vonHoldt Lab

Evolutionary Genomics and Ecological Epigenomics

NSF REU Training Site: Computational Biology Reserach, Gateway to STEM

Summer Research, June-August 2021


This REU Training Site has the mission to support formerly incarcerated undergraduate students in gaining research experience in computational biology, the principles of scientific thinking, and research scholarship.


The program seeks to recruit formerly incarcerated students with extensive math coursework and excellent math grade performance who are not majoring in a STEM discipline, favoring early students who either have not yet decided on a major or are still uncertain about their choice. Community college applicants are especially welcome. Eligible applicants include military service veterans and students over 30 years of age, all groups that are historically underrepresented in STEM education and employment.

COVID-19 Note: At present we expect that this program will run completely virtual in summer 2021. Should there be changes that allow in-person research, the selected applicants will be invited to join their mentors on campus under strict adherence to Princeton University's COVID policies.


Students accepted into the REU program will be assigned to a participating faculty mentor and join their mentor's research group. In addition to the faculty research mentor, participants will have guidance from a day-to-day mentor in the research group. Each REU is also paired with a near-peer mentor, an early Ph.D. student in a different field with whom to develop a personal relationship and to discuss any topic of interest.

To ensure a cohort experience and collective training, this REU program will host mandatory working lunches where all REUs will gather to discuss general topics of interest including quantitative thinking, the scientific method, research ethics, data analysis and interpretation, graphical analysis, oral and written presentations, and STEM careers and graduate study, as well as contemporary social issues related to science in general or biology in particular. During week 1 of the program, these working lunches will be daily. In each of the subsequent weeks, working lunches will be once per week. Regular meetings of each REU with the faculty mentor and associated team members will discuss methods, experimental design, and research progress.

Students will also attend a seminar series with invited speakers who will present on related topics (e.g., climate change and ecosystems, genome science, diet and nutrition). REU students will be asked to complete background reading prior to each seminar that will be discussed in a lunch meeting with the invited speaker.

REU students are expected to give informal oral reports on their work during the course of the summer. By the end of the program students also will prepare a formal written report on their research and present an oral summary with a slide show (e.g., PowerPoint, Keynote, etc.).

The program requires full-time commitment (minimum forty hours per week for nine weeks) and no additional commitments to jobs, courses, exam reviews, etc.

Financial Support

The program provides a 2021 stipend of $600 weekly and a weekly food allowance of $100, and paid housing on campus if allowed under COVID-19 restrictions, or a housing supplement. Students have free access to the University's considerable library and computing resources.

Application Process

Please download the application, complete all the required fields, and save as a PDF. Also prepare the additional items needed (proof of citizenship or permanent resident card; proof of health insurance; three letters of recommendation).

Application Opens: 8 Feb 2021
Due Date: 31 March 2021
How to submit: Please submit these materials (saved as single PDF) to Dr. Bridgett vonHoldt (vonholdt@princeton.edu). The email subject line must read: REU APPLICATION MATERIALS for [applicant's name]. Each letter writer must email their letter directly to Dr. vonHoldt with a subject line that must read: RECOMMENDATION LETTER for [applicant's name].

Participating Faculty

Note: Please do not contact faculty mentors directly. Inquiries should be directed to Kuri Chacko (chacko@princeton.edu)

  • Craig Arnold, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering [website]
  • Michael Berry, Neuroscience Institute [website]
  • Timothy Buschman, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience [website]
  • Lisa Boulanger, Department of Molecular Biology [website]
  • Andrea Graham, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology [website]
  • Sabine Kastner, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience [website]
  • Andrej Kosmrlj, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering [website]
  • Simon Levin, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology [website]
  • Jessica Metcalf, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology [website]
  • Celeste Nelson, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering [website]
  • Dan Rubenstein, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology [website]
  • Amit Singer, Department of Mathematics [website]
  • Diana Tamir, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience [website]
  • Corina Tarnita, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology [website]
  • Adele Goldberg, Department of Psychology [website]
  • Jared Toettcher, Department of Molecular Biology [website]
  • Contact

    For questions about the REU program and application, please email the Program Assistant, Kuri Chacko (chacko@princeton.edu).

    The faculty who run this program are:
    Professor Bridgett vonHoldt, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology [website]
    Professor Jannette Carey, Department of Chemistry [website]