Research Experiences for Undergraduates Give Students an Extra Edge


LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 11, 2011) — The National Science Foundation and the University of Kentucky College of Engineering recently recognized 15 undergraduates for their hard work in an intense summer research program. The Research Experiences for Undergraduates, or REU, is an active 10-week program at UK where undergraduates conduct research in engineered bioactive interfaces and devices with the help of UK faculty, graduate students, research staff and other undergraduates.

Now in its third year, REU incorporates the intensive research activities with field trips, workshops, and other social activities for the students. And it's not just open to UK students — undergraduates in engineering programs from all across the country are eligible to participate in the selective program.

"This has been an exceptional research experience," said Melanie Tolbert, a chemical engineering student visiting from Tuskegee University. "I've acquired knowledge as an undergraduate that most students don't by participating in this program. I've learned how to apply for fellowships and have gained invaluable resources to use in graduate school. I have also had excellent mentorship by the UK faculty and graduate students during these 10 weeks."

The REU program held an awards ceremony for the students last week, where they all participated in a poster competition that displayed their research projects. The students were judged by UK graduate students and post doctoral scholars, and awards were based on their ability to convey their research via poster, to answer questions on the subject matter, and to demonstrate an understanding of the research. 

The award winners were:

1st Place Poster Competition: Austin Isner, University of Kentucky

2nd Place Poster Competition: Alex Rao, University of Massachusetts - Amherst

3rd Place Poster Competition: Danielle LaValley, University of Massachusetts - Amherst

Best Oral Presentation: Jill Spitzmueller, Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

Best Research Blog: Danielle LaValley, University of Massachusetts - Amherst

"This is a very unique program that enables these students to experience multidisciplinary research by working with faculty and graduate students in a number of different disciplines including in chemical engineering, materials engineering, biomedical engineering and pharmaceutical sciences," said Kim Anderson, director of the program. "Many of these students come in at the beginning of the summer questioning whether a Ph.D. is for them.  We make sure that they spend a great deal of time with our current graduate students and learn what graduate school is all about.  By the end of the program, the students have the confidence to do graduate level research and are very excited about pursuing a Ph.D.  We have been able to attract high quality students to our REU program, and hopefully many will consider coming back to UK for graduate school."

Full list of students who participated in REU this year:

Amarillys Aviles, University of Puerto Rico - Mayaguez

Mark Bailey, Virginia Commonwealth University

Yihwa Beabout, University of Southern Indiana

Kaitlyn Clark, University of Kentucky

Austin Isner, University of Kentucky

Vance Jones, University of New Mexico

Danielle LaValley, University of Massachusetts - Amherst

Adam Lyvers, University of Kentucky

Alexander McKinlay, University of Florida

Alex Rao, University of Massachusetts - Amherst

Nathan Rohner, Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville

Adrianne L. Shearer, University of Kentucky

Sarah E. Seger, University of Kentucky

Jill Spitzmueller, Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

Melanie Tolbert, Tuskegee University

For more information about this REU, visit

MEDIA CONTACT: Jenny Wells, (859) 257-5343;