Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Summer in Ann Arbor!

    It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about my research experience for undergraduates (REU) search. Ultimately I applied to five different programs (Colorado State, Graz University of Technology (Austria), Michigan, Penn State, and Syracuse). About three weeks ago I received my first offer from Penn State, and then several days later I received an offer from Michigan and accepted it the next day! This means that I’ll be a part of the chemistry REU from May 30 – August 7 this summer. There were several observations I took away from the application process.

1.    The funding for science has gone down the drain! It used to be the case that getting an REU wasn’t too hard to do. Now, each program has become ultra-competitive (over 400 applications for 5 spots for the Graz experience, 350 applications for 15 spots at Michigan). All this does is inhibit and discourage the future innovators of tomorrow. These REU programs are meant to instill excitement and purpose for America’s future, and with the budget cuts, many of our country’s future pioneers will not get to experience the thrills of working in the lab first hand. Syracuse and Austria, programs that have excellent reputations and that had received funding for 25 consecutive years, did not receive aide this year. I was also planning on applying to Georgetown, which was not supported either.

2.    God works in cool ways! When I first found out that I was accepted to Penn State, I was just about to start writing a four-page abstract to apply for a research job at Drake over the summer, as a backup plan in case I was not admitted to any programs. I was back home in Minneapolis for the weekend to see my (twin) sister ride in her last collegiate equestrian meet (she goes to the University of Minnesota Crookston), and by being accepted on the spot, it meant I got to spend more time with my family that weekend, instead of drafting a proposal.

When I was offered positions at Penn State and Michigan, I had to accept or decline the offers within a week, or else they would extend the invitation to someone else. These two schools both have highly ranked graduate programs, and I believe now, would be the best places for me to see if it is in the Lord’s will for me to pursue an advanced degree. Ultimately, my 10 weeks in Ann Arbor will be essentially 10 weeks of graduate school while I’m an undergraduate – straight research!

I found out this past week that I was also accepted to programs at CSU and Graz, but can see the Lord’s greater purpose in this. A summer in the Rockies (altitude training) or adventures in the Alps would be awesome, but ultimately, Michigan will most clearly depict the accurate experience of a graduate student in the U.S. When I received these offers, I had to decline because I was already locked in with Michigan, and I feel that’s the perfect place for me to be.

3.    Drake rocks! I know I certainly would not be in the position I am in without all the help and support I get from my professors and others at Drake! The odds of getting into many of these programs are slim by the numbers, but the fact that I (and students older than me in the past) have been/will be able to participate in experiences like this reflect tremendously on Drake. I can’t thank my chemistry professors Dr. Bohorquez, Dr. Cairns, and Dr. Vitha enough for all of the wisdom and assistance they’ve given me in this process. They helped me secure an awesome, all expenses paid study-abroad experience in Madrid last summer (which is why I have this blog), and have now helped me obtain another great opportunity! I can’t forget to mention my parents who helped me out a ton too!

    In my time at Michigan, I will be working for Dr. Vincent Pecoraro on his Metallacrown project (I actually gave a 25 minute presentation on Metallacrowns last month for my Junior Seminar course). I’ll be in the lab anywhere from 40-60 hours/week (like grad school) and will also get to participate in some sweet extracurricular activities. I’m really excited to meet some new people, there are 14 others from around the U.S. who will be there, as well as about 25 others from an exchange program with a school in Beijing – that’s not to mention the other graduate students, post docs, and professors I’ll come into contact with!
    The Michigan program also appealed to me because I knew there was some sweet fellowship I could get involved with over the summer at New Life Church! It’s very similar to the church I attend now, and I look forward to this as well. This is all exciting to me, but I can’t forget that in the meantime I’ve still got seven more weeks of my junior year to finish off! There are a lot of cool things coming up, it’s going to be a fun ride, I’ll keep you updated!


  1. Hi Michael.

    I'm a Ph. D. Student from Chile. I want to work with Mr. Pecoraro in the Metallacrown project. Can you help me? Who should I talk to? or where I can applied?

    Best regards

    1. Miguel,

      You can learn more about Dr. Pecoraro's work and find his contact information on his website. You can e-mail him or any other member currently working on the metallacrown project.

      Good luck!