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What is the Explore BiGG Data program?

Explore BiGG Data is an intense 8-week research opportunity for talented undergraduate students to work at the convergence of genetics, genomic sciences, and computational biology (bioinformatics). Student will work in multi-disciplinary teams to analyze BiGG data and provide deeper understanding of how systems of biological components work together.

How is the program funded?

Funding for the Explore BiGG Data program is provided by a grant from the USDA-NIFA AFRI Education and Workforce Development (United States Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Agriculture and Food Research Initiative).  

Why is it called an REEU instead of an REU?

In Food, Agricultural, Natural Resources and Human Sciences (FANHS), non-formal education and learning activities are presented to people through the Extension services typically associated with land grant universities. USDA includes Extension in its REU program, thus the abbreviation, REEU. Explore BiGG Data participants will receive training in communicating with professional and lay audiences because few people fully appreciate and/or understand the importance of BiGG research. Participants will create presentations aimed at agricultural and non-agricultural audiences. Scholars will also hone their communication skills via presentation of research to peers at a university-wide conference.

Why is participation limited to women students?

Many STEM fields do not benefit from collective intelligence because women and minorities are underrepresented, especially in leadership roles. FANHS are in the midst of a transformational shift, sparked by rapid technological innovations. The workforce in FANHS has a higher proportion of women project leaders than fields based in computer science. Since these differences are also documented in numbers of degrees awarded to women in these fields [computer science (20%); agriculture (59%)], it is critical that we increase the number of qualified women students in computer science in order to address crucial workforce needs in BiGG. Large gender gaps in computer science have been attributed to masculine culture with little sense of belonging for women and gaps in self-efficacy. Since bioinformatics may provide an environment more conducive to women’s participation than other computer science areas, one strategy to increase opportunities for women in computer sciences is to engage them in undergraduate bioinformatics programs designed to increase self-efficacy.

Because bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary field that conceptualizes biology, members of each research team will also include students whose primary interests are in biology, genetics, or genomics. These students should be interested in learning tools to understand and organize BiGG information on a large-scale.

How many students will participate?

Each summer, we will sponsor eight women students on four research teams.

Each research team will consist of two REEU participants, one graduate student mentor, and two faculty mentors. One Scholar and one faculty member will have genomics/genetics background, and the other Fellow and faculty member will have a bioinformatics/computer science background. Since all genomics and genetics team mentors are women, each research team will have at least one woman mentor.

How are participants selected?

We will evaluate applicants on research interest statement, previous experiences, letters of recommendation, completed coursework presented in transcript(s), and the potential contribution of participation to your academic and professional development.

Is this a paid research training program?

Yes, each student will receive a $5,000 stipend. For the week in residence expenses, housing, and a per diem stipend will be paid.

Who is eligible to apply?

Students who are entering their sophomore, junior, or senior years are eligible.

Can current seniors apply?

Students graduating this coming Spring or Summer are not eligible.

Are UT students eligible?

Yes, provided you meet the other selection criteria.

Must I be a United States citizen or permanent resident?

Yes, to be eligible for USDA funding you must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (green card).

Is there an application fee?

No, there is no fee to apply for the REU program.

How do I apply for the Explore BiGG Data?

CLICK HERE for application.

What do I need in order to apply?

Applicants must submit the following application material:

Completed application form;

Academic transcript(s);

A brief personal statement (550 words or less) on research interests, previous coursework, previous experience/training (if any), and how participation in Explore BiGG Data will contribute to academic and professional development;

Names and email addresses of two faculty members who have agreed to serve as references;

Resume/CV with current and accurate contact information.

When must I apply?

We will begin accepting applications in early December. We will begin reviewing applications on February 15. Applicants will be contacted for interviews beginning February 18.

You are responsible for ensuring that your application is complete prior to the application deadline. We will have a rolling admissions acceptance will so it will behoove you to submit your application early.

What are the selection criteria? What is the selection process?

Applications are reviewed by the Research Team Mentors. Acceptance into the program is based on multiple criteria including academic performance, research interests, career goals and letters of recommendation. A rolling admissions process acceptance model will be used so we encourage you to submit your application early. Candidates are notified as soon as possible after selection.

When do students find out if they’ve been accepted into the REU program?

We will begin accepting students as early as February 20. We expect to notify all applicants no later than March 15. We would appreciate you letting us know if you have accepted another offer for summer research as soon as possible.

What are the typical work hours?

Hours are determined by your research team mentors and your project. You should plan on putting in a minimum of eight hours per day. There are no concrete start or end times.

Is the starting date flexible?

Neither the start nor the end date are flexible. This program begins on June 1, 2020 and ends on July 24, 2020. The program was designed as an 8-week program; this allows students to have time for other activities at the beginning and end of the summer academic break and focus on BiGG activities for the 8-week period.

Do I have to participate for the full eight weeks of the program?


Can I take classes while I am participating in the program?

No. The program is a full-time commitment.

What about travel?

We will pay travel expenses such as airfare or mileage. Once you are accepted to the program, we will contact you to help with travel arrangements.

What if I still have questions or comments? For further questions, contact the Explore BiGG Data Program Director, Dr. Kimberly Gwinn at Please put Explore BiGG Data in the Subject Line.