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By Leah Poffenberger
The National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) present important opportunities for undergraduate students to gain valuable research skills and complete projects that may not be possible at their home institutions. In order to keep REUs running this past summer when in-person programs were shut down, physics REU site leaders banded together to share resources and ideas for successful programs.
The NSF Physics REU Leadership Group (NPRLG) is an organization of REU site leaders, funded by NSF and partnering with APS to ensure the continued success of physics REUs. Last summer, APS was awarded a $120,000 grant from NSF to support NPRLG with activities for ongoing REUs, as well as to fund an online workshop for REU leaders that was held November 12–14.
The 2020 Physics REU Workshop virtually brought together both current REU leadership and individuals interested in starting REUs at their own institutions for three days to discuss how to launch or improve their programs, how to assess program impact, and how to recruit diverse REU participants. APS was responsible for assisting with planning and logistics and running the technical pieces of the meeting to ensure a seamless online meeting experience.
Nearly 40 attendees joined the meeting, which is the first NPRLG meeting held since 2016. The first day of the meeting featured a session aimed at potential REU leaders or representatives from institutions interested in partnering with REUs in the future. NSF program officers were on hand to answer questions. The second day of the conference included opportunities for REU site leaders to get to know one another and their programs, followed by a panel on supporting underrepresented minorities at REUs.
“A highlight of meeting was the panel discussion on support and recruitment of minority students, featuring three panelists: Arlene Modeste Knowles from the American Institute of Physics, who spoke about the AIP TEAM-Up report, Ramone Lopez (University of Texas at Arlington), and Alexander Rudolph (Cal Poly Pomona, Cal-Bridge),” says Brián Clash, Senior Coordinator in the APS Programs Department. “That session was particularly good because the various panelists provided a lot of sound advice and research-based guidance to attendees. Many attendees had questions about the best ways to attract the interest of minority students and how to be intentional about doing so—people were really engaged in that session.”
The last day of the meeting focused on developing common assessment tools to benefit individual REU sites and the entire physics REU community.
"I like to think of the 50+ Physics REU sites across the US as hubs of opportunity for undergrads to advance their careers, with the NPRLG connecting these hubs into a network," says Daniel Serrano, NPRLG Chair. "The site directors' meetings allow us to shape and strengthen those connections by coming up with common values and goals, planning collaborative activities around them, and sharing ideas about how to make our programs better."
To learn more about NPRLG, visit the NPRLG page.
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Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Leah Poffenberger
Contributing Correspondents: Sophia Chen, Alaina G. Levine