Climate and Sustainability Research Experience for Community College Students (REU)

About the Climate and Sustainability REU

REU participant presenting research at the Curly-Small Institute Symposium.

The Climate and Sustainability REU program is a 10-week, paid research internship for Greater Houston area community college students to work in Rice University nanotechnology research laboratories. Participants will gain hands-on research experience in nanotechnology, one of the most exciting areas of scientific research.

Participants will explore sustainable solutions that lead to a future where oil and natural gas are converted efficiently into hydrogen and valuable carbon materials. Where efficient tools to store and convert energy, and where new physical and chemical processes increase access to clean water in all parts of the globe.

Using nanotechnology and new electrochemical methods that could lead to widespread decarbonization through carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative synthetic routes, these technologies will deliver significant breakthroughs in research and technology that will protect our planet's climate and natural resources.


2024–2025 Climate and Sustainability REU Program*

Community college students of all majors that are enrolled in Houston, TX area schools are welcome to apply, but preference will be given to STEM majors.**

Priority Deadline: February 15, 2024
Regular Deadline: March 1, 2024

Applicants will be required to create an account to access the application.

Click here to apply.

All supporting documents, including recommendations, contact information, transcripts, and personal statements, are due when you submit your application.

*Program times, dates, locations, and compensation subject to change before the first day of the program.
*
*Must be a U.S. citizen, national, or permanent resident to apply due to our funding agency.

Program Dates
  • May 28 - August 2, 2024
  • Regular class session: Monday - Friday (No sessions on federal holidays)
Program Structure

The Climate and Sustainability REU includes:

  • A 2 day orientation at Rice University to introduce participants to the program

  • Working with assigned graduate student postdoctoral research mentors on an independent research project

  • Weekly meetings to discuss research experience

  • STEM success meetings and networking events

  • Presenting their research at a research symposium

Application

Community college students of all majors are welcome to apply but STEM majors will receive priority consideration Students must be enrolled in a Greater Houston area college including but not limited to Houston Community College San Jacinto Community College Lonestar College Galveston Community College College of the Mainland and Wharton College Must be 18 or older to apply

  • To be considered for this REU you must complete ALL sections of this application and upload the following PDF documents

  • Resume or curriculum vitae Upload in Additional Personal Background Section

  • Short personal statement 1 page that describes your motivation for participating in this REU Upload in Future Research Experiences Section

  • Unofficial college transcripts Upload in Academic History Section

As part of the application process please provide the contact information of two references in Recommendations Section at least one must be of a STEM professor We will directly contact them Community college students of all majors are welcome to apply but STEM majors will receive priority consideration Students must be enrolled in a Greater Houston area college including but not limited to Houston Community College San Jacinto Community College Lonestar College Galveston Community College College of the Mainland and Wharton College Must be 18 or older to apply

Space is very limited therefore completing the application process and being selected for an interview does NOT guarantee placement in the program Once final candidates have been selected all other interviewed applicants may be placed on a waitlist Applicants will be notified of their status in April

Applicants will be required to create an account to access the application

Click here to apply.

If you are unable to upload these documents to your application, you can email them to stem@rice.edu.

FAQs

Click here for more information regarding the REU program and answers to frequently asked questions.

Rice Faculty Research Topics

Research Topic 1: Processes to Reduce Greenhouse Gases

Dr. Rafael Verduzco focuses on developing nanostructured polymers for energy and sustainability. The project will seek to create new solid polymer electrolytes for CO2 electrolysis. CO2 electrolysis is a process by which CO2 is captured and converted to beneficial, high-value chemicals using an input of electrical energy. Polymers play an essential role in this process of transporting ions to produce the final product. Polymers used for this purpose should be porous, electrochemically stable, and exhibit high ionic conductivities. Students will develop charged polymeric particles and study how surface charge, particle size, and polymer chemistry influence ionic conductivity and electrolysis performance. Click here to learn more about this lab.

Dr. Matteo Pasquali is the Carbon Hub's director. His laboratory research seeks to convert biogas and hydrocarbons into clean hydrogen and Carbon Nanotube (CNT) Fibers. Students will work on individual projects where they will characterize the output of splitting reactors to determine the quality of the CNTs and their performance as feedstock for CNT fibers. Students will use TGA, Raman spectroscopy, and dissolution experiments to determine CNT quality. They will also make liquid crystalline solutions of CNTs and study them via polarized optical microscopy, rheology, and extensional viscosity measurements, to assess their "molecular weight" and suitability for fiber spinning. Participants will learn to ask research questions, design experiments, collect and analyze data, and pose follow-up questions to investigate further and enhance their understanding of carbon fiber process parameters and material properties. Click here to learn more about this lab.

Dr. Haotian Wang employs nanomaterials for efficient energy storage, usage, and transformations. Students will be exposed to fundamental electrochemistry knowledge and electrocatalysis reactors to understand the reaction mechanism. And develop a bigger picture of electrochemistry's role in energy transitions. Participants will learn how nanomaterials, as compared with bulk materials, can improve energy efficiencies during molecular transformation processes. Click here to learn more about this lab.

Dr. Aditya Mohite designs and synthesizes materials and devices for converting solar energy into fuels. The direct conversion of abundant feedstocks such as water, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen to fuels using only solar energy is a promising way to achieve reliable and on-demand sustainable clean energy. For example, the generation of green hydrogen via unassisted (i.e., no external voltage) solar water-splitting requires a minimum potential difference of 1.6-1.7 V. Yet, the large voltage requirements restrict the choice of available materials and have prompted the development of several strategies for solar-driven water splitting to generate green hydrogen. Students will be able to understand and test integrated photoreactors coupled with hydrogen evolution catalysts to drive water-splitting. Students will also collect experimental data and then learn to analyze efficiency and provide feedback to inform materials and device design. Click here to learn more about this lab.

Research Topic 2: Energy Storage and Management

Dr. Lisa Biswal applies colloidal and interfacial phenomena to tackle problems related to sustainable energy production. An example project includes designing and characterizing advanced composite materials composed of silicon and carbon nanotubes as anodes for lithium batteries. These anodes have ten times the capacity for lithium compared to current anodes. Another project is synthesizing surfactant micelles containing ionic liquids to replace environmentally hazardous solvents, such as benzene, toluene, and xylene, commonly used in the petrochemical industry. New research projects include fabricating electrochemical cells that can extract lithium from geothermal brines. Students will work closely with Dr. Biswal and graduate student mentors to learn experimental surface chemistry, transport properties, and characterization methods to contribute to advancing these research projects. Click here to learn more about this lab.

Dr. Ming Tang uses mesoscale modeling and characterization techniques to simulate and observe structural and functional materials over a protracted length of time. They apply theory and experimentation to understand and predict thermodynamic stability and kinetics of mesoscale structures under varying stimuli for optimizing performance. Click here to learn more about this lab.

Dr. Geoff Wehmeyer focuses on fundamental thermal transport mechanisms at the nanoscale and leverages knowledge to develop energy-relevant thermal devices. Students will work on projects focused on Nano-Thermal Energy Devices including developing active thermoelectric cooling modules using carbon nanotube fibers/tapes produced at Rice University; performing thermal measurements to optimize the thermal capacity and charge/discharge rates of phase-change thermal energy storage systems incorporating high-thermal conductivity nanocomposites; and implementing thermal regulator devices for improved passive thermal control and reliability of batteries used in electric vehicles. Click here to learn more about this lab.

Research Topic 3: Water Purification

Dr. Pedro Alvarez examines the potential impacts of nanomaterial use and disposal on microbes. The widespread production of engineered nanomaterials and their rapid incorporation into consumer products is outpacing research into health and environmental impacts. Students will also exploit some of these materials' antibacterial and catalytic properties in engineered systems as substitutes for chemical disinfectants that generate harmful byproducts. Click here to learn more about this lab.

Dr. Qilin Li focuses on physical and chemical processes that impact water quality in natural aqueous and engineered treatment systems and on applying novel physicochemical treatment processes for water purification and reuse. Students will investigate the mechanisms responsible for ion selectivity and evaluate the performance of the selective membranes in an electrodialysis process. Click here to learn more about this lab.

Dr. Thomas Senftle applies computational tools, including density functional theory, microkinetic modeling, and classical molecular dynamics, to study the behavior of heterogeneous catalysts. Students will pursue two project areas: electrochemical reduction of nitrate to innocuous nitrogen to identify effective catalyst compositions composed of earth-abundant materials and electrochemical reduction of CO2 into fuels to understand how pH affects product selectivity. In both projects, participants will walk away with a new understanding of the governing reaction mechanisms gained from the simulation will be used to optimize catalytic activity and selectivity while minimizing cost. Click here to learn more about this lab.

Benefits & Expectations

The expectations of the Climate and Sustainability REU interns include, but are not limited to:

  • Working full-time (40 hours/week) in the laboratory for the duration of the internship;

  • Documenting summer hours and submitting time sheets on time;

  • Completing a poster on summer research;

  • Attending all REU related field trips;

  • Attending and presenting at a research symposium; and

  • Timely completion and submission of all course assignments and homework.

  • For completing all program requirements, interns will receive:

  • 10-weeks worth of sustained and supported professional development at Rice University;

  • $8,250 in stipends (spread out over the summer);

  • Free economy parking at Rice University;

  • Networking opportunities with fellow students; and

  • Training and guidance in presenting and delivering scientific poster presentations.

Program Flyer

Below is copy of the Climate and Sustainability REU flyer. You can access a PDF version for download here.

REU 2024


Climate and Sustainability REU Administration

If you have any questions about the Climate and Sustainability REU, please contact the program lead.

Faiza Zafar, Ph.D.
Assistant Director for Equitable Research, Evaluation, and Grant Development
713-348-8215 | fz25@rice.edu

Robbin Clay, Ed.D.
Postdoctoral Associate
713-348-3198 | rc125@rice.edu

NSF Logo

Contact Information

Telephone: (713) 348-8211
Fax: (713) 348-3825
stem@rice.edu

Mailing Address

Office of STEM Engagement
Rice University
P.O. Box 1892, MS-7836
Houston, TX 77251-1892

Street Address

IBC Plaza Houston
5615 Kirby Dr.
Suite 730
Houston, TX 77005-2445