REU Overview


Brandeis University was awarded a National Science Foundation grant to establish a Materials Research Science and Engineering Center. The research in our center concerns the combination of materials science with biology. We have very strong programs in the physical sciences and the life sciences, which we have combined to study this fascinating area. Here are some examples of our research topics, involving theory, experiments and computer simulations:

  • how long polymer molecules like DNA behave when highly confined to the tiny volume of a cell
  • how “chiral” objects, ones that have a twisted shape, pack together to make interesting structures, like twisted ribbons and spiral shaped filaments
  • how assemblies of self-powered microscopic objects cluster together to make organized structures called "active matter," that moves under its own power, like a cell crawling over a surface.

We are also "reverse engineering" elements of living cells to see how they are constructed and what elements of their structure are necessary for their function. An example is the cilia on the surfaces of cells in our lungs, which constantly work to sweep pollutants out of our lungs. We want to understand the structure and dynamics of these self-powered oscillating filaments, by observing their internal structure by three-dimensional electron microscopy, by genetic modifications to change their structure, and by mechanical experiments on single cilia, to measure their physical properties.

The summer REU program has a list of mentors and projects in this wide range of research topics, giving students the opportunity to participate in cutting-edge research in a rapidly developing area of interdisciplinary science.

Applications and transcripts are due in early February, and selection of the summer students proceeds with center faculty through April. With direction from a faculty adviser and, in most cases, a postdoctoral fellow or graduate student, the REU student defines and sets up the program necessary to accomplish the 10-week summer project. A final presentation is given by each student at the end-of-summer seminar attended by center faculty, student mentors and fellow REU students.

The REU program includes:

  • a stand-alone, substantive research project, appropriate for a 10-week period for each student
  • $5,000 stipend plus all costs for travel and housing
  • interaction with a faculty member and daily interaction with a graduate student mentor
  • a full day faculty-led workshop on various research topics, ethics in research, and an early career panel
  • emphasis on professional development, including written and oral skills and preparing for a career in science and engineering
  • end-of-summer REU poster session in which students present research results and conclusions
  • social activities and visits to local area attractions
Check out REU 2016
2016 MRSEC Undergraduate Research Cohorts and 2016 Photo and Abstracts as well as REU Info Sheet 2016.

Posters from previous years: REU 2015REU 2014REU 2013