How to Apply

Mentors and Project Opportunities

Students in lab.

Each REU students is mentored by a Senior Research Scientist at Bigelow Laboratory. For examples and abstracts of REU projects from previous years, visit the sub-pages dedicated to each year. On the program application, applicants will indicate two scientists they are interested in working with; students with questions about potential research projects are encouraged to contact the scientist leading the project. Please visit the research pages of individual scientists here.

2021 Mentors

  • Christoph Aeppli (Environmental Chemistry Lab)
    We are environmental chemists and study the fate and effects of pollutants in the ocean. We have three projects this year: (1) Investigating the role of dissolved organic matter (DOM) in the photochemical degradation of pollutants such as chlorinated paraffins and methylmercury. Sunlight-induced degradation of these pollutants in seawater is not well understood for these compounds. (2) Determining the bio-degradation of oil photo-products. After the Deepwater Horizon oil spills, oil hydrocarbons were rapidly transformed by sunlight. However, there is a lack of knowledge about how quickly bacteria can degrade such oxygenated hydrocarbons. (3) Studying how oil and oil/dispersant mixtures might affect marine zooplankton. Using chemical dispersants is often an effective way of facilitating biodegradation of oil after an oil spill. We want to investigate the impact of oil and oil/dispersant on zooplankton (copepods) in mesocosm experiments.
  • Barney Balch
  • John Burns
  • Peter Countway
  • David Emerson
    The Emerson Lab is focused on studying bacteria that utilize iron and contribute to biogeochemical cycling of iron. The oxidative part of this cycle is most under-appreciated, and under-explored of the major biogeochemical cycles on Earth. This summer we are initiating a new project in Arctic that will study the role of iron-utilizing microbes in permafrost habitats. We are interested in learning more about these microbial communities using microscopic, cultivation-based, and molecular analyses. We will also be studying how the presence of these bacteria impact the production of methane in permafrost sediments and soils. This project will involve 6 weeks of field work at the Toolik Field Station, a remote research site on Alaska’s North Slope. It will involve moderately strenuous hiking and fieldwork under variable weather conditions.
  • José A. Fernández Robledo
    Two of the major diseases that impact oyster production in North America are “Dermo” disease caused by Perkinsus marinus and “MSX” (multinucleated sphere X) disease caused by Haplosporidium nelsoni. P. marinus can be propagated in vitro. In my laboratory, we are actively expressing genes of medical and veterinary relevance both to generate proteins for further characterization and as a vehicle for delivering antigens. Genes we are trying include the protozoan parasites and the viruses. We are also interested in the infectious cancer of soft-shell clams, Mya arenaria, is transmitted. Finally, we are using genetic engineering to generate enzymes and processes that help us cut down some of the gases responsible for global warming. View lab page
  • David Fields
    Dr. Field's is a zooplankton ecologist. The Fields' laboratory studies the role of zooplankton (eg. Copepods, lobsters and cladocerans) in transferring organic matter through the food web and in mediating bio-geochemical cycling in the oceans. Projects this year will include
  1. The impact of microplastics and other ecotoxins on zooplankton communities
  2. Vertical distribution of zooplankton in the Gulf of Maine
  3. Life cycle of marine cladocerans (classical grazing experiments, egg production and developmental rates)
    Our approach is to understand how the mechanisms that occur at the level of the individual animal drive regional and global scale distribution patterns in zooplankton. This work incorporates zooplankton ecology and physiology as well as data from small-scale fluid mechanics, neurophysiology and individual animal behavior. View lab page
  • Michael Lomas
    Dr. Lomas is a phytoplankton ecologist and physiologist. Projects this year will be aligned with the work of the Bigelow Center for Algal Innovation, which Lomas directs. The focus of the Center for Algal Innovation is to harness the sustainable power of microalgae in applications and solutions to extant societal challenges. Project this year could include: 1) potential impacts of microplastics on microalgae growth, as microalgae are used as microplastic 'scrubbers'; 2) production of the pigment astaxanthin by microalgae; and 3) impact of growth conditions on production of extracellular metabolites in marine microalgae. Regardless of project, students will have the chance to interact with both Center for Algal Innovation staff and Curators for the National Center for Marine Algae and Microbiota, learning microalgae culturing techniques and novel analytical methods and technologies.
  • Jim McManus
    The McManus laboratory studies trace metals and metal contaminants in marine sediments. We are interested in a variety of questions related to understanding how the chemistry of marine sediments influences and records changes in ocean chemistry and biology. We are also interested in understanding how anthropogenic processes influence the changing chemistry of marine sediments.
  • Catherine Mitchell
  • Beth Orcutt
    The Orcutt lab studies the weird microscopic life that lives below the seafloor on rocks and in hydrothermal vent systems. Student research opportunities this summer will involve learning bioinformatic approaches (i.e. analyzing DNA sequences and genomes) to identify the genetic mechanisms that allow microbes to survive and thrive in these habitats. This project is very adaptable for remote learning, and would be most useful for students interested in the intersection of ocean science, biology, chemistry, and bioinformatics.
  • Nicole Poulton
  • Doug Rasher
    The Rasher Lab studies the ecology of coastal marine ecosystems, with a focus on foundational habitats (e.g., coral reefs, kelp forests). Using experiments and observations, these scientists seek to reveal the key ecological processes that shape such habitats, along with how these processes are changing due to human activity. Research opportunities this summer will leverage Rasher’s ongoing NSF-funded research on the American lobster, wherein the REU fellow will work in collaboration with PI's Eric Annis (Hood College), Jes Waller (DMR), Markus Frederich (UNE), and Rasher (Bigelow) to better understand the thermal tolerance limits of lobster larvae. The findings of this research will help to predict the shifting distribution of lobsters in a rapidly warming Gulf of Maine.
  • Nick Record
  • Ramunas Stepanauskas
    I see the individuality of microbial cells as a major, unresolved enigma and a key to future improvements in our understanding of microbial ecology, evolution, biotechnology potential and impact on human health. Unicellular bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes constitute the oldest, the most abundant, and the most diverse forms of life on our planet. Yet, the extent, impact and underlying mechanisms of microbial diversity remain poorly understood, primarily due to technical challenges and paucity of unifying concepts that focus on discrete organisms - individual cells. My research group develops new technologies for single cell microbiology and utilizes them, along with other research tools, to address a wide array of questions in fundamental and applied microbiology.
  • Benjamin Twining
    The Twining lab studies the elemental composition of marine organisms and the role that trace metals such as iron play in controlling ocean productivity. Students interested in nutrient controls on productivity in the open ocean, as well as students interested in experiments with cultured phytoplankton and data analysis with R are encouraged to apply. Other projects in the Twining lab focus on measuring concentrations and speciation of arsenic and iodine in seaweed. Our work sits at the intersection of biology, chemistry, and oceanography.
  • LeAnn Whitney


An REU participant must be a current undergraduate student and a citizen or permanent resident of the United States or its possessions; international students and graduating seniors are not eligible for this program. An undergraduate student is defined as a student who is enrolled in a degree program (part-time or full-time) leading to a baccalaureate or associate degree. Students who are transferring from one college or university to another and are enrolled at neither institution during the intervening summer may participate under certain circumstances. See the National Science Foundation's eligibility guidelines for more information.

Minorities and students with disabilities are encouraged to apply.

Applicants should have, at minimum, one year of basic biology, have taken at least one earth or ocean science course, and be in good standing with their home institution. Most REU students will have completed two or three years of college and be majoring in earth science, environmental science, biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics or engineering. Prior research experience is not required, but relevant coursework and enthusiasm for conducting independent research are important. We encourage applications from non-traditional students, as well as those attending community colleges.



  • Responses to the short answer questions form.
  • Names and email addresses for two references who will write a letter of recommendation, including at least one recent science instructor who can comment on your interest and commitment to self-motivated projects. Your references will be sent an automatic email to submit their letters using the online form once you submit your application. Letters must be submitted by February 15th.
  • PDF of your college transcripts (does not need to be official).

Once you have gathered the information above, please proceed to the application form. All application materials must be received by February 15th. Due to the high number of applications received each year, incomplete applications will not be reviewed. All application materials should be sent to Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences via the online application site. Please send questions to Do not submit applications to the National Science Foundation.

All students who are offered a position with the Bigelow REU have from March 1st to March 15th to accept or reject the offer. This REU site is funded by the National Science Foundation's Division of Ocean Sciences.

Contact Information

REU Program
Dr. David Fields
Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences
PO Box 380
East Boothbay, ME 04544 USA
(207) 315-2567, ext. 313

2021 Important Dates

  • Application Period: January 1 - February 15
  • Students Notified: March 1 - March 15
  • Program Dates: May 24 to July 30, 2021