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13 students earn science-related summer internships and research opportunities

2020-06-19-REU-Lani-Chastain
Lani Chastain, a sophomore pursuing dual degrees in physics and engineering, won an Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) with the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She was one of 13 UNG students to be awarded an internship or REU.

University of North Georgia (UNG) students Beth Ward and Lani Chastain admit to being science fiction nerds. Ward was introduced to genre through the Star Trek "Voyager" television series in high school while Chastain became a fan of "Dr. Who" in middle school.

Their affinity for science fiction evolved into a love of science, and both will put their passion to work this summer in the real world. Ward and Chastain are two of the 13 UNG students to be awarded an internship or Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). The National Science Foundation (NSF) funds a large number of opportunities for undergraduates to work in the research programs of higher education institutions while science-based centers fund internships.

Ward, a senior pursuing a degree in chemistry, earned an internship with the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton Springs, Virginia. The 24-year-old from Conyers, Georgia, was with her family when she received the good news.

"In the moment, I was calm. But on the inside, I was screaming and excited," Ward. "My goal is to work at NASA."

Chastain, a sophomore pursuing dual degrees in physics and engineering, was surprised to win an REU with the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The 20-year-old from Chickamauga, Georgia, had applied to nearly a dozen REUs but had not been accepted yet.

"It was last one that I applied for," Chastain said. "Then Dr. Sarah Formica (professor of physics at UNG) suggested I apply to UAB even though it was not astrophysics. I applied and a couple of weeks later I got it. It was nice to have all of that hard work pay off."

The hard work of 11 more UNG students also proved fruitful. A couple of them are repeat winners.

  • Aida Alarcon, a junior from Braselton, Georgia, pursuing a degree in visual arts, received a REU with University of New Mexico Sevilleta Field Station.
  • Bailey Bullard, a sophomore for Sharpsburg, Georgia, pursuing a degree in chemistry, received a REU with Mississippi State University.
  • Skyler Hollers, a senior from Braselton, Georgia, pursuing a degree in chemistry, received a REU with Georgia Southern University.
  • Mark Leggiero, a junior from Buford, Georgia, pursuing dual degrees in physics and engineering, received the NARI Research Internship from Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute in Phaltan, India. It was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Ikechukwu Obi-Okoye, a freshman from Nigeria who lives in Athens, Georgia, pursuing dual degrees in physics and engineering, received a Summer Intensive Research Internship (SIRI) at the University of Mexico and Purdue University. It was postponed to next summer.
  • Grace Roa, a senior from Gainesville, Georgia, pursuing a degree in biology, received the Ocean Sciences REU at Oregon State University's Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon.
  • Emily Shrewsbury, a junior from Dallas, Georgia, pursuing a degree in chemistry, was awarded the chance to study at Auburn University. The program was canceled for the summer. This marked the second REU for Shrewsbury.
  • Suzy Steel, a junior from Alpharetta, Georgia, pursuing a degree in physics, earned an internship with Air Force Research Lab Scholars Program at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She was selected for their Phillips Scholars Program, which has changed to a virtual program.
  • Brooke Tate, a rising senior from Cumming, Georgia, pursuing a degree in chemistry, earned an REU at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. This marked the second REU for Tate.
  • Tyler Wilson, a sophomore from Cumming, Georgia, pursuing a degree in physics, received a REU with the University of Washington. His program transitioned to an online experience.
  • Grant Zacher, a senior from Flowery Branch, Georgia, pursuing a degree in biology received the ASPET summer undergraduate research fellowship from the University of Michigan's Department of Pharmacology. His program shifted to an online experience.

While a couple of the REUs have canceled their programs, others have moved them online or plan to continue them in person.

Students interested in pursuing summer research opportunities or undergraduate research projects may contact the Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities office at curca@ung.edu.

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