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NIMBioS Webinar: REUs in the time of COVID-19

REU zoom image.

NIMBioS hosted a Zoom webinar and panel discussion in cooperation with MAA SIGMAA on Undergraduate Research. The panelists discussed their experiences with research activities with undergraduate students in recent months during the COVID-19 outbreak. The challenges and best practices of these virtual activities were discussed.

Topic: REUs in the time of COVID-19

Date: Tuesday, December 8, 3:30-4:30 p.m. EST

Moderator: Suzanne Lenhart, Mathematics, University of Tennessee, Knoxville


NIMBioS hosted a Q&A via Zoom. Participants were able to submit comments and questions throughout the discussion.


  1. General question: How did you keep in touch with the students while virtual? How many interactions per day/week?
  2. What lessons do you have based on experiences of having REU's at distance on how to foster effective collaborations between the student participants?
  3. Yunus, were the tablets purchased for the program, if so, where did the money come from?
  4. Roughly how many hours per week did you have students on zoom in synchronous meetings/gatherings?
  5. Did you use enhanced collaborative boards like MIRO/JAMBOARD/TRELLO.
  6. Yunus, also what specifically were the tablets used for?
  7. What is your decision tree and timeline in determining whether the program will be in-person versus remote?
  8. Did you use Discord or Slack for team chat communication?
  9. Were there any strategies for building student community that you found were effective?
  10. Have any asynchronous modules been used for training?
  11. Are those Github sites publicly accessible?
  12. Were there any issues with commercial software use under the University licenses structure for remote SRE students.
  13. How do the online coffee breaks work?
  14. Did you need any additional personnel (i.e. grad student, peer) to support your students in the online setting, either to support their research and/or build community?
  15. Are all student presentations recorded?
  16. For those of you who shortened your program (e.g. 6 weeks), did you also reduce the stipend students were paid?
  17. has been mentioned often lately. NIMBioS has used SOCOCO. What other virtual interactive platforms have people considered/used?
  18. What technological tools did you use to facilitate collaboration? e.g., Microsoft Teams, Overleaf.
  19. What prior background are you expecting from us in the application?
  20. May you share how you recruit students? What students did you recruit?
  21. I have been actively encouraging my students to work on cultivating those relationships for these letters. I think this is going to be a huge issue.
  22. Is there a platform or approach for sharing workshop/course materials that didn't work that you would suggest we avoid?
  23. What about community college students? What, if any, is your commitment to include them?
  24. Can you comment on how you evaluate student applications, being sensitive to those who may have had less mentoring vs. those who have had more?
  25. Can we get a PDF with information with all the REUs represented?
  26. What was the name of the online modules that Hong mentioned?
  27. What institutional support or infrastructure was most helpful or lacking in implementing a successful REU program.
  28. Thank you all for your helpful advice! It was great to hear about your REU programs.

Selected questions are discussed in the Q&A session at the end of the webinar.

NIMBioS Education and Outreach Contacts:

Suzanne Lenhart
Associate Director for Education and Outreach, NIMBioS
Phone: (865) 974-4270 (Math)   (865) 974-9349 (NIMBioS)    Fax: (865) 974-9300

1122 Volunteer Blvd., Suite 106
University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN 37996-3410
PH: (865) 974-9334
FAX: (865) 974-9461
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From 2008 until early 2021, NIMBioS was supported by the National Science Foundation through NSF Award #DBI-1300426, with additional support from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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