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Early Research Experience in Microbial Biofilms: Focus on STEM Career Development Through Research in Microbial Biofilm Development, Resistance, & Community Structure

This Binghamton University REU Site was created to offer undergraduates a well-mentored, authentic research experience in interdisciplinary research on microbial biofilms that promotes professional skill development and research readiness.
Dr. Karin Sauer, chair of the Biology Department, and Dr. Caitlin Light, assistant director for the Summer Research Immersion program will serve as co-directors of the program.

A team of faculty from Biological Sciences, Biomedical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering will serve as faculty research mentors for REU students. To learn more about faculty and their research please visit the REU Faculty and Staff page.

The REU Site is centered around the study of microbial biofilms, communities of bacteria and other microorganisms that grow attached to a surface or interface within a self-secreted extracellular polymeric slime matrix.


Program research will focus on three main aspects

  1. how biofilms form and develop,
  2. biofilm-specific mechanisms of antimicrobial tolerance, resistance, and virulence
  3. how biofilm community structure and composition impacts function.


Undergraduate research projects cover microbiology, molecular biology, and engineering disciplines. Additionally, faculty and REU staff will support student’s professional skill development and exploration of career and future research opportunities to facilitate their continued success and growth in STEM beyond the summer program.

The program will expose students to the importance of research in microbial biofilms and how this research can be applied throughout our lives to control unwanted biofilms and take advantage of beneficial biofilm behaviors. In addition to the research students will participate in workshops with other summer research programs to cover topics in networking, research communication, research ethics, graduate school, career options, and more. Social events will also be organized to help immerse students in the research community and give students exposure to the Binghamton area. Research, workshops, and social events aim to provide students with a wholistic research experience that gives them exposure and experience that can be leveraged for their professional development and future successes.

Program Schedule

The REU program will run over 10-weeks in coordination with Binghamton’s other summer REU program and Summer Research Immersion Programs. For Summer 2020, the program will begin on Tuesday May 26th and run through Friday July 31st.

Students will be paired with graduate students and postdoctoral fellows within the faculty mentor’s labs to guide them through their independent research projects within the supervising faculty mentor’s lab. When applicable, student projects will be collaborative in nature between two collaborating faculty mentors such that REU students will have a peer REU student working alongside them on a larger collaborative project. As such, students will develop both independence and teamwork skills required for success in the STEM workforce. Students will be trained in the scientific process behind microbial research, forming hypotheses, designing experiments, collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data and reporting results via multiple scientific communication avenues. Moreover, we will offer support both during and post-program including advice on graduate studies and career development. This training will empower students to become leaders and innovators able to respond to the global challenges of the 21st century.

Proposed Timeline for REU Research

Week 1

Orientation will be held throughout the first week. Over the course of the orientation, students and faculty mentors will be formally introduced, students will tour BU’s facilities, and students will receive training in laboratory safety, maintaining research notebooks, responsible conduct of research, and fundamental microbiology research methods. Additionally, students will undergo a crash course in microbiology and biofilms research basics in conjunction with the Summer Research Immersion Program’s research stream on Microbial Biofilms in Human Health. After orientation, students will be assigned to individual labs and meet their faculty mentors, postdocs and graduate students.

Week 2-9

Work in labs under the direction of faculty mentors from Monday to Friday. Students are required to develop their own research plans, experimental protocols, collect and interpret experimental data, take notes, and write research reports. They will be paired with graduate students and/or postdocs and independently work on their assigned research projects at labs. This period will include weekly REU participant meetings and biofilm research group meetings to ensure that students are connected to their cohort and the larger biofilm research group throughout the program.

Week 10

A public research poster session will be held in conjunction with other campus undergraduate research programs to provide a venue for students to present the results of their research in a poster. Graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty mentors, administration, and others will be invited to interact with REU students.


Last Updated: 1/14/20