Research Experiences for Undergraduates

NSF-Funded REU Site Program: Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior Field Research at Mountain Lake Biological Station 

Current Project Opportunities

Past Projects

Complete an Application Now

Download Program Handbook (PDF)

Download Station User Handbook (PDF)

FAQs (eg. Is late arrival possible? Will I get a W-2 tax form?)

Past Participant Follow-up Questionnaire

Mountain Lake Biological Station's Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU-Sites) program has been sponsored by the National Science Foundation since 1993 (current NSF award DBI-1950734).  The program brings undergraduate students from around the country together for an exciting ten-week summer program of guided, but independent, original research in field biology.

The MLBS REU program provides participants with take home a stipend of $7,000. It also covers all room and board expenses and has a project and travel budget.

Participants pay no fees or tuition charges of any kind.

The Experience

The focus of scientific research at MLBS, and therefore of the REU program, is population biology at the intersection of field-based studies of ecology, evolution, and behavior. Student researchers work closely with researcher mentors in compatible areas of interest. Students take leadership roles in all aspects of the study; they design the study and prepare the proposal, collect data and perform analysis, and finally they interpret the results and prepare a written and oral presentation. Compared to many other REU programs, ours offers a high degree of independence in project choice and design. 

Mountain Lake is also special in its exciting, diverse, and friendly academic community. This atmosphere fosters collaboration at all levels, and promotes the constant exchange of ideas with fellow students and scientists. Many projects are submitted for publication in leading biological journals. Students also participate in a weekly seminar about the conduct of biological research. REU participants have access to state-of-the-art facilities and are granted full use of all Station scientific and computer equipment. English is used throughout the program.

Who are the Program Participants?

The program supports ten positions each summer. Applicants should have course experience in fields such as ecology, behavior, and evolution. A letter of recommendation from a teacher or someone who can comment on how you would do at a field station and as an independent researcher is more important than your GPA. Your own essay on the application is of highest importance and gives us insight into your experiences and goals. Participants are chosen for their readiness to take on original creative field-based biological research and for their interest in, and potential for, a career based in science. Most REU students have completed two or three years of their undergraduate degree. Students who have completed only one year are probably better served by taking a course or two at the Station and then returning as an REU in the following year. This is a common, and encouraged, strategy.

What Does the Program Pay For?

  • Participants are awarded a "take-home" stipend of $7,000
  • Room and board expenses
  • Participant project expenses
  • Travel to and from MLBS
  • UVA's "Campers Accidental Coverage" (a limited health insurance policy all REU program participants are covered by) 

Participants pay no fees or tuition charges of any kind.  Project and travel support is generous, but does require approval.

What is it Like Living at MLBS?

Program participants live together in eight-person cottages with shared living room and bath. Rooms are double-occupancy. Other housing arrangements can be made as needed. All station residents share three meals a day in the main dining hall.

More about living at Mountain Lake

Eligibility and Expectations

(adapted from NSF site) Undergraduate student participants supported with NSF funds in an REU Site program must be U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, or permanent residents of the United States. An undergraduate student is a student who is enrolled in a degree program (part-time or full-time) leading to a baccalaureate or associate degree. Students who are transferring from one college or university to another and are enrolled at neither institution during the intervening summer may participate. High school graduates who have been accepted at an undergraduate institution but who have not yet started their undergraduate study are also eligible to participate. Students who have received their bachelor's degrees and are no longer enrolled as undergraduates are generally not eligible to participate. Students graduating in the May before the program are not eligible. Put simply, only applicants who are returning to an undergraduate program after the summer REU program are eligible. In addition, as a REU researcher you are expected to be in residence at the Station for the full ten weeks of the program. Special scheduling needs (raised. short trips away) can often be accommodated if raised in advance and agreed to by the research mentor and program coordinator.  Field biologists often work long and irregular hours six or seven days a week. REU program participants must agree to the same. Commuting is not permitted. It is also important to consider that field work is often physically strenuous and demanding. Program participants need to be physically fit and willing to embrace physical labor, demanding hiking, and long hours in the field in all weather conditions.

More on NSF eligibility information

Questions about eligibility and expectations?    Email Us

Application Procedure and Requirements

Complete application and reference letter must be submitted using the on-line forms by the deadline date. Applications must be submitted in English. Incomplete applications can not be considered. Applications are evaluated based on three components - essay, course experience, and reference letter:

  1. Four Essay Sections (150 word limit in each section) written by the applicant, and pasted into the application form. The essay must consist of these four seperate sections: 1. Discuss past experiences that qualify you for this research internship and what you gained from them. 2. What are your career interests and professional goals? 3. What do you hope to achieve by spending the summer at Mountain Lake? 4. Talk about characteristics of you as a person that make you especially suitable for this program and a desirable recruiting candidate for both the University of Virginia and the National Science Foundation. If any mentor options or project areas appeal to you, feel free to let us know, and why.
  2. Transcript and GPAs. A list of STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) courses and grades is required in the application. Full transcripts will be requested during final consideration. 
  3. One recommendation from a research mentor, academic advisor, or science instructor who knows you and your potential for research well. Nonacademic or "community" referees (e.g. coaches, religious leaders) are much less valuable. Letter writers must complete the Reference Letter Form with their letter. Referees are contacted automatically when you submit your application. The recommendation form is also a menu choice on REU program pull-down menu.  

The National Science Foundation funds programs like this around the country

Other REU Site programs in biology

This program has been supported by National Science Foundation awards DBI-1950734 (3/2020–2/2024), DBI-1461169 (4/2015–3/2021), DBI-1005104 (5/2010–4/2016), DBI-0453380 (3/2005–2/2011), DBI-0097249 (6/2001–5/2005), DBI-9732155 (6/1998–5/2001) to the University of Virginia.

2024 Program Dates

Application Deadline:  February 20, 2024

Program:  May 27 - August 2

Participants typically arrive at the field station the afternoon before the program starts.  And most depart the morning after the program ends.

Application and Reference Forms

For more information and details about the structure of the program, download the REU Handbook (PDF).

Have questions about the REU program that aren't answered here? Email

Mountain Lake Biological Station values diversity and is committed to equal opportunity and affirmative action in all its programs.