REU Program Information

Applications are sought from motivated undergraduate students studying science or engineering to take part in a ten-week research experience (May 27, 2014 - August 1, 2014) at Kansas State University in the area of sustainable energy for participation in this National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program.

Program Description

During the last 20 years, there has been a growing realization that sustainable development must receive a higher priority in the years ahead. There is a particular need for scientists and engineers with expertise in sustainability who can develop innovative solutions to the problem of dwindling natural resources. This REU offers talented undergraduate students the opportunity to become engaged in research that addresses the area of sustainable energy and to develop the skills and viewpoints necessary to be part of the solution to the issues associated with sustainability. The title of the REU represents the wide variety of sustainable energy sources the students will explore: "earth" represents the growth and harvesting of energy from biomass, "wind" represents using the wind to generate electricity, and "fire" represents harvesting solar energy.

Students selected for this program will conduct research as part of a multidisciplinary team on one application of sustainable energy. The research environment will be vibrant, with interaction with faculty and graduate students from different disciplines and with other REU students.

In addition to the research component, students will learn about sustainability in a one-hour seminar course, will conduct a team outreach project related  to sustainability, and will attend a professional development seminar. Students will also have the opportunity to tour an ethanol plant, a wind farm, and a hydroelectric plant. Social activities are planned throughout the summer to give participating students a view of the unique nature of Manhattan, Kansas and the surrounding area.

Financial Support

Participating students will receive a stipend in the amount of $4500 for the ten-week period and $2500 for food and lodging expenses. Funds will be available for REU students to travel to conferences to present their REU research.

Application Procedure

A complete application will consist of: a completed application form, an essay of up to two pages describing the student's general interest in sustainability, research interests, and professional goals, an academic transcript, and letters of recommendation from two individuals. Preference will be given to applications that are received by February 14, 2014.

Applicants need to fill out the Application Form and Material Form online.

Any questions about the REU can be addressed to either of the program co-directors: Keith Hohn or Larry Erickson at reu@ksu.edu.

Program Information

The “Earth, Wind, and Fire: Sustainability in the 21st Century” REU program is designed to provide both an in-depth technical exposure to one aspect of sustainable energy, and a broader exposure to sustainable energy and its impact on society.

Undergraduate participants obtain an in-depth, hands-on exposure to sustainable energy research by undertaking a research project under the guidance of one of the dedicated faculty mentors from fields as diverse as chemical engineering, electrical engineering, geology, and chemistry. Participating students report on their research project during weekly research seminars, attended by all REU students and by the REU coordinators. Final research results are summarized in a poster that is presented at a final poster session held the last day of the REU.

To provide students with a broader perspective, all REU participants attend a sustainability seminar (CHE 670) that describes different how sustainable energy can be produced and how it impacts society and the economy. The schedule for the 2013 sustainability seminar can be found here. In addition to the sustainability seminar, all students will  participate in a group outreach project related to sustainability. This project will be designed by the REU participants themselves.  Potential projects include designing and delivering an exhibit related to sustainability at the Discovery Center (a Manhattan, KS science museum) or developing and giving a presentation on sustainability to K-12 students.

In addition to these activities, field trips are taken to sites relevant to sustainable energy. In  previous years, field trips have taken REU students to the Meridian Way Wind Farm  near Concordia, KS, the Jeffries Energy Center, the Nesika Energy ethanol plant near Scandia, KS, several solar panel installations, and to a small hydroelectric plant in Lawrence, KS.

Numerous social activities are also incorporated in the sustainable energy REU. Participants meet once a week to have lunch and discuss topics related to sustainability. Participants also are invited to an opening picnic, a hike on the Konza Prairie, “Pizza and Movie Night” at one of the coordinator’s houses, and the Cosmosphere air and space museum in Hutchinson, KS.

Results from First Three Years of REU Program

This REU site builds upon the success of an REU site in sustainable energy held at Kansas State University from 2009 through 2011.  This site engaged 44 students (28 supported by the REU site and 16 by a separate NSF EPSCOR project) in cutting-edge research on sustainable energy.  REU research led to seven publications/conference proceedings and nineteen conference presentations (three of which received awards).  Of REU participants who have finished their undergraduate degree, 78% are currently attending graduate school.  Students indicated that the REU program enhanced their understanding of their technical discipline, led to an improved understanding of sustainability and how to conduct research, and enhanced their interest in pursuing a research career.