Skip to content

Research Experience for Undergrads (REU)

CSAFE REU at Iowa State University

REU, or Research Experience for Undergraduates, is CSAFE’s ten-week, immersive summer internship program where students discover how statistical and computational concepts apply to CSAFE’s key research areas in pattern or digital evidence. REU students work toward achieving CSAFE’s core mission of building a statistically sound and scientifically solid foundation for the analysis and interpretation of forensic evidence.

CSAFE’s REU Program Structure

In 2021, REU will be virtual and the program anticipates enrolling a class of 6 students, with all placements at Iowa State University. Students will begin on May 24, 2021. Throughout the summer, students will participate in weekly group meetings and other professional development opportunities including the CSAFE All Hands Meeting.

What does a virtual REU look like? CSAFE’s REU program pivoted for Summer 2020 and participants engaged in research and learned from one another in a new, virtual format. CSAFE is both experienced and prepared to facilitate excellent online research and learning opportunities for our students.

REU participants will work on interdisciplinary teams with faculty, graduate students and post-docs. They will also engage with students participating in other Iowa State University-based REU programs. The program will conclude on August 6, 2021, with a poster session.

CSAFE REU will partner with the ISU Data Science for the Public Good Young Scholars Program ( in Summer 2021 which will provide even more opportunities for learning and connection.

Expectations for REU Participants

Students chosen for the CSAFE REU program are expected to participate in program activities for approximately 40 hours each week and participate in team meetings plus any other scheduled events –– all in a virtual format. Plus, they are required to present their research findings both orally and in the form of a poster at the end-of-program poster session.

We Expect You to Arrive With:

  • An open and unbiased mind
  • Ability to ask for clarification on tasks
  • Responsibility
  • Respect for others
  • Punctuality
  • Desire to work as part of a team
  • Creativity
  • Determination
  • Dedication
  • Consistency

After REU, You Can Expect to Leave With:

  • A deeper understanding of forensic and statistics
  • Leadership skills
  • Experience with hands-on learning
  • Increased math, computing and other skills
  • A completed poster project
  • Experience with high-level teamwork
  • Improved communication skills
  • Relationships with professionals and peers that share your desire to better the field of forensic science

How to apply

The application process for the 2021 REU program has closed and final offers have been sent to those selected for the program. Thank you to all who showed interest this year.

Why You Should Apply to CSAFE’s REU Program

A Q&A with the CSAFE Leadership Team & Past REU Participants

Q: Why is research experience important for undergrads and how does it help them grow as professionals?

A summer spent doing independent, scientific research leaves undergraduate students with many vital skills necessary to their careers as the scientists of the future. Students learn how to think critically, solve important problems, and collaborate with other researchers. They also gain skills that make them more independent, such as time and resource management, how to investigate and solve problems on their own, and improved professional communication skills.

Q: What are the biggest skills an REU student can expect to take away from the program?

A student leaving our REU program has more independence, curiosity, computing skills and confidence than they came in with. Throughout the summer, they learn how to perform and present scientific research, which will be essential to their careers as scientists and in graduate school.


Q: What value do undergraduate researchers bring to CSAFE?

Students interning with CSAFE for the summer help us achieve our research goals by solving important problems. We are guiding the researchers of the future who will help our scientific community grow.

Q: What would you tell students unsure about participating in the program?

If they like solving problems, thinking creatively and want to gain independence and confidence in their academic skills, then the REU program is for them!


Q: As a past REU participant, what would you say to a student considering the program?

I would highly recommend they apply because CSAFE offers extraordinary learning opportunities that don’t just stop at research. The researchers at CSAFE will try and tailor an experience that is just right for you to try and grow you the most as a person, whether that is providing new pathways of research or teaching you a form of coding.
––Madison McGregor, REU Summer 2020

I would highly recommend students to apply for CSAFE’s REU. It was a great experience to improve my technical skills as a researcher. You also have the ability to meet others who share an interest in the same field as yourself.
––Seth Pierre, REU Summer 2020

It is an amazing opportunity that you shouldn’t let go to waste.
––Alexandra Arabio, REU Summer 2020

Q: As a past REU participant, what was the best part of your time with CSAFE?

The best part about CSAFE was the environment that surrounds you. Even though my time as an REU was spent on a laptop from home, I always felt like someone was there to guide me along. The people involved in all aspects of CSAFE are highly intelligent and interesting to interact with. Though I would have preferred an in-person experience, our weekly meetings and my coding classes I took were some of the highlights of every week.
––Madison McGregor, REU Summer 2020

I would say the best part of my time with CSAFE was the ability to listen to everyone’s projects and learn what they are working on. Also, it was cool for me to see how some of the things we currently are working on will help crime labs in the future.
––Seth Pierre, REU Summer 2020

The best part of my time at CSAFE was meeting so many different people and hearing about all of the advancements everyone made throughout the summer!
––Alexandra Arabio, REU Summer 2020