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NSF REU Site: Natural History Research Experiences

Information about applying to participate in the summer 2020 NHRE will be available in December (2019)

The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), located in Washington, D.C. hosts a National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) site, funded by NSF’s Division of Ocean Sciences.  Each year 16-18 undergraduate students are selected to participate in the ten-week summer program.  Program participants conduct independent research and participate in a variety of professional development workshops.

The NHRE program is designed to support and prepare participants for entry into scientific careers by providing structured council on entering graduate school, designing, conducting and publishing research, and presenting results to the scientific community and the public. Additional professional development workshops focus on preparing students to successfully navigate a career in the natural sciences.

Through the program curriculum students are given behind-the-scenes access to the collections, facilities, and intellectual resources of NMNH.  In addition, students develop a research project in close collaboration with museum research scientist(s).  Projects focus on the NMNH’s research strengths in geology, biology, and in anthropology.

To develop their research project, students have a wide range of potential research mentors and topics from which to pick.

GEOSCIENCES: Within the geosciences, scientists in the Department of Mineral Sciences focus on the origin and evolution of the Earth and Solar System with emphasis on the differentiation and chemical evolution of rocky planets and asteroids, volcanic processes and hazards, environmental/soil mineralogy, marine geology, and early solar system processes. Approaches range from microanalysis of rocks, minerals, and meteorites, to experimental petrology and volcanology, to space mission-based science. Members of the Department of Paleobiology explore the dynamics of life on Earth including the history of climatic, oceanographic and environmental change, the origin and extinction of taxa, and large-scale evolutionary patterns and processes.

BIOSCIENCES:  Scientists in the four biological science departments focus on the discovery of Earth’s biodiversity, and on understanding its evolutionary history. Approaches used range from traditional morphology and taxonomy to the latest in genomics and next-generation sequencing.

ANTHROSCIENCES:  Scholars in anthropology span the sub-disciplines of archaeology, ethnology, linguistics, and forensic, biological and physical anthropology of humans and their relatives.

NMNH is committed to broadening participation and enhancing diversity in natural history disciplines in order to develop an internationally competitive scientific work force for the future.

In addition to the NHRE curriculum, participants are also engaged with the Museum’s Youth Engagement in Science! program.  A program for minority high school students from the DC-Baltimore area.

TIMETABLE: 10 weeks;
Summer 2020 Program:  26 May 2020 – 31 July 2020

AWARD PACKAGE: Students will be provided a stipend, relocation allocance, and housed in dorms on the nearby George Washington University campus.


APPLICATION DEADLINE: January 2020, exact date not yet determined.  Updates will be posted to the NHRE website.


(202) 633-1055

NHRE Website:


Funding for this REU site is provide by the National Science Foundation’s Division of Ocean Science’s (proposal number 1560088). The REU site number is: (REU Site, EAR-1062692, OCE-1560088).