Published: Feb. 22, 2018 By

PREP will deliver benefits to students, department and university    

The University of Colorado Boulder Department of Physics has received a $75.8 million award from the National Institute of Standards and Technology to continue the collaborative Professional Research Experience Program (PREP) through 2022, the department has announced.

Started in 1994, the PREP program provides funding for undergraduate and graduate students in physics and other departments to work with researchers at NIST’s Boulder laboratories on cutting-edge projects, including new atomic clocks, precision quantum measurement, international measurement standards, new laser applications, GPS technology and more. Some 800 CU students and post-doctoral assistants have participated in the program to date.


John Cumalat and Paul Beale

“We are very excited to announce the five-year renewal of PREP,” said Paul Beale, professor of physics, and John Cumalat, chair of the physics department, in a joint statement.

Cumalat proposed expanding and moving PREP, previously administered by CU Career Services, to physics last year. Russell Moore, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, and Kelly Fox, senior vice chancellor and chief financial officer, signed off on the idea and PREP was relocated to physics on July 1. In August, Beale and Cumalat wrote and submitted their $75.8 million proposal, a 25-percent increase over the previous five-year award.

Taking over the program will result in numerous benefits to the department. Moving PREP to physics will help the department support the research mission of the institution. PREP is also expected to help the department recruit top graduate and undergraduate students.

“With over 700 undergraduate majors and over 240 graduate students in our PhD program, CU physics has become one of the largest and best physics programs in the United States. PREP will continue to be one of the keys to our success,” Cumalat said.

The five-year award will fund participation by 30 full-time graduate students, 20 undergraduates, 10 “academic affiliates” with bachelor’s or master’s degrees and 75 post-doctorate assistants each year.

“Students have often stated that their experiences at NIST were one of the major highlights of their education,” Beale and Cumalat wrote in their proposal. “NIST researchers have praised student contributions to their laboratories.”

“The renewal includes a new program that provides for bachelor’s and master’s degree graduates to participate in PREP, which will allow NIST scientists to recruit top young researchers to work as technical staff members at NIST after graduation,”  Cumalat said.

“We believe that many of our best undergraduate PREP researchers will be recruited by NIST scientists to continue working in their labs after graduation,” Cumalat said.