REU Site: Biogeochemical Educational Experiences
South Africa (BEE-SA)

This Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and took place in the summers of 2003 and 2004 in South Africa. The REU site for Biogeochemical Educational Experiences-South Africa (BEE-SA) was led by the University of Tennessee, under the direction of Dr. Susan M. Pfiffner and Ms. Kim Davis for college undergraduates in the fields of Earth and Biological Sciences, Environmental Sciences, and Engineering. They are directing the program and coordinating with their South African hosts, Drs. Esta van Heerden and Derek Litthauer, at the University of the Free State (UOFS), and with Dr. T.C. Onstott, director of the LExEn field laboratory led by Princeton University. Seven students attended in 2003 and eleven students attended the 2004 REU.  These undergraduate students were majoring in geosciences, chemistry, and microbiology, and spent seven weeks working on research projects with several mentors. The students experienced interdisciplinary research and learned first-hand how research is done in the field at South African mines. Laboratory facilities were located at UOFS. The U.S students that participated in the 2003 REU were from Carleton College (MN), Cornell, University of Minnesota, Princeton, South Dakota State University, and Calvin College (MI). The U.S. students that participated in 2004 were from Florida Agricultural and Mecahnical University (FAMU), University of Tulsa, Hampton University, Rhodes College, University of Michigan, Vanderbilt University, Ohio Wesleyan, Oklahoma State University, Iowa State University, and National Taiwan University.  South African participants were from the University of the Free State, Witswatersrand University, University of the North West, and the University of the North.

2003 REU participants collect fissure water flowing from a borehole in the Merrispruit mine in South Africa.

The REU included mini-courses (ranging from 2 days to 2 weeks) covering a range of topics within the interdisciplinary LExEn research program, as well as ethics in science. In addition to lectures, visiting scientist seminars, and laboratory studies, the students received instruction on giving platform and poster presentations and were required to present their research project. During this research experience, time was spent in study, reflection, and speculation regarding the biogeochemical topics under investigation. It was hoped that by engaging students in interdisciplinary research topics, students would realize a positive impact on career decisions, achievement of career goals, and their ability to network with other scientists. The experiences shared with African students, and African faculty, and the collaborations between U.S. and S.A. faculty helped to build a lasting foundation for future collaborative endeavors. The students and mentors were supported by the National Science Foundation, by the Center for Environmental Biotechnology Research Center of Excellence, and the Waste Management Research and Education Institution at the University of Tennessee

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