Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)

We have filled the Fall 2017 cohort and are no longer accepting applications.

Since Fall 2015, we host an academic year research experience for undergraduate students, especially for students early in their college experience. Funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF #14-61094), students work on interrelated open research problems from the intersection of biology, computer science, and mathematics. Complementing the research focus are adjunct activities to enhance technical and communication skills, foster productive collaborative work, and encourage involvement in research projects in the future.  In addition, this program prepares students for opportunities for the following summer (such as summer REU programs, and research & industrial internships).

Send questions to: treespace.reu AT

Early Admission Review: begins 15 April. If you would like to be considered for early admission, submit all materials by 15 April. We will let you know your status (e.g. accepted, waitlisted, etc.) by 1 May to allow you to plan your fall courses around the Friday meetings of this program. 

Regular Admission Review: begins 15 August. For all students who complete applications by 15 August, we will let you know your status by 22 August.

  • Students work in small interdisciplinary groups focusing on challenging problems in discrete mathematical and computational biology. 
  • One year of college-level mathematics or computer science is required.  While having background in biology is good, it is not needed.
  • During the fall term, the program meets all day Friday, and students regularly post progress on-line.
  • The program stipend is $3000 for the fall term and $2000 for the intensive January session.
  • The program is open to students who are US citizens or permanent residents (required by granting agency) and are enrolled full-time in an accredited university.
  • Priority will be given to students who come from institutions with fewer student research opportunities and students at the start of their college career (including students at community colleges).


To apply, sign up at  The application form asks for basic contact information, as well as verification that you are available on Fridays to attend and meet the NSF criteria (US citizens or permanent residents enrolled full-time at university).  We also request:
  • Names of 2 references familiar with your work,
  • Unofficial transcripts (screenshots are fine),
  • Answer several short answers: (< 300 words)
    • What was the favorite class you took?  Why?
    • What majors/minors are you planning?  Why did you choose it/them?
    • What was the most interesting problem you solved?  Why?
  • Optional:  The program involves a lot of problem solving that optimize or manipulate discrete objects.  If you would like, choose one and send an image of your ideas:
    (image from wiki)
    (image from wiki)
    (image from

  • Organizing Schedules: List all of the courses you need for your major and your other activities (work, etc).  How did you plan your fall (and spring?) schedule?  How did you make all the activities fit?  What criteria did you when activities conflicted?
  • Sudoku:  These popular puzzles require that each digit from 1 to 9 occur only once in each row, in each column, and each 3 x3 subgrid (see for more details).  How do you solve one of these puzzles?  Describe an approach to these puzzles that completes as much as possible (image from wikipedia).
  • 2048:  Another grid game is 2048, developed by Gabriele Cirulli.  At every move, a new tile is randomly placed on the board.  You choose to swipe left, right, up or down.  When two tiles that are swiped together have the same number, they combine to make a new tile that is double value.  You begin with tiles labelled with '2' and the goal is to reach a tile with '2048' (or higher!).  Describe a strategy to play this game.
  • Tree Puzzle:  Above shows a cladogram or 'family tree' for dinosaurs.  At the tips of the branches ('leaves') are the species.  Each filled circle represents a place where dinosaurs diverged to become new species.  Assume you only have 4 dinosaurs and draw all the possible trees showing their ancestry.  With your image of trees, include reasons why that's all the trees (why are no more trees possible than the ones you drew?). 
Before beginning the program, accepted students must provide official transcripts and proof of NSF criteria (completion of I-9 form).

Frequently Asked Questions:
  • What days does the program meet?

    The program meets every Friday from mid-September until early  December.  There will be no meeting on  the Friday after Thanksgiving Day.  There is an option to continue the program during an intensive early January session.

  • If I can't come on Fridays, can I still be involved in the program?

    No, attendance on Fridays is mandatory for participants.  We will have some sessions that are open for those not in the program.  These will include some research talks, as well as workshops on applying for research and industrial internships. 
  • Should I apply?

    If you are interested and meet the requirements (US Citizen or permanent resident, full time university student, and 1 year of math or computer science), you should apply.  As a general rule, apply for everything.  You might not get it if you apply, but you definitely won't get it if you don't submit an application. 
  • Do I have to be a US Citizen or permanent resident?  Why? 

    Yes, you must be a US Citizen or permanent resident.  It is required by the National Science Foundation which funds the program.

  • I started the application at but don't see a place to upload the transcripts and optional question answers.  Where is it?

    The form is a bit confusing.  There’s two parts:  a standard set of information for any REU program and a second part for additional questions.  The transcripts and optional questions are at the end of the second part.  Here's a screenshot of the bottom of the second page: 

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