Careers in the Plant Sciences

Research & Extension Experience for Undergraduates (REEU) in Computational Biology

University of Tennessee Knoxville - Knoxville, TN, United States

Position Title: Research & Extension Experience for Undergraduates (REEU) in Computational Biology
Position Type: Temporary Position
Application Review Begins: Monday, January 08, 2024
Application Deadline: Sunday, March 17, 2024
Institution: University of Tennessee Knoxville
Department/Division: Entomology and Plant Pathology
Field (e.g., systematics):
City: Knoxville, TN, United States
General Information: Program Overview:
Because demand for bioinformatics capabilities throughout the food, agricultural, and natural resource sectors greatly outweighs the current supply, there is a critical need for a diverse, talented workforce well trained in Bioinformatics, Genetics, and Genomic (BiGG) Sciences. The overall goal of the BiGG Research Scholars Program is, therefore, to holistically prepare talented, diverse women for graduate programs and careers in BiGG.

This program, a powerful multidisciplinary combination of genetics, genomics, and informatics/computer science trainees and mentors, will also provide students with opportunities to develop critical thinking, problem solving, and digital competency skills Furthermore, a focus on experiential learning and 21st century skills development will provide communication/ leadership competencies needed for future employment and/or higher education. Research teams will be mentored by faculty with active research programs focused on plants and animals, and by faculty with programs focused on analysis and interpretation of big data. Each team will also have a Graduate Student Mentor who is skilled in the tools needed for BiGG research.

Students will be part of the Summer Research Scholars programs sponsored by the Office of Undergraduate Research. Social events and excursions will permit students to explore the attractions of the Knoxville area.

Explore BiGG Data offers the following:
- 8-week research training opportunity
- Unique opportunities for hands-on research and computational training in R
- Weekly academic programs and professional development training
- $6,000 stipend
- Travel costs reimbursed
- Housing provided

2024 Research Opportunities:
- Transcriptome sequencing to unravel host-pathogen interactions between Cannabis sativa and hop latent viroid, the causal agent of dudding disease
- Genomic investigation of Solenopsis daguerrei, a potential biological control agent of invasive fire ants
- Asian longhorned tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis) microbiomics: An exotic disease vector of humans and livestock
- Harnessing plant microbe interactions for sustainable ecosystem engineering

Research Team composition
- Undergraduate student in biology-based discipline
- Undergraduate student in computer-based discipline
- Faculty mentor engaged in biology-based research
- Faculty mentor engaged in bioinformatics or computer-based research
- Graduate student mentor skilled in bioinformatics, genomics, or genetics

Important Dates:
- Program dates: June 3 – July 26, 2024
- Applications open: January 8, 2024
- Applications close: March 17, 2024
- Application review: We will review applications as they are received.
- Interviews scheduled: Beginning February 1, 2024.
- Award Notification: Awardees will be notified by April 1, 2024
Qualifications/Requirements: Eligibility requirements:
- You must meet be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to be considered for this opportunity.
- You must self-identify as a woman (or woman-aligned person). In the interest of inclusivity, each applicant should evaluate whether their lived experience matches this criterion (at their own discretion).
- You must not possess or graduate with a Bachelor's degree prior to December 2024, i.e., you must have--at minimum--one further semester as an undergraduate to be eligible for the Explore BiGG Data REEU.

Who should apply?
- Highly motivated women students interested in bioinformatics, genomics, or genetics.
- Women considering graduate school.
- Women undergraduates who will be attending a 4-year college or university in Fall 2024 to work toward the Bachelor’s degree.
- Women who are in underrepresented groups, or those who are the first generation in their families to attend college are particularly encouraged to apply.
- Women with or without prior experience in undergraduate research.

Please feel free to contact either the Program Manager (Zane Smith; or the Program Directory (Dr. Kimberly Gwinn; with any questions.
Responsibilities: The Explore BiGG Data is a highly selective program for students who wish to prepare for graduate
programs and careers in BiGG sciences. The following are the expectations for the program:
• Students are highly motivated and willing to explore research opportunities outside of their
academic comfort zone. Team members will be chosen to complement academic strengths. No
one is expected to understand all of the computer science and biology that will be used in this
program. Everyone will be learning new concepts and technology. Teamwork is essential for the
Explore BiGG Data REEU.
• Students selected to participate in this program will be present for the full eight weeks of
programming. The time frame was chosen to allow students opportunities for other activities
prior to and after the program. Students will be provided a holiday on July 4, 2023.
• Work hours for the BiGG Scholars program are determined by your research team mentors and
your project. You will spend a minimum of eight hours per day, but some days will require more
than eight hours. There are no concrete daily start or end times. BiGG Scholars is a full-time
commitment so students cannot take courses or have other employment during the eight
week period.
• All students are expected to participate in all scheduled activities of the program. The majority
of student time will be spent with the Research Team, but equally important is the training in
leadership and communication. Other requirements include Responsible Conduct in Research
Training, Bioethics Training, Laboratory Safety Training, and program evaluation activities. Each
week, all teams will meet as a group with mentors and the program director to report progress. All
students are expected to be effective team members and respectful of all participants.
• All students, faculty, and other BiGG contributors are expected to be responsible citizens of the
campus community, and adhere to policies, rules, and regulations of the University of
• Students will present their research at an end of the program symposium and submit a
research report to their mentors and the Program Director during the last week of the program.
Application Instructions (submission methods, etc.): Application portal:

Applicants should be prepared to submit:
1. A short survey of personal information
2. A personal statement of 550 words or less
3. Official or unofficial transcripts
4. A copy of your CV
5. Emails for 2 professional references (academic, work, or professional are fine)
Compensation Range: $6000
Contact Name: Zane Smith,