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Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)

2015 REU Participants

2015 REU Participants


 Applications may be made by submission of the following form. Note that your application will not be reviewed until we receive your two letters of reference, in addition to an academic transcript. It is the applicants responsibility to organize for letters of reference and transcripts to be submitted. Review of applications within two full weeks of receiving complete application. Questions regarding the program may be addressed to Please email your letters of reference and transcripts to Wendy Erickson. Her contact email is or mail to: Wendy Erickson, Forest Bioproducts Research Institute, 5737 Jenness Hall, Rm. 147, Orono, ME 04469


 REU Frequently Asked Questions for Summer 2016

Potential Research Projects:

Following are some of the projects participants will be working on with the corresponding faculty:

Dr. Doug Gardner and his graduate students, Lu Wang and Elliott Sanders, Advanced Structures and Composite Center:

Wettability and surface energy analysis of nanocellulose powders by contact angle analysis: Cellulose nanofibers (CNF) are the fundamental building blocks of woody cell walls and can be mechanically derived from wood pulp. CNF offer great potential for utilization in various products including composites, paper coatings, insulation, batteries, films, etc. In some instances, CNF are dried for applications in products were water can be a detriment to processing as is the case of non-polar thermoplastic nanocomposites. In addition, the CNF maybe functionalized via chemical modification to make them more compatible with particular polymer matrices used in polymer nanocomposite manufacture. Functionlization will change the inherent wettability and surface energy of the CNF and influence the subsequent behavior in manufacture of polymer nanocomposites. Spray drying is used to dry nanocellulose into a powder form and this provides challenges to the determination of surface energy by standard contact angle analysis techniques. However, column wicking of powders by probe liquids utilizing the Washburn equation offers a possibility to determine surface energy characteristics of CNF powders. The proposed REU project will address the characterization of modified CNF powders via contact angle analysis and determination of surface energy using the Lifshitz-van der Waals Acid-Base analysis technique. This work supports a larger research program in the pilot-scale development of spray dried nanocellulose.

Dr. Mehdi Tajvidi, School of Forest Resources:

Improving thermal stability of cellulose nanomaterials: We will use several physical and chemical methods to enhance thermal stability of cellulose nanomaterials to widen their applications in thermoplastic polymers. Thermogravimetic analysis (TGA) will be used to assess thermal stability and thermal degradation kinetics.

Packaging materials with cellulose nanofibrils: We will develop new formulations of composite packaging materials employing cellulose nanofibrils and other additives. The goal is to produce films that are both water vapor and oxygen barriers.

Dewatering/hornification studies of cellulose nanofibrils: We will evaluate and determine what level of dewatering can be achieved without applying heat energy so that the cellulose nanomaterials are still re-dispersible.

Dr. Jessica Leahy, School of Forest Resources:

The Family Forest Program of the Center for Research on Sustainable Forests has one REU position available for summer 2016. The selected student will assist three graduate students. The primary research project will involve interviewing family forest landowners and collecting field data about their forest conditions in the western mountains region of Maine. This will study will better understand social-ecological linkages between family forest certification in the American Tree Farm System and management for bird habitat. The study will compare outcomes from the Vermont Audubon’s “Bird Habitat Assessment Tool” between American Tree Farm System certified and non-certified family forests, with social perceptions of the landowners related to current forest management practices. The study site is a few hours from campus, so the project will involve overnight camping away from campus for a part of the field season. The second research project seeks to understand the relationship between social capital and beginning family forest owner engagement in forest stewardship. This project will investigate how peer learning programs — specifically the online program — facilitates social capital development of beginning family forest owners, and how social capital affects their engagement in active forest management. They will then compare social capital levels between beginning family forest owners who participate and who do not participate in peer learning events held in Penobscot and Hancock County. The third project will involve applied social science related to state park managers’ early detection and management efforts related to forest pests such as emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle.

Dr. Doug Bousfield, Chemical and Bioengineering Department:

Packaging materials produced from cellulose nanofibers and mineral composites: Cellulose nanofibers (CNF) are an exciting material that is produced from renewable sources.  When mixed with minerals and dried, strong structures can be formed.  We will look at the potential to create various films and structures that potentially could go into various packaging systems.  The resulting material should be renewable, able to be recycled, and compostable.

Dr. Daniela Rios, Division of Environmental Protection, Concepcion, Chile:

Evaluation of the Enzymatic Activity in Soil Treated with a Wood-ash Amendment: Wood ashes as a soil amendment or liming agent have been used for decades, mostly in forest plantations. These provide essential nutrients and neutralize acid soils, moreover, it has been suggested that ashes have a positive impact on physical, chemical and microbiological soil properties. However, the mechanisms through which wood ashes improve the soil properties are poorly understood. In this regard, microbes provide enzymes that participate in nutrients cycles, making them available for plants, and their catalytic capacity may change in the presence of wood ashes. For example, Gómez-Rey et al. (2012) found a significant increase in the protease activity when treating soils with wood ash; whereas Zimmermann and Frey (2002) reported no changes in the enzymatic activity of protease after wood ash addition. Thus, our interest is focused on the effect of wood-ashes on soil enzymes because these play an important role in plant nutrition.

This project aims to determine differences in the microbiological-enzymatic activity of soil after a treatment of a wood ash based amendment. The objective will be achieved through:
(1) standardize two analytical methods (preselected by us) to measure enzymatic activity. The standardization will follow German et al. (2011) suggestions on optimization of enzyme methods. (2) Analyze and statically compare the enzymatic activities from the different treatments.
(3) Revise the literature on the topic and discuss the results.


Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship in The University of Maine and University of Concepción, Chile
During the Summer of 2016, the Forest Bioproducts Research Institute offers for the third year an opportunity for 10 highly qualified undergraduate students to participate in research for a 10 week period, 06/06 – 08/12/2016 .
This research experience is funded by the National Science Foundation.
Women, minorities and students with disabilities are strongly urged to apply to the program.

Award Includes:
• $5000 Stipend + On Campus Housing Provided
• 2 of the 10 Students to Perform their Research in Chile
• Week Long Research Experience & Exchange in Chile for all Students
• Opportunity to Perform Research on Pressing Global Issues Relating to Sustainable Product Development and Biofuel Generation from Woody Biomass

Research Opportunities
• Sustainability and Life Cycle Analysis
• Feedstock Extraction/ Modification
• Process Control and Sensing
• Nanomaterials Production and Utilization
• New Product Development
• Nanotechnology Risk Assessment


Forest Operaions • Resource Economics • Bioproducts • Bioenergy • Biology • Chemistry • Chemical Engineering • Bioengineering •Material Science • Nanotechnology

• Current undergraduate in sophomore or junior year with a minimum GPA to 3.0
• US Citizen or permanent resident
• Must have a valid passport

• Fundamental and Applied Forest Bioproducts Research
• Access to State-of-the-Art Research Equipment and Facilities
• Technical Writing and Oral Presentation Opportunities
• Ethics Workshop
• A Series of Evening and Recreational Activities
• Field Trips!

Contact Information
Wendy Erickson
5737 Jenness Hall
Orono, ME 04469-5737
Tel: (207) 581-1489
Fax: (207) 581-9418


For more information about the program please go to the following blog:

FBRI Education Blog

2013 REU Participants List

2013 Participant – Mentor Pairs and Their Projects

Sixteen students from 14 universities were selected to start the REU 2012 Program

REU 2012 in Masisa Plant, Chile

UMaine Professors David Neivandt and Douglas Gardner with REU 2012 Participants in Masisa Plant, Chile

Rebecca and Jess REU2012
2012 REU Students: Rebecca and Jess

Review past REU Summer Experiences:

Program Overview

Brittany Oetter REU07

Brittany Oetter from University of Colorado testing resistance of E.Coli KO11 to acetic acid

  1. The REU bioproducts research opportunity in Maine includes the following assets and opportunities:
    Maine is the most heavily forested state in the nation.
  2. It has a highly integrated wood products industry (energy, pulp & paper sawmills, OSB, etc.) that is of primary importance to the state.
  3. Maine has an internationally-established engineered wood composites research program at the university including the top Pulp & Paper research and education program in the US at the University.
  4. It is a historically “green” state, with governmental support solidly behind this project.
  5. Forest stakeholders, large landowners, industry, small business, educational institutions, and government have a history of working together to enhance forest productivity and subsequent business.
  6. Maine is already committed to the development of a large scale forest-based bio-refinery as a technology validation and demonstration facility.


Ryan Lena reu07

Ryan Lena, from Tufts University preparing nanofibrillated cellulose samples for morphological testing



Promote Forest Health for a Stable Bio-Economy Understand and Promote Wood Components Create and Commercialize New Bioproducts