What is an REU?
The National Science Foundation (NSF) funds research experiences for undergraduates in different universities across the United States. These experiences are called Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). Students apply to these programs, that occur during the summer, and if they are chosen to participate their travel expenses will be covered and a stipend will be given. If you are a student and think you might be interested in doing research, then I highly recommend applying for an REU. Click here to search for REU by science field.
In which REU did I participate and what did I work on?
In the summer of 2011 I participated in the REU at Delaware State University. I worked under the mentorship of Dr. Venugopal Kalavacharla in the project titled: “Identification of genes involved in bean rust resistance using cDNA-AFLP”. The common bean plant (Phaseolus vulgaris) is susceptible to a fungal pathogen called Uromyces appendiculatus, which causes bean rust. However, some variants of the bean plant are resistant to bean rust. My goal was to compare the genes that are expressed in a resistant plant to the genes that are expressed in a susceptible plant to identify genes that are different between these plants, which might be involved in the resistance mechanism.
Running a gel at Dr. Kalavacharla’s lab at Delaware State University during the REU.
What did I learn?
In terms of techniques, I learned how to extract RNA and convert it to cDNA, and I also learned how to do AFLP (Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism). This last technique is the one I used to compare the “expression fingerprint” of the resistant versus susceptible plants.
This was the first time I did research outside of my university, so I experienced how to communicate with other scientists in English (100% of the time). It was also my first time working on a new research project and in a short amount of time having to learn its background, work on it, and develop a presentation.
We were also exposed to ethics seminar on a weekly basis. This experience exposed me to ethics concepts that I had no exposure to before.
Poster I presented at the end of my REU at Delaware State University
Some of the friends I made at the REU. [From left to right: Myself, Maryam Muhammad, Khaliyah Abikoye, and Natalie Kendall]
I went to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City!