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REU Site: Exploring the Limits of Life - Understanding Biofilms in Extreme Environments

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an IBP member program

Academic Level:
For most summer research programs, this is your upcoming status as of the fall. Always check with the individual program's website for details.

Undergraduates - First Year
Undergraduates - Sophomore
Undergraduates - Junior

Note: this opportunity encourages applications from community college students.

Montana State University's centers of excellence, the Thermal Biology Institute (TBI) and the Center for Biofilm Engineering (CBE), in Bozeman, Montana, will implement an REU site to support the training of 10 students. This REU program will explore the limits of life in extreme environments (e.g., under glaciers and in Yellowstone National Park hot springs) and combine team-orientated learning and guided research, helping students discover new ways to grow, understand, and use extreme biofilms for society?s benefit. The goals of the REU program are to 1) increase participation of underrepresented minority students in innovative science and engineering research; 2) empower more undergraduates to pursue advanced degrees in bioengineering, microbiology, and related disciplines; and 3) strengthen and encourage the persistence of students? science and engineering identities through novel research and professional development. It is anticipated that a total of 30 students, primarily from non-research-intensive universities, tribal colleges, community colleges, or from an underrepresented minority will be trained in the program. To achieve the recruitment goals, the core participant team will actively network with faculty at regional universities and colleges, as well as embark on an annual in-person recruitment 'blitz' at state tribal colleges and community colleges. Program assessment will leverage the online SALG URSSA evaluation tool and student interviews, with longitudinal tracking surveys used after the program to determine student career paths.

This REU program is an experience where participants are paired into teams of two and work collaboratively on an extreme biofilm research project under the guidance of faculty experts. As part of their research, program participants help a) characterize and grow extreme biofilms, b) investigate extreme biofilm functions, or c) explore biofilm growth at extreme pressures/temperatures/pH, assessing their utility in different biotechnologies. As a group, students participate in a field trip and workshop in Yellowstone National Park, a scientific literacy and communication short course, and weekly professional development activities. Several workshops help students learn the fundamentals of how to formulate a research question, design an experiment, and critically evaluate data. Students attend weekly informal lunch gatherings with faculty mentors to discuss project progress, upcoming goals, and share ways of solving problems. Participants communicate findings from their research by presenting a poster at a local summer science and technology meeting, giving a presentation at a research symposium, and completing a writing-to-learn assignment.

Program Dates: 5/29/2024 - 8/2/2024

 • Note: Funding pending
Participating Institution(s):
(Click an institution to see all programs it hosts or sponsors)
Montana State University (Lead)

Program Materials:
 • Program Website 

This Program can be Described by:
Academic Disciplines:
Bioinformatics & Genomics
Chemical & Nuclear Engineering
Civil & Environmental Engineering
Environmental Sciences
Molecular Biology

Biochemical Engineering
Biofilm Engineering
Thermal Biology

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This program is funded by:
National Science Foundation (NSF)

Page last updated 1/20/2024
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