices in research and creative activities, and (v) conflicts of interest, peer review and collaborative teamwork.

Mentoring and Leadership: Effective mentoring and proper mentor-mentee relationships are critical for one's educational, scientific and career development. Quality and effective mentoring is a cornerstone of our program. Participants will engage in a discussion (Monday session) about the importance of mentoring, characteristics of effective mentors and mentor-mentee relationships. Participants will also engage in a discussion (Monday session) on developing effective leadership skills.

Laboratory and Chemical Safety Training: Full training of the student participants in proper laboratory practices and chemical safety is an absolute and will be conducted at the beginning of the program. There will be online training modules to complete including topics on (i) chemical safety, (ii) biological safety (if appropriate), (iii) radiation safety (if appropriate), (iv) handling and disposing of hazardous waste, (v) laser safety (if appropriate) and (vi) gas cylinder handling. In addition to these required  modules, the student participants will be trained on specific practices in each of their respective labs (e.g., standard operating procedures and location of safety equipment). The safety training is administered by the Office of Environmental Health and Safety on campus.

Weekly Reports and Chalk Talks: Student participants will develop their written communication skills through  submission of weekly one-page progress reports describing the goal for the research that week, one key piece of data and an analysis, and interpretation of the result. The Program Director will provide feedback on the quality of the writing and the technical content. Participants will improve their oral communication skills though 10-min chalk talks (Monday sessions for three weeks) where they will describe on the board the goal of their project, some aspect of an experiment  conducted, and a key piece of data. Questions will be asked by the group.

Weekly Wednesday Faculty and Industry Presentations (11-12 pm). The weekly Wednesday program meetings will be used for interactive research presentations by participating faculty mentors, faculty across campus who are engaged in sustainable research, and industrial scientists. The presenting faculty or scientist will provide the participants with a scientific publication to review ahead of time. Their presentation/discussion will focus on the content of this paper. By reading the papers, the participants can learn some new science, familiarize themselves with the work, and come prepared with questions. Two of the industrial presenters will be from Dow Chemical Co. and General Motors (Fuel Cell and Battery Technology). The industrial scientists will give the student participants exposure to goal-oriented research and some understanding about what qualities their companies are looking for in prospective employees. The scientists also speak about internship opportunities within their companies. One of the Wednesday meetings will be used by Dr. Gary Blanchard, Graduate Program Director in Chemistry, to speak to the participants about selecting a graduate program, key issues to consider when applying to a program, and what our graduate program at MSU has to offer. 

Networking: Additionally, the students will have the opportunity to participate in two campus-wide, MSU-sponsored networking lunches or dinners. These are designed to help both visiting (e.g., REU student participants) and on-campus undergraduate student researchers engage with the broader University community and to provide an opportunity to network with faculty, graduate students, and other student researchers in a less formal setting.  For each lunch or dinner, students will be divided into smaller groups based on broad disciplinary areas (e.g., chemistry, engineering, life sciences, and social sciences) and have the opportunity to ask questions and interact with faculty and graduate students regarding educational opportunities, career choices, etc. 

Undergraduate Research Forum. During the last week of the program on Wednesday, July 24th (9-4 pm), the students will participate in a campus-wide undergraduate research symposium called the Mid-Michigan Symposium for Undergraduate Research Experiences (Mid-SURE). They will present the results (poster format) of their summer activities to other undergraduate students, faculty members from multiple departments across campus, and members of the MSU research community. This annual event (150-250 participants) provides undergraduates experience in presenting their research, answering questions from attendees about their work, and receiving constructive feedback from judges.

Department Research Symposium. During the last week of the program Friday, July 26th (9-12 pm), the students will participate in a departmental research symposium. They will deliver a 12 min oral PowerPoint presentation on their research activities and then field audience questions for 3 min. They will receive a Certificate of Achievement and will be recognized for their efforts over the summer. Since this is the last event of the program, the students will be free to leave and travel home that afternoon or the following day.

Field Trip to the Dow Chemical Co. For one day during the program, the Program Director and student participants  will visit the Dow Chemical Co. in Midland, MI. This is about a 90 min drive from East Lansing. On this trip, the students will meet with Dow scientists, learn more about what chemists and engineers do at the company, and see first-hand some of the sustainable processes the company has implemented.