Grant renews program immersing undergrads in materials discovery

A program designed to give undergraduate students an introductory summer research experience in materials discovery has been funded through a three-year, $621,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

The grant renews the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program and leverages the Platform for the Accelerated Realization, Analysis, and Discovery of Interface Materials (PARADIM) - a national user facility dedicated to accelerating the discovery of next-generation materials for electronics.

Students participating in the 10-week summer program receive a stipend as well as funding for housing and travel as they work on an independent research project at PARADIM facilities located at Cornell or Johns Hopkins University. The program also provides professional development activities, including workshops on communications skills, scientific poster creation, and ethics in research, among other initiatives. At the conclusion of the program, students present their research and write a formal paper.

students in lab
Former participants of the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program.

PARADIM co-director and Cornell professor Darrell Schlom expressed the importance of involving undergraduates in materials discovery.

“Accelerating materials discovery is a team sport. For the last six years, PARADIM summer undergraduate researchers have played an important role in working together with PARADIM users to help make and characterize new materials, as well as helping to enhance the capabilities of PARADIM’s equipment, software and data processing,” Schlom said. “Student involvement also helps inspire and train the next generation of materials inventors.”

James Overhiser, education and outreach director for PARADIM, said the program is designed to inspire students from populations underrepresented in the fields of materials science, applied physics, chemistry, physics and related STEM disciplines.

“The main goal of PARADIM’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program is to provide an eye-opening, hands-on research experience and a model career path to students that are statistically at a disadvantage,” said Overhiser, who noted that the REU program includes many women, minorities and undergraduates from smaller research institutions. “Several of our students have published work from their REU research in scientific journals and are now pursuing advanced degrees in fields related to materials science.”

PARADIM’s REU program has hosted 60 students since its inception, some of whom have moved into career fields directly related to their program research projects, according to Overhiser. The new grant will allow PARADIM to admit more than 40 students over the next three years, with 17 students expected to join the program this summer.

PARADIM will also continue admitting four students each summer from Clark Atlanta University, a historically Black university that has partnered with PARADIM through a Partnerships for Research and Education in Materials grant from the National Science Foundation.

“I am thrilled that we can bring students to campus and give them an experience in a state-of-the-art user facility where they work alongside top notch mentors,” said Overhiser, who added that he believes the funding from the National Science Foundation is indicative of the program’s quality and dedication to students, including during the pandemic when the program had to pivot to remote learning.

For more information about the Research Experience for Undergraduates program, visit the PARADIM website.

Research projects enabled by PARADIM:

Cornell team develops more efficient photocathode
$22.5M NSF grant accelerates materials discovery
Cornell researchers see atoms at record resolution
Collaboration sparks new model for ceramic conductivity
Smile: Atomic imaging finds root of tooth decay

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