How to Apply

Mentors and Project Opportunities

Students in lab.

Each REU students is mentored by a Senior Research Scientist at Bigelow Laboratory. For examples and abstracts of REU projects from previous years, visit the sub-pages dedicated to each year. On the program application, applicants will indicate two scientists they are interested in working with; students with questions about potential research projects are encouraged to contact the scientist leading the project. Please visit the research pages of individual scientists here.

2022 Mentors

  • Steve Archer and Nichole Price

    This internship provides an opportunity to apply an interest in chemistry to address a real world environmental issue that links greenhouse gas emissions, aquaculture and agriculture. The Coast-Cow-Consumer interdisciplinary research team is studying the utility of various species of algae as feed additives to improve milk yields and reduce the environmental ‘hoofprint’ of dairy farming by reducing methane burps. The Bigelow Analytical Services facility and Center for Seafood Solutions work together to identify scalable algae species that can be used as feed ingredients. This involves screening of nutritional value, bioactive compound concentrations, and specific enzyme activities. We seek a Colby intern with biochemical interests and coursework and a meticulous nature to assist an active team in conducting state-of-art research experiments and associated chemical assays. The intern should expect to gain experience in growing algae, experimental design and interpretation, analytical assays that could involve pH monitoring, spectrophotometry, fluorometry and/or GC/MS, and data curation and would be jointly mentored by the directors of each center.

  • John Burns

    The word "protist" is used as a catch-all to describe incredibly diverse single-celled eukaryotes. There are protists related to plants, protists related to fungi, protists related to animals, and protists that form their own distinct lineages. Research in the Burns lab is centered on questions about protists, how they work, who they interact with, and how those interactions happen. We address questions in 1) Symbiosis: How do cells from different branches of life interact? What molecules are exchanged? What mediates their interactions? 2) Biomineralization: How does life concentrate elements to seed and control mineral formation? What is the function of the complex forms created? 3) Evolution: How can studying diversity inform us of the link between information (DNA sequence) and form and function (phenotype)? To do this we use a combination of computational and experimental approaches. Projects include investigating viruses in a salamander-alga symbiosis, and listening to biochemical signals that protists use to regulate their activity and talk to one another.

  • Peter Countway

    Current research in the Countway lab is focused on studying the diversity, distribution, and toxicity of harmful algae and cyanobacteria in coastal marine ecosystems and lakes. A broad goal of our work is to develop an understanding of ecological and environmental interactions that may contribute to the formation of harmful algal blooms (HABs) and harmful cyanobacterial blooms (cyano-HABs). A variety of techniques are employed to study these organisms including microscopy, DNA sequencing, ELISA, and quantitative PCR (qPCR) - with much attention given to developing novel genetic assays for studying the ecology of particular species of interest. Other ongoing projects include investigating the role of biogenic sulfur compounds in structuring Antarctic microbial communities, revealing the diet of larval lobsters through DNA metabarcoding, training community scientists to perform environmental DNA (eDNA) analyses on portable qPCR systems, and revealing the historical record of cyano-HABs in Maine's lakes via sediment core analyses. Students in our lab acquire valuable research experience in many areas of molecular microbial ecology and become proficient in use of DNA- and/or RNA-based techniques to address ecological questions.

  • José A. Fernández Robledo

    Two major diseases that impact oyster production in North America are ’Dermo’ disease caused by Perkinsus marinus and ‘MSX’ (multinucleated sphere X) disease caused by Haplosporidium nelsoni. P. marinus can be propagated in vitro and we are actively using it to express genes of medical and veterinary relevance to generate proteins for further characterization and as a vehicle for delivering antigens. The soft-shell clam, Mya arenaria, is affected by Bivalve Transmissible Neoplasia (BTN), a form of infectious cancer that is transmitted through the water; we are conducting a survey in clams for modeling this infectious disease. On the side of the host, I am interested in establishing cell lines from mollusks using both cellular and genetic approaches. Finally, we are using genetic engineering to generate enzymes and processes that help us cut down some of the gases responsible for global warming. View lab page

    Our project uses multiple approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions during dairy production , particularly methane (CH4) that is burped as a cow digests feed in the rumen.View website. Asparagopsis seaweeds are a well-known natural source of CH4 bioactive inhibitors. Published data report substantial reductions (50-80%) in CH4 laden burps from ruminants when Asparagopsis was included in trace amounts. Additionally, productivity (in beef steers) is enhanced when fed these seaweeds. We are interested in the enzymes responsible for producing these bioactive compounds and have identified at least three candidate genes from Asparagopsis. The Colby student project would consist of genetic engineering various micro-organisms to produce pure enzyme for further biochemical characterization. Students with background in molecular biology and biochemistry are encouraged to apply.

  • David Fields

    Dr. Field's is a zooplankton ecologist. The Fields' laboratory studies the role of zooplankton (eg. Copepods, lobsters and cladocerans) in transferring organic matter through the food web and in mediating bio-geochemical cycling in the oceans. Projects this year will include:

    1. The impact of microplastics and other ecotoxins on zooplankton communities
    2. Vertical distribution of zooplankton in the Gulf of Maine
    3. Life cycle of marine cladocerans (classical grazing experiments,egg production and developmental rates)

    Our approach is to understand how the mechanisms that occur at the level of the individual animal drive regional and global scale distribution patterns in zooplankton. This work incorporates zooplankton ecology and physiology as well as data from small-scale fluid mechanics, neurophysiology and individual animal behavior. View lab page

  • Kevin Guay

    The Coast-Cow-Consumer interdisciplinary research team is studying the utility of various species of algae to improve milk yields and reduce the environmental ‘hoofprint’ of dairy farming. Within Bigelow’s algae repository, there are thousands of potential algae species and strains to evaluate, and the team will continue to generate multitudes of new data over the five-year project. To coordinate sample collection and preservation, curate these numerous and varied data types, and quantify data usage for educational and outreach purposes, we are developing a customized database. We seek an intern who has had experience with data collection and QAQC, is proficient in MS Excel and Google Suite, and with some basic understanding of relational database software (e.g., MySQL). Experience coding in SQL, writing scripts (e.g., VBL, JS, etc.), or with frontend development framework (e.g., Node JS) is a plus. The Colby student would be supervised jointly by Bigelow Laboratory and Colby College IT specialists and computer scientists as s/he assists in developing and implementing the database architecture and user-interface.

  • Joaquín Martínez Martínez and Anne Booker

    The Martínez Martínez laboratory studies natural ocean viral populations using a combination of laboratory-based experiments, field sampling, and bioinformatic tools. A current focus of research in our laboratory is on viruses that interact with the harmful algal bloom species Karenia brevis in the Gulf of Mexico. The dinoflagellate K. brevis produces a neurotoxin that has killed thousands of fish, dolphins, and manatees and can lead to respiratory complications in humans. Beach clean-up and closures as a result of this toxin have cost Florida millions of dollars. The Martínez Martínez laboratory wants to know if ocean viruses contribute to the mortality of K. brevis and how that knowledge could be leveraged in the prevention, control, and mitigation of these harmful blooms. Projects this summer will include identifying ocean virus isolates that will use K. brevis cultures as a host and the impacts these viruses have on K. brevis physiology. Additionally, viral genomes will be sequenced and searched bioinformatically to answer questions about the mechanisms viruses use to manipulate K. brevis metabolism. These projects will be great for interns interested in microbiology (viruses and harmful algal bloom eukaryotes), learning wet-lab techniques, learning bioinformatic techniques, learning flow cytometry as a viral enumeration tool, and practicing science visualization/communication skills. Students joining our team will be able to develop and test their independent ideas within the topics above by designing and performing in vivo or in silico experiments, with guidance from Drs. Booker and Martínez Martínez. We look forward to reviewing your application.

  • Jim McManus

    The McManus laboratory studies trace metals and metal contaminants in marine sediments. We are interested in a variety of questions related to understanding how the chemistry of marine sediments influences and records changes in ocean chemistry and biology. We are also interested in understanding how anthropogenic processes influence the changing chemistry of marine sediments.

  • Nicole Poulton

  • Doug Rasher

    The Rasher Lab studies shallow reef ecosystems, with a focus on identifying species and processes (e.g., predation, competition, recruitment) of ecological importance. Using field observations, experiments, and models, Rasher and his team seek to reveal which processes govern ecosystem structure and function, and how the ecosystem-level impacts of these processes have changed, or are changing, due to human activity. There are two REU research opportunities in the Rasher Lab in 2022. One will leverage Rasher’s ongoing NSF-funded research on the American lobster, wherein the REU fellow will work with project PI's Eric Annis (Hood College), Jes Waller (DMR), Markus Frederich (UNE), and Rasher (Bigelow), as well as graduate student Aubrey Jane (UNE), to better understand the thermal tolerance limits of lobster larvae. The findings of this research will help to predict the shifting distribution of lobsters in a rapidly warming Gulf of Maine. The other research opportunity will leverage Rasher's ongoing NSF-funded research in Gulf of Maine kelp forests, wherein the REU fellow will work with Dr. Rasher, his PhD students, and his technician to document how climate change is altering the ecology of this underwater reef ecosystem.

  • Rachel Sipler (Marine Biogeochemistry Lab)

    Dr. Rachel Sipler is a biogeochemist with a background in environmental change, water pollution, and harmful algal blooms. This is a great opportunity to gain experience if you are considering a career in biology, chemistry, ecology, marine science or oceanography. A background in biology, chemistry or related field is beneficial but not required.

    Water Health and Humans
    This position will focus on developing materials to engage community groups interested in investigating and reducing changes in their environment to sustain healthy coastal ecosystems. A successful candidate will work with Dr. Rachel Sipler to identify new and innovative materials for using in supporting community-based observations. Specific tasks may include researching new materials for community use, helping to develop and test protocols, developing content on environmental monitoring in the area, and constructing sampling kits for future use and engagement

    Kelp and Microplastics
    This position will provide hands on laboratory experience working with Drs. Rachel Sipler, Nicole Poulton and Doug Rasher to investigate the potential for kelp to concentrate microplastics. Specific tasks may include field sampling, helping design controlled laboratory experiments, testing new methods and quantifying the abundance of microplastics on kelp.

  • Karen Stamieszkin

  • Ramunas Stepanauskas

    I see the individuality of microbial cells as a major, unresolved enigma and a key to future improvements in our understanding of microbial ecology, evolution, biotechnology potential and impact on human health. Unicellular bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes constitute the oldest, the most abundant, and the most diverse forms of life on our planet. Yet, the extent, impact and underlying mechanisms of microbial diversity remain poorly understood, primarily due to technical challenges and paucity of unifying concepts that focus on discrete organisms - individual cells. My research group develops new technologies for single cell microbiology and utilizes them, along with other research tools, to address a wide array of questions in fundamental and applied microbiology.

  • Benjamin Twining

    The Twining lab studies the elemental composition of marine organisms and the role that micronutrient trace metals such as iron play in controlling ocean productivity. This summer I expect student intern research to be focused on a topic related to the use of seaweed as a feed supplement for livestock. We are part of a large, multi-institution project to explore this (https://www.bigelow.org/services/seafood-solutions/coast-cow-consumer.html), including the impacts of seaweed on nutrient-cycling at dairy farms and production of methane by cows. This summer we will investigate the impacts of seaweed type and processing on iodine and arsenic content seaweed, as well as the implications of this for livestock. Due to the funding, this opportunity is limited to a Colby College student.

  • LeAnn Whitney

Eligibility

An REU participant must be a current undergraduate student and a citizen or permanent resident of the United States or its possessions; international students and graduating seniors are not eligible for this program. An undergraduate student is defined as a student who is enrolled in a degree program (part-time or full-time) leading to a baccalaureate or associate degree. Students who are transferring from one college or university to another and are enrolled at neither institution during the intervening summer may participate under certain circumstances. See the National Science Foundation's eligibility guidelines for more information.

Minorities and students with disabilities are encouraged to apply.

Applicants should have, at minimum, one year of basic biology, have taken at least one earth or ocean science course, and be in good standing with their home institution. Most REU students will have completed two or three years of college and be majoring in earth science, environmental science, biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics or engineering. Prior research experience is not required, but relevant coursework and enthusiasm for conducting independent research are important. We encourage applications from non-traditional students, as well as those attending community colleges.

Proof of COVID vaccination will be required to participate in the program.

Apply

BEFORE YOU BEGIN THE ONLINE APPLICATION FORM, YOU SHOULD HAVE THE FOLLOWING FOUR ITEMS

  • Responses to the short answer questions form.
  • Names and email addresses for two references who will write a letter of recommendation, including at least one recent science instructor who can comment on your interest and commitment to self-motivated projects. Your references will be sent an automatic email to submit their letters using the online form once you submit your application. Letters must be submitted by February 15th.
  • PDF of your college transcripts (does not need to be official).

Once you have gathered the information above, please proceed to the application form. All application materials must be received by February 15th. Due to the high number of applications received each year, incomplete applications will not be reviewed. All application materials should be sent to Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences via the online application site. Please send questions to reu@bigelow.org. Do not submit applications to the National Science Foundation.

All students who are offered a position with the Bigelow REU have from March 15th to March 30th to accept or reject the offer. This REU site is funded by the National Science Foundation's Division of Ocean Sciences.

Contact Information

REU Program
Dr. David Fields
Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences
East Boothbay, ME 04544 USA
(207) 315-2567, ext. 313
reu@bigelow.org

2023 Important Dates

  • Application Period: January 1 - February 15
  • Students Notified: March 15 - March 30
  • Program Dates: May 21 to July 28, 2023