Data Labs 2020 Virtual Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)


There are a growing number of NSF sponsored research programs that collect high volumes of data, such as the Ocean Observing Initiative (OOI) and the Long-term Ecological Research Program (LTER). These geoscience programs are using advanced technologies, including cabled systems, autonomous gliders, and sophisticated buoy sensor systems, that provide sustained ocean measurements to study climate variability, ocean circulation, ecosystem dynamics, air-sea exchange, seafloor processes, and plate-scale geodynamics for the coming decades.

Building data literacy and critical thinking skills utilizing large observatory-based datasets are important for the next generation of scientists, but these skills can be very challenging for students to develop for many reasons, including a shift from familiar small-scale to unfamiliar larger-scale data analysis tools, from hands-on experiences to utilizing data collected by others where metadata is needed to gain context about observations, and from simple to complex lines of reasoning.

In this summer research experience, selected undergraduates will work virtually with faculty mentors across the country to build their capacity to work with large online and openly accessible data sets.  The 8-week research experience will include a 2-week professional development program (co-facilitated with Rutgers RIOS) and a 6-week intensive research project under the guidance of a faculty mentor.


By the end of this experience, participants will:

    • Develop and apply their data analysis skills using Python notebooks to access, analyze, and present ocean data.
    • Learn about the variety of ocean data collection methodologies and datasets available to oceanographers.
    • Participate in a variety of professional development sessions, including scientific question development, science communication, the graduate school process, and Diversity, Inclusion, and Research Ethics.
    • Have the opportunity to participate in Career and Graduate Student Panels.
    • Develop, carry-out, and summarize a research experience using an online dataset, under the guidance of a faculty mentor. (8-week participants only)

2-Week Professional Development Workshop (June 8-19)

Workshop sessions will be held between 3pm and 6:30pm Eastern, with a 30-minute break.

Date Topic, Objectives & Activities Followup Activities
Monday June 8 Session 1a: Introductions & Ice Breakers (Janice & Josh)
Objective: Get to know your cohort, the organizers and maybe a little more about yourself.

Schedule a “get to know you” session with your mentor, if you haven’t already. (8-week participants only)
Session 1b: Program Overview (Josh & Janice)
Objective: Share more details on the program timeline, goals and expectations for this experience, and specifics about this two-week workshop.
Journal: Reflect on what skills you want to learn in this workshop and internship.
Tuesday June 9 Session 2a: How to ask a testable question (Janice)
Objective: Explore how to ask testable questions and work in small groups to use the Question Formulation Technique (QFT).

Watch the Tools of Science video on Testable Questions.

Journal: How does it relate to the QFT technique?


Session 2b: The Wonderful World of Data (Daphne & Josh)
Objective:  Discover the array of ocean observation sensors and platforms, and the opportunities to conduct research using large oceanographic datasets.  Understand the role of continuous datasets in providing context to discrete data.

Practice using QFT and SMART techniques: Explore the NDBC web site and then generate 1-2 testable questions and identify the dataset(s) you could use to answer them.
Wednesday June 10 Session 3a: Data Analysis I – Intro to Python & Accessing Data (Sage)
Objective: Learn how to create python notebooks (in Google Colab) to develop your own data processing scripts and understand the value of this approach for reproducible research. Practice with some basic python scripts to load and plot meteorological data from NDBC.

Continue to work with the example Python notebook and use the Slack channel for any questions.
Session 3b: Science Communication Overview (Dr. Silke Severmann, Rutgers University)
Objective:  Review the various styles of science communication and reflect on best practices.

Preview Career Panelists (link posted to Slack on Wednesday night).  Rank your preferences and come up with 1-2 questions for each panelist you’d like to meet.
Thursday June 11 Session 4a: Data Analysis II – Data Visualization Formats (Sage)
Objective: Learn basic coding techniques to create data visualizations common in oceanography, including timeseries graphs, profile plots, scatterplots, TS diagrams, and transect plots.  Discover how to adjust basic plot attributes, like lines, colors, markers, labels, titles, legends and subplots. Get an introduction to profiling ARGO and Glider datasets.

Practice your skills using the Python notebooks and datasets, and use the Slack channel for any questions.

Submit Career Panelist survey by Midnight EDT Thursday.

Session 4b: Group Project Starter
Objective:  Form small group project teams to explore data and begin to develop your own testable question.

Begin working with your group on your research project. Plan how to tackle different tasks and when to have collaborative meetings.
Friday June 12 Session 5a: Career Panel Session (Janine)
Objective:  Meet a panel of marine science professionals who have diverse backgrounds and careers, and participate in more in-depth discussions in a series of breakout rooms with each professional.
Session 5b: Data Analysis III – Analysis Techniques (Sage)
Objective:  Gain experience with some additional python data processing techniques, including basic statistics (mean, std, min, max, percentile), daily/monthly averaging (via resample), daily/annual variability (via groupby), anomaly calculation, correlation, and regression fitting.

Continue group project work and prepare one slide for Monday highlighting your goal and progress.
Monday June 15 Session 6a: Mid-Workshop Review
Objective: Quick recap of where we are and where we’re going.
Session 6b: Work in groups with faculty supervision
Objective:  Organize your team around a testable question, dataset and analysis.  Present your project plan to the entire group.
Come up with a list of 5 questions about graduate school and the admissions process.
Tuesday June 16 Session 7a: Getting into Grad School (Daphne)
Objective: Discuss various aspects of the graduate school application process and how to identify the graduate program that best fits your goals.

Session 7b: Graduate Student Panel (Janine)
Objective: Meet with a group of Rutgers marine science graduate students who have diverse backgrounds and research interests.  Find out what it’s like to be a graduate student in this relaxed conversational setting.
Wednesday June 17 Session 8a: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion  (presented by the 2020 NSF Ocean Sciences REU)
Objective:  Participate in this discussion led by a mentor from the national Virtual REU program.

  • This meeting will use a unique Zoom link; you must preregister in order to get the link. Check the Slack channel for instructions.
  • We will reconvene on our usual daily Zoom link for session 8b.
Session 8b: How (not) to give an effective science presentation (Dr. Oscar Schofield, Rutgers University)
Objective: Understand the best practices for delivering science presentations in this demonstration of what NOT to do.
Thursday June 18 Session 9:  Working session to finalize presentations and review slides with facilitators
Objective: Finalize your data analysis and presentation.

Friday June 19 Session 10a: Group Presentations
Objective: Each group will have an opportunity to present their work.

Session 10b: Program Wrap-up & Additional Resources (Josh & Janice)
Objective: Celebration and review of resources available to help you explore your interest in marine science.

6-Week Research Experience (June 22 – July 31)

Date Topic, Objectives & Activities
June 22

3pm pm EDT

The OOI Today: An introduction to its history and the science it supports
Objective: Understand how the OOI is designed and what research questions it can support

Quick-start to Accessing and Visualizing OOI Data using Python
Objective: Explore Python as a tool to access OOI data

June 29

3pm EDT

Virtual Lab Group Meeting – Research Project Updates
Share your research project plans and hear about what everyone else is planning to do.

Prepare a powerpoint slide to share (feel free to use this template or design your own!)

TBD Additional Workshop Sessions
Focusing on OOI Science, programming, additional data processing techniques, and research project development as needed.
June 23
July 24
Research Project Work

  • Students will meet with their mentors on their own timetable to design their own REU experience and research project.
  • Regular group meetings and Python/OOI Data office hours will also be scheduled.
    • Monday, June 29, 3-5:30pm EDT:  Share your research project with everyone – prepare 1 powerpoint slide to share
    • Friday, July 10, 3- 5:30pm EDT:  Updates on your research and experiences
    • Friday, July 24, 3 -5:30pm EDT:  Updates on your research and experiences
  • NSF Ocean Sciences 2020 REU Workshop Series – Each Wednesday until 7/29, the Ocean Sciences REU program will provide additional workshops you may be interested in (registration is required for each). In addition, they provide daily office hours with national program leads, we encourage you to participate in.
Week of July 27 Final Presentations

Students work on their final posters to present to the group on TBD (likely 7/30 and/or 7/31)

Data Labs REU Participants

Student Mentor
Bailey Armos

University of Washington

Ed Dever
Oregon State University
Paulina Cadena
California State University = Monterey Bay
Mikelle Nuwer and Cheryl Greengrove
University of Washington
Margot Chisolm
Middlebury College
Liz Harvey
University of New Hampshire
Kendra Devereux

The College of Wooster

Chris Russoniello
West Virginia University
Patricia N. Vidal Geraldino
Universidad Ana G. Méndez
Rich Dixon
Texas State University
Alondra German

Napa Valley College

Kristen Fogaren
Oregon State University
Doreen Leavitt

University of Alaska Southeast

Ari Friedlaender
UC Santa Cruz
Andrea Selkow

Austin College

Tom Connolly
Moss Landing Marine Lab
Lydia Sgouros

Case Western Reserve University

Ed Dever
Oregon State University
Brianna Velasco

Humboldt State University

Rachel Eveleth
Oberlin College

RIOS Participants

Student Mentor
Nikko Galanto

University of Guam

Oscar Schofield

Rutgers University

Trevor Greenwood

Millikin University

Karen Bemis

Rutgers University

Kenichi Hirose

Stockton University

Daphne Munroe

Rutgers University

Samikshya Poudel

Hudson County Community College

Jessica Carriere-Garwood, Heidi Fuchs, and Robert Chant

Rutgers University

Alison Thorson

Sarah Lawrence College

Rachel Eveleth
Oberlin College
Kathryn Zic

The Ohio State University

(2-week participant)

Rutgers University Facilitators

Resources for Mentors