Marine research programs look for undergraduates


Blynn Beltran/The Skyline VIew

Dr. Bridgette Clarkston, Ph.D., (left) discuss REU opportunities at the Science in Action series with Dr. Carla Grady, Ph.D., (right), on Feb.1 2016.

Continuing the Science in Action weekly lecture series, the 2016 Spring semester’s second guest speaker was Dr. Bridgette Clarkston, Ph.D. Dr. Clarkston talked to students about Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) and other programs during the Science in Action seminar here at Skyline College.

“I wanted to provide [students] some more information on summer research. Let [students] know a little bit more about a career they might want to pursue and make some connections along the way,” she said.

Dr. Clarkston advocated for the students that attended the seminar to apply to REU programs during the summer. She discussed the REU – which is a program sponsored by the National Science Foundation or NSF. This is similar to the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) Summer Internship Program (SIP) in Biomedical Research program. This program that was set by the NIH ensures that more students from 2 year college’s move on to a bachelor’s degree and gain experience and interest in biomedical research. But the particular program that Dr. Clarkston is referring to is dedicated to marine research with several institutions that are associated with California State Monterey, including the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Moss Landing Marine Lab.

The REU program lasts ten weeks, from June 6 to Aug. 12. Students involved receive a $5000 stipend for the research as well as traveling, and housing and professional development workshops are all covered by the program (Monterey Bay Regional Ocean Science). Applications are accepted from Dec. 1, 2015 to Feb. 15, 2016. There are four research themes for students to choose from; Oceanography, Marine Biology and Ecology, Ocean Engineering, and Marine Geology. Dr. Clarkston mentioned that her program held four slots specifically for community college students.

“Students will collaborate with mentors at host institutions to develop hypothesis-driven projects and receive critical feedback from mentors. Students will engage in reviewing original literature, formulating a hypothesis, understanding designs, testing hypotheses, and conveying their research to a scientific audience [California State University: Monterey Bay],” the program states.

Although this program only targets sophomore and junior-level students, all students are encouraged to apply to many other REU programs. According to Dr. Clarkston, there are REU programs occurring all throughout the United States and they are all encouraging students to apply.

“I don’t think that these programs are directly competing with one another because of the interest of those who would apply. It does make me feel encouraged because our students have that much more opportunity to try out research as a career pathway,” said Nick Kapp, a biology professor here at Skyline.

Dr. Clarkston explained to students that any REU is a more viable option to spend your summer on than working at a random job or doing an internship. Any REU is paid, unlike most internships and REUs involve you in the process of research rather than focusing on one component of a larger project. Not to mention it looks great on your resume. It also pays a lot more than a regular summer job, not considering the amount of experience in the research that you will get. Being in an REU provides you a more independent role as well, while an internship is more like “job shadowing,” as Dr. Clarkston put it. She also provided five handouts to the students with suggestions of how they could make themselves better candidates, including how to make strong letters of recommendation.

“It was very good and very informative. A lot of students don’t exactly get that much information about research,” said Alvin Go, a bioengineering major

With Dr. Clarkston’s visit, students as well as professors that attended the seminar are more informed about REUs and other research programs. The students were engaged and none seemed to be dozing off. It also helped that Dr. Clarkston had the students participate in the presentation with the help of her handouts and her commanding way of talking, in a good way of course.

Nicholas Siasco, a natural science major here at Skyline College said, “[The seminar] was very informative. It is a gateway to provide undergraduate students opportunities.”

“The talk was attended by roughly 33 Skyline students,” said Professor Nick Kapp. “I am very proud that Skyline is able to offer students the chance to apply for Bridges programs as well as the REUs. The REU pays $5000 as well as room and board for the summer. It is probably a much better experience than working at Starbucks, not to mention it looks better on a resume.”

With Dr. Clarkston’s lecture, many students are now more informed about careers in marine biology, maybe not in terms of pure scientific knowledge but certainly in terms of how they choose pursue their dreams.