AWC students, allow me to pose a question to you: Have you ever reached the end of your summer vacation and wished you had done something a little more worthwhile?
After your seventh consecutive hour of playing Call of Duty, eating Doritos and downing 64-oz. polar pops from Circle K, maybe you thought to yourself, "I should've done something this summer."
Well, fellow students, there is good news for you. Universities across the U.S., and even the world, are offering paid summer research experience opportunities.
That's right, not only will you be able to spend the summer getting research experience in the field of your choice and meet new people at a great university, you will get paid as well. And now is the time to apply for next summer.
Often referred to as Research Experience for Undergraduates, or REU, these summer research programs are offered by hundreds of universities around the globe. There are programs offered in numerous fields -- everything from Astronomical Sciences to Social, Behavioral and Economical Sciences to Small Business Innovation and Cyber-infrastructure.
Former AWC and NAU-Yuma graduate Mindy Torres spoke to the AWC/NAU Science Club on Oct. 13 about these research programs and her own REU experience.
"The connections you make and the experience you get from these programs will be a tremendous asset to you for the rest of your lives," said Torres. "You get to get out of the Yuma heat for the summer and make some money doing important research at some of the finest universities in the country."
Torres did her REU three summers ago. She spent three weeks at the U.S. Fish and Game fish hatchery in Willow Beach, AZ. Then she spent two and a half months at the University of Idaho doing research on aquatic invasive species such as the zebra mussel.
She lived in the dorms on campus along with all the other REU students. There were students from all over the country doing research on a variety of subjects. She was paid for her work and received a food stipend and free lodging, and they even threw in a membership to the campus gym.
Torres would work at the on-campus labs during the week and hang out with other REU students on the weekends, and she also was able to take a week-long whitewater rafting trip in the Idaho mountains. She made many friends and learned important research techniques and procedures. She said she learned a lot about herself as well.
"To be able to build your resume and make these life-long connections in your field is more important than you realize," said Torres. "You can't overstate the value of an opportunity like this."
The applications take a little work, so don't wait to get started. Usually, REU applications will require letters of recommendation, a personal statement regarding why you are the right person for the job, and sometimes your official transcript.
"Make sure you give your professors and advisors enough time to write your letter of recommendation," said Torres.
"I waited too long to apply," she added. "I didn't start applying until January or February and a lot of the good ones were taken. The time to start applying is right now, so the earlier the better."
Torres said a common misconception is that students need to be a genius or an honors student to participate in these programs. In fact, the programs encourage all interested students to apply.
Most REUs are at U.S. universities, but there are also REUs in other countries. Torres knew of people who went to Russia, Malaysia and the Caribbean. All REUs are different, and there are many to choose from.
Don't regret another long summer of playing video games and watching TV. Make next summer the best decision you've ever made. Below are a couple links to help get you started.