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Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program

History of the K-State Biology REU Site

The REU Site Program in the Division of Biology at K-State is one of the longest running REU Site Programs funded by NSF (since 1995). There are many ways to measure the success of this type of program and we track publications, presentations at professional meetings, undergraduate theses, and career choices for all of our participants. As of 2014, past K-State Biology REU participants have included 16 NSF Graduate Research Fellows, one EPA STAR Fellow, three Goldwater Scholars, two Udall Scholars, and three Fulbright Scholars. Several participants have been successful in competing for postdoctoral fellowships from NOAA, NSF, and USDA, and one has been awarded an NSF CAREER. The highest degree received by former REU participants varies as a function of time since participation in this REU Site Program: 42 (20%) REU students hold doctoral degrees, 63 (30%) have completed master's degrees, and 90 (43%) have completed bachelor's degrees.

Career Choices. Career choices of REU participants have been equally divided between nonacademic and academic careers. Of 209 REU Site participants, 99 (47%) are still studying or working at academic institutions. Of these 99 participants, 19 (19%) are college-level faculty (including two associate professors), 15 (15%) are postdoctoral fellows, staff, or research associates, 50 (50%) are currently enrolled in graduate programs, and the remaining 15 (15%) are working to complete an undergraduate degree. mong the 110 students in nonacademic professions, 27 (25%) are employed by federal or state government agencies (e.g., USDA, USFWS, USGS, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Indian Affairs, state agencies), 14 (14%) are educators in K-12 or through nature centers, 13 (12%) are employed by nonprofit or nongovernmental organizations (e.g., The Nature Conservancy, museums), 16 (14%) have entered medicine or veterinary science, 22 (20%) are working in business (including law, environmental consulting, agriculture, information technology, professional photography) and 17 (15%) were classified as other (including deceased participants, unemployed recent graduates, or unknown status). Many of the career choices of our former students required a foundation of ecological and evolutionary knowledge that was first developed during research experiences as an undergraduate REU student. In our contacts with past REU students, they were grateful for the research opportunities provided by the financial support of the National Science Foundation, and many credited the REU Site Program as a major factor contributing to their career choices, research development, and professional success.

Research output. Research projects of REU students have spanned a wide range of topics in ecology, evolutionary biology and ecological genomics. From 1995-2014,  Biology REU Site funding has resulted in 68 articles published in peer-reviewed journals, 9 undergraduate theses, and more than 40 oral presentations or posters at scientific meetings based on research from summer projects. REU participants have also disseminated research results by publishing in science newsletters and popular articles and by giving informal talks to natural history groups. Career choices of REU participants demonstrates that undergraduate research training at K-State has long-lasting benefits, and the strong publication record of our REU participants indicates that undergraduate projects can also result in important contributions for understanding the ecology and evolution of grassland ecosystems.