Sarah Cole participated in the 2015 REU program at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. 

The Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, funded by the National Science Foundation, returns to the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in the summer of 2019. The 10-week program gives undergraduate students the chance to dive deeper into the field of marine science and gain first-hand research experience.

The program offers a diverse range of research opportunities with internationally recognized faculty members.The opportunities for research as an REU at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab are vast. Research topics include benthic ecology, fisheries and marine mammal ecology, toxicology, and biological, chemical, and physical oceanography.

Students who complete the program come away with a strong knowledge base on how to design and conduct a research project, produce a scientific poster, and publish their results. From the field work to the lab work, REU participants learn the ropes with the help of a faculty mentor. Students also participate in a series of career building seminars that cover topics from how to prepare a CV and apply to graduate school to entering the workforce and managing work-life balance.

"The REU program at the DISL definitely gave me insight into what it’s actually like working in a laboratory and doing research," Masters student Sarah Cole shared. "It was not something that I had experienced before, and it is a lot different than classroom labs and assignments."

Cole, who participated in the DISL REU program during summer 2015, worked with Dr. Kelly Dorgan and Dr. Bill Walton on a project to understand the mudblister worm infestation of  oysters, which can negatively affect their marketability.. Upon completion of her undergraduate degree at Eckerd College, Cole leveraged her DISL REU experience into a graduate level research project at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab to continue her work on how to limit the infestation of mudblister worms on commercially farm grown oysters.

Sarah Cole, 2015 REU, presents research at 2017 Benthic Ecology Meeting.

"These worms are particularly a problem for the half-shell market. They not only look gross, but can pop when shucking, releasing anoxic mud," Cole explained. "The number of burrows can also make the shell brittle and break easily."

Cole completed her degree this fall and looks forward to the next steps in her scientific career.

The program also focuses on diversity among participants.  A primary goal of the program is to provide research experiences for students who otherwise may not have these opportunities at their home institutions, including students who are underrepresented minorities or non-traditional.  A major benefit of the program is that it covers room and board and provides a stipend for the participants, which enables participation by low-income students.

“We value diversity in the greatest sense of the word”, said Ruth H. Carmichael, Senior Marine Scientist at DISL and Professor of Marine Sciences at University of South Alabama.  Carmichael has been Director of the DISL REU program since 2015. “Research has shown that the best way to recruit and retain new students in science is to reach underrepresented and underserved groups. There are many students who attend community colleges or other universities with limited research opportunities. We want to work with these students.”

The experience gives REU students insight into potential marine science careers while sharpening their research skills.

"I think the REU program is something students should apply to and be a part of because it gives you a learning experience you don’t get from simply going to college classes. It’s a lot of fun and a lot of work, but well worth the experience and the network that you build," Cole said.  

Learn how to apply for this program by clicking here.