What is REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates)?



The goals of this ten-week summer REU Site at the University of Colorado are to provide undergraduate students with the opportunity to conduct research in the area of Environmental Sustainability, emphasizing multimedia approaches (air, water, soil), while training them in experimental design, data collection, and data interpretation. A seminar series will foster group discussions of societal issues in Environmental Sustainability, ethics, and policy. Students will also participate in tours of local research facilities (like NREL, NOAA, NIST, USGS). Students will be recruited from disciplines inside and outside engineering and at least fifty percent of the participants will be from colleges and universities where research opportunities in STEM are limited. Participants will experience gains in knowledge, skills, attitudes, and identity that will foster their success in future research and/or professional settings.

Click here to access the REU website.

Interview with Cristina Tillberry

Cristina Tillberry, Senior (graduated December 2014), Energy option, Certificates in Renewable and Sustainable Energy and Engineering Management. 
I am from Monument, CO and I started in the spring of 2011.  I originally attended a community college because I wasn't sure what I wanted to study. The day I started school, I decided I wanted to go to CU and wanted to pursue a career in engineering. With my passion for saving the planet and being environmentally conscious, I figured Environmental Engineering would be the best fit. As for the program, I love how close knit it is, so everybody knows everybody. It's like a little environmental family. I was a part of the CU Energy Club, as well as SEVEN and CU Student Ambassadors.I also worked for the CU Environmental Center SCORE program for a year, which helps student renters to become more energy conscious. 

I love to travel; that is my dream, to travel the world. I have dual citizenship with the US and Spain,and because of this I have traveled to Spain many times. But my overall goal is to travel to every country in the world to experience new cultures and possibly settle in a place I would have never expected to live.

As I mentioned before I was part of the CU Student Ambassadors. I also worked on campus in many different places. I held an apprenticeship with the Lockheed Martin Engineering Management Program, I had an unpaid internship through the CU Environmental Center, I worked in an engineering lab and got research experience through REU. All these exciting experiences led to me receiving the Active Learning Award when I graduated, which recognizes experience in professional, service, and discovery learning environments. 

I think I would like to go to get my PhD someday, but for now I want to get some experience in the real world. As of right now, I might be going to Spain in the fall to teach English abroad, but if I get offered my dream job anywhere in the world, I will absolutely do that. The possibilities are endless, and I really want to experience everything I can.


  • Can you give us a brief explanation of your research experience in REU? (Topic, adviser, challenges,...)


My experience in REU was extremely positive; it provided a professional, interesting, and fun work environment with other students interested in research. I worked under Professor Fernando Rosario-Ortiz, as well as working with a Doctoral student who supervised and trained me in the lab. My topic was researching the effects of the High Park Fire on the drinking water supply from the Cache La Poudre River (near Fort Collins). Using size exclusion chromatography, fluorescence spectroscopy, and UV-Vis, I was able to characterize dissolved organic matter (DOM) in the water samples, as well as determining the terrestrial and organic input from the ash and foliage in the river . In addition to testing the samples, I was also able to travel to the Cache La Poudre Canyon to collect water samples at three different sampling locations. At the end of the program, I presented my findings in powerpoint and written report formats.


  • What did you mostly like about the REU: Environmental Sustainability Summer program?


I loved the fact that I could apply what I had learned in the classroom to a real world experiment. I had always heard the terms used in class, but wasn't able to ever picture what they actually meant until I was able to perform these experiments in the lab. I also really liked that my horizons were widened into research, since I had never considered a career in research prior to the program.


  • How do you think the program helped in preparing you for your future in Engineering?


The program helped me to understand what it really performed and accomplished in a lab setting, and how to properly present gathered data. I also learned how to effectively work with people from other disciplines of science, and how to effectively communicate information that not everyone understands. 


  •  How was the experience of being around students from different academic backgrounds and different schools?


It was very exciting to be around students from other schools and academic backgrounds. Most people were engineering students, but there were a couple biology and other science majors. The only thing I regret is that I did not live in the dorms with them (since I already was living in an apartment off campus) and therefore I didn't get to know them as well as they knew each other. It was all fine in the end though because after the program was finished, we all went out together and bonded over completing an intensive research program. 


  • Advice for underclassmen who are considering the REU program.


My advice to undergraduates considering REU is: go for it! I am so happy I got to experience research before graduating. It opened my eyes to so many different career paths than I was expecting, and you meet new people from around the country. I tried to experience everything I could while I was an undergraduate, from participating in student groups and clubs, to holding a steady job, to research, and this was definitely one of my favorite experiences. I highly recommend it!


                                                                                                                               January 13th 2015