How to Apply

Mentors and Project Opportunities

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.

2019 Mentors

  • Barney Balch
  • Ben 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. We are looking for a REU intern to help study the iron cycle in the Sargasso Sea south of Bermuda. Samples are being collected as part of a collaborative, NSF-funded project, and there may be opportunities to travel to Bermuda for sample collection or to national laboratory facilities for sample analysis. The student will have the opportunity to learn microscopy and mass spectrometry techniques, as well as possible engage in phytoplankton culturing and work with fluorescence and electrochemical instruments. This opportunity is limited to Colby College students, and priority will be given to students with coursework in chemistry and biology, as well as those interested in continuing research past the summer.
  • Beth Orcutt
    The Orcutt lab studies, among other things, the weird microscopic life that lives below the seafloor on rocks and in hydrothermal vent systems. Research opportunities this summer will involve using DNA sequencing, enrichment and cultivation experiments, and microscopy to identify the active microbes living in the oceanic crust.
  • Christoph Aeppli
    The Aeppli Lab studies the fate and effects of chemicals in the ocean. We have three projects this year:
    1. Investigating how sunlight can degrade man-made chemicals in seawater. We will study the photo-chemistry of chlorinated paraffin in laboratory experiments. These persistent organic pollutants (POPs) have just recently been added to the Stockholm Convention protocol, but their fate in surface water is poorly understood.
    2. Determining the bio-degradation of oil photo-products. After oil spills, oil hydrocarbons are rapidly transformed. Currently, there is a lack of knowledge how quickly bacteria can degrade such oxygenated hydrocarbons.
    3. Studying how oil and oil/dispersant mixtures might affect copepods. Adding dispersants is often an effective way of responding to an oil spill. We want to investigate, whether zooplankton can actively avoid oil or oil/dispersant mixtures.
  • 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.
  • 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. 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 general data of zooplankton ecology (classical grazing experiments, egg production and developmental rates) as well as data from small-scale fluid mechanics, neurophysiology and individual animal behavior. Please see for more information.
  • Doug Rasher
    The Rasher Lab studies the ecology and conservation biology 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 drivers of ecosystem structure and function, along with how they are changing due to human activity. Research opportunities this summer will leverage Rasher’s ongoing research in Gulf of Maine kelp forests.
  • 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.
  • Joaquin Martinez
    The Marine Virology Laboratory is broadly focused on exploring microbial host-virus systems diversity and inter-relationships in diverse marine environments, from the Gulf of Maine to deep-sea marine sediments. Our overall goal is to understand the genetic basis of viral infections and how they affect community succession and ecosystem functions through application of a broad range of molecular and microbiological tools. All forms of life in the ocean, from microbes (e.g. bacteria) to whales, are potentially susceptible to viral infection. Viruses are the most abundant biological agents in the ocean water column and sediments and one of the largest reservoirs of unexplored genetic diversity, making them an important source for discoveries in molecular and cell biology with potential application for biotechnology companies seeking novel enzymes and compounds in the ocean. Through their role as microbial predators, viruses perform crucial ecological, biogeochemical, and evolutionary functions in the environment. As such, we advocate including the study of viruses in multidisciplinary projects in order to fully understand microbial mechanisms and processes in the marine environment.
  • Jose Fernandez-Robledo
  • LeAnn Whitney
  • Nicole Poulton
  • Nicole Price
  • Paty Matrai
    The Matrai lab is interested in ocean and atmosphere interactions, especially in the biological production and cycling of climate-active trace gases and primary organic aerosols (experimental and ambient measurements); we are interested in experimental work this summer. We are also interested in the physiological ecology of phytoplankton as a source and a sink of CO2 as a function of their interaction with light, nutrients and ice; with bacteria (jointly with the Countway lab); and with micro/nanoplastics per se and/or with respect to filter feeding invertebrates (jointly with the Fields lab). We utilize data from autonomous buoys and floats to scale up our results regionally and globally using data from satellites, ships, and scientific databases, again focusing primarily on the Arctic Ocean. We look to leverage our current work in the Nordic and Labrador Seas.
  • Pete Countway
  • 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.
  • Steve Archer
    We study processes that contribute to the flux of climate-active trace gases between the ocean and atmosphere to better understand how that may influence climate in the future. This means our research ranges from studying the activity of individual enzymes involved in key metabolic processes; to developing new approaches, for instance to quantify how grazing by zooplankton generates trace-gases; to trying to directly quantify the flux of trace gases between the ocean and atmosphere. This can involve laboratory and local, field-based experimental approaches, combined with applying a variety of chemical analytical techniques and methods to characterize planktonic communities.


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 eligbile 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.



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

2019 Important Dates

  • Application Period: January 1 - February 15
  • Students Notified: March 1 - March 15
  • Program Dates: May 28 to August 2, 2019