Apply to become a FUTURE Sensors REU Member

Apply to join the FUTURE Sensors 2024 Summer Research for Undergraduates program. We have projects for students of all disciplines such as engineering, sociology, business, applied mathematics, biology, and more. As a member of the 2024 FUTURE Sensors REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates), you’ll work with an interdisciplinary team of experts in engineering, sociology, business, and applied mathematics at one of three universities: Louisiana Tech, Boise State, or The University of Alabama at Birmingham. Your contributions to our project will help at-risk communities while you learn skills to measure or study the impacts of heavy metal and pesticide pollution by

  • Fabricating and/or testing next-generation chemical sensors to detect pollutants,
  • Studying the  burden that this places on disadvantaged communities,
  • Identifying, sampling, and testing bodies of water,
  • Analyzing the economic impacts,
  • Learning statistical and mathematical models to study pollution, and
  • Studying the effects of heavy metals on reproductive health.

The FUTURE Senors project will result in chemical sensors that identify toxic heavy metals and pesticide pollution in reservoirs and other surface water and sensors that determine whether people in at-risk communities have high levels of toxic metals in their bodies. As part of the research, we will evaluate the impact of heavy metals and pesticide pollution and the potential value of providing sensors, especially in disadvantaged communities. The FUTURE Sensors project is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF Grant 2217824). We will select ten undergraduates for a summer research experience that runs from May 30 to July 27, 2024.

The FUTURE Sensors project has a variety of engineers and scientists, including a sociologist, an economist, and a mathematician. This allows us to provide a variety of projects for our summer program, ranging from working in a lab testing sensor designs to working with an economist, a sociologist, or a mathematician to study the impacts of environmental toxins and present and future efforts to minimize their effects.


If you meet the criteria, we encourage you to apply. We accept students from colleges and community colleges that are not designated as high-research activity universities as well as those that are designated high-research activity universities. To be eligible you must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident,
  • Be enrolled in a baccalaureate degree program and will not graduate prior to July 27, 2024,
  • Be enrolled in a school in an EPSCoR (Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) state/territory, and
  • Have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale.

EPSCoR States

US Map of 2022 NSF Eligibility

Application Instructions

You must complete all six steps for us to consider your application. Essay and letters of recommendation instructions are included below.

  1. Your contact information
  2. Information about your academic program and your college or university
  3. Demographic information
  4. Select your first choice of projects (required). Select your second and third choices, or leave one or both blank if you do not have a second or third choice
  5. Personal statement (See Step 5 for essay instructions.)
  6. Two recommendation letters (See Step 6 for full instructions).

Steps 1 – 3. Use the Application Form to Submit Information

You’ll input contact, academic, and demographic information directly into the form at the 2024 Summer REU Application linked in the button below. This section of the application is two pages long. You must answer all of the questions with red asterisks next to them to move on to Step 4.

Step 4. Choose Projects

Once you’ve completed the first two pages of the application, you’ll have the opportunity to select the project you’d most like to work on. You must select at least one project, and you can select up to three choices. (You can familiarize yourself with the projects by clicking the “+” to expand the project title.

Development of a nanocarbon printed electrode for high-sensitivity heavy metal detection, Mentors: Dr. Prabhu Arumugam and Dr. Shabnam Siddiqui
Development of a nanocarbon printed electrode for high-sensitivity heavy metal detection

Mentors: Dr. Prabhu Arumugam and Dr. Shabnam Siddiqui. Location: Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, Louisiana

Learn and apply various characterization tools to study the general surface and bulk electrical and electrochemical properties of printed nanocarbon electrodes. The research goal is to improve the overall electrical conductivity of the electrodes and demonstrate facile electrode kinetics with a high signal-to-noise ratio and wide electrochemical potential window in a standard redox system, resulting in superior heavy metals detection.

Optimization of square wave voltammetry to enhance detection of heavy metals in water, Mentors: Dr. Shabnam Siddiqui and Dr. Prabhu Arumugam
Mentors: Dr. Shabnam Siddiqui and Dr. Prabhu Arumugam. Location: Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, Louisiana

In this project, we will perform various studies to develop novel square wave voltammetry (SWV) waveforms with optimized operating parameters (e.g., pulse height, pulse width, pulse frequency, scan rate, initial/final potential) and pre-concentration voltage/time. We will utilize the data obtained from electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) for multi-layer graphene electrodes to estimate the frequency of the square waveforms.  We will determine the frequencies at which impedance is minimum (i.e., a high detection current signal) and apply them to determine the operational frequency of the pulses for which we can obtain the highest sensitivity for each heavy metal. Also, we will use multivariate analysis and Pearson’s correlation function to evaluate the nanocomposite network coatings for sensor performance.

Carbon Quantum Dots Synthesis and Sensor Testing, Mentors: Dr. Shengnian Wang and Dr. Teresa Murray
Mentors: Dr. Shengnian Wang & Dr. Teresa Murray. Location: Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, Louisiana

Carbon quantum dots (CQDs) are nanomaterials that are smaller than 5 nanometers that can emit light. They are the next generation of optical probes for imaging and sensing applications because of their superior photostability, no known chemical toxicity, and excellent environmental sustainability. With tunable surface functionalization, CQDs have shown promise in sensing heavy metal ions from environmental and biological samples. The summer student will learn how to synthesize CQDs and tune their photoluminescence color by varying the synthesis methods or solvents and coating materials. The student will also learn how to assemble CQDs into strip sensors for use in detecting heavy metal ions, measure colors of light emission from tests, and learn how to create calibration curves to correlate the emitted light to the concentration of heavy metal ions in solutions.

Importance of Macroeconomic Aggregates, Mentor: Dr. Ghislain “Nono” Gueye
Mentor: Dr. Ghislain “Nono” Gueye. Location: Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, Louisiana

Students will develop practical skills in economic analysis with data. We will learn about key macroeconomic aggregates and their importance. Once we establish the theoretical foundation, we will analyze data and draw economic insights from our analyses. At the end of the program, each student will have written a basic economic report on a specific macroeconomic topic.

Literature Review: Social Impacts of Environmental Pollution, Mentor: Dr. Christobel Asiedu
Mentor: Dr. Christobel Asiedu. Location: Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, Louisiana

The literature review will examine the social dimensions and impact of environmental threats. It will examine how environmental pollution affects us on micro and macro levels. The review will particularly focus on the disproportionate burden of pollution placed on disadvantaged communities, including communities of color. The review will also examine the environmental justice movement aimed at addressing practices that unfairly burden low-income people and racial minorities with disproportionate exposure to environmental hazards.

Data analysis and math models, Mentor: Dr. Xiyuan Liu
Mentor: Dr. Xiyuan Liu. Location: Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, Louisiana

We will develop some theoretical backgrounds in data analysis, including the definition of population, sample, random variables, and their distributions. Furthermore, we will introduce some classical statistical methods with R language (a basic statistical program), including hypothesis testing, confidence interval, and linear regression modeling.

Metal exposure and reproductive health, Mentors: Dr. Ricky Leung and Dr. Shuk-Mei Ho
Mentors: Dr. Ricky Leung and Dr. Shuk-Mei HoLocation: University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas

Learn and apply various biochemical and molecular biology skills to study the impact of metal exposure (e.g., arsenic) on the male reproductive system. Target organs, including the prostate, sperm, and testis, will be investigated. The research goal is to understand the mechanisms of how metal exposure affects the physiological functions of the target organ and predisposes to the risk of cancer development, as well as to discover sensitive surrogate biomarkers for exposure. We will also extend our investigation to study the outcomes across multiple generations.

Water Quality Monitoring and Identification of Potential Pollution Sources, Mentors: Dr. R. Nazari and Dr. M. Karimi
Mentors: Dr. R. Nazari and Dr. M. Karimi. Location: The University of Alabama at Birmingham, Alabama

The goal is to select sites from impaired waterbody lists and to perform water quality assessments at regular intervals. This includes multiple visits to the 3‒4 selected sites to achieve the goal of acquiring proper samples to be tested for pH, turbidity, and salinity testing before conducting measurements for other analytes.

Flexible electrochemical sensors with printable inks to detect toxic heavy metals, Mentors: Dr. David Estrada and Dr. Harish Subbaraman
Mentors: Dr. David Estrada and Dr. Harish Subbaraman. Location: Boise State University, Idaho

Trace analysis of heavy metals and toxic chemicals is generally performed using bulky, sophisticated, and expensive lab-based techniques with complex analytical procedures. This is impractical for large-scale, real-time in situ environmental monitoring. One of the purposes of this summer project is to test the printability of flexible electrochemical sensors to detect toxic heavy metals in real samples reliably and repeatably using low-cost, scalable additive electronics manufacturing processes (e.g., ink-jet and aerosol-jet printing). The student will establish the structure-property-processing correlations for graphene-based electrode materials by investigating the connections between ink rheology and printed device microstructure. The student will characterize the structural defects (e.g., edge defects) present in exfoliated graphene nanosheets, perform cyclic voltammetry (CV) of the electrodes, and integrate them into packages for advanced electrochemical testing with the FUTURE Sensors team.

Step 5. Upload an Essay

You’ll upload an essay that describes your career goals, training, and why you want to participate in a summer research experience for undergraduates (REU).

Size limit and format. Write FUTURE Sensors REU 2024 and your first and last name at the top of the page. The maximum length is one page using 11-point Calibri, Arial, or Times New Roman font with 1 inch or more for all margins. Save your document as a PDF. (You can select print as a PDF and save the file if you do not have a PDF program.) Your file name must begin with FUTURES Essay followed by your first and last name.

Tell us about your career goals, your training (jobs, school, etc.), and why you want to participate in a summer research experience for undergraduates (EU). Describe what you can gain from this REU. Include your career goals and what you hope to accomplish throughout your career. If graduate or professional school is part of your plan, mention this.

You should also tell us about college courses, internships, jobs, and/or any other relevant training that has sparked your interest in one or more of the REU projects. You can also explain how these training experiences have prepared you for this REU and/or for your career. Also, write about one or more of your strengths (grades or rank, projects completed, inventions, presentations made, etc.).

Upload your essay as a PDF. Use the link below. You will be directed to sign into Google. If you cannot sign in or otherwise upload a file then send your PDF to Dr. Teresa Murray at You must have this subject line: FUTURE REU Essay and your first and last name.

Step 6. Request Two Recommendation Letters be Sent to Dr. Teresa Murray

Find two faculty members to write a letter of recommendation for you (two pages maximum). You have the option to have one faculty member and one work supervisor write letters. The subject line must read FUTURE Sensors LoR followed by your first and last name. Have them save their Word file or PDF with a file name that begins with your last name, then your first name, followed by 2024 FUTURE REU. They must submit their letter to Dr. Teresa Murray at Dr. Murray must receive both letters by March 4, 2024. We suggest that you give your writers at least three weeks’ notice before the deadline.

What to do if you have problems submitting your application.

If the button below does not work, contact Dr. Murray at