REU: Bioenergy Systems

Study Bioenergy!
The research of today for the solutions of tomorrow.

For information contact

Dr. Paul Blum
Charles Bessey Professor of Biology

Julie McManamey
REU Support Staff

2015 Bioenergy Systems REU scholars
2015 Bioenergy Systems REU scholars

Application Dates

Nov 15 2016 App opens
February 1 Priority deadline
March 1 App closes
April 1 Decisions complete

Program Dates

June 4 2017 Arrival day
June 5 Program begins
August 9 Program ends
August 10 Departure day

Who should apply

Related fields

  • Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Plant Science

Applications are encouraged from students with sophomore standing or higher and a GPA of 3.0 or higher.


Participation in the Nebraska Summer Research Program is limited to students who meet the following criteria:
  • U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident
  • Current undergraduate with at least one semester of coursework remaining before obtaining a bachelor's degree

See Eligibility for more information.

How to apply

Follow the application steps to submit the following materials.

About the Program

The School of Biological Sciences administers the Bioenergy Systems REU at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The School of Biological Sciences collaborates with faculty mentors within five departments to provide diverse research opportunities with laboratories covering a wide spectrum of bioenergy research topics such as the study of non-food crops for biomass production, metabolic engineering of oilseed biosynthesis, green algae as liquid biofuel production systems, microbial carbon sequestration, biochemical pathways of lignocellulose conversion, and system engineering of microorganisms for biomass conversion.

Summer scholars in our program are matched with a faculty mentor and participate actively in the design and implementation of a ten-week research project. Students explore the frontiers of knowledge and learn cutting-edge techniques, while having access to state-of-the-art instrumentation in individual labs as well as in the core facilities.

2016 Bioenergy Systems REU scholars touring Sheldon Power Station.
2016 Bioenergy Systems REU scholars touring Sheldon Power Station.

A weekly seminar series will provide an opportunity to exchange ideas with other students, researchers, and faculty. The program also offers a number of social and recreational activities as well as several seminars about graduate school. We expect that the diversity of experiences will encourage students to pursue scientific careers in sustainable energy systems productively contributing to solving society's needs.


  • Competitive stipend: $5,250
  • Double-occupancy room and meal plan
  • Travel expenses to and from Lincoln
  • Campus parking and/or bus pass
  • Full access to the Campus Recreation Center and campus library system
  • Wireless internet access

Learn more about academic and financial benefits.


  • Campus and department orientation
  • Department seminars and presentations
  • Department seminars and presentations
  • Professional development workshops (e.g., applying to graduate school, taking the GRE)
  • Welcome picnic
  • Day trip to Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo
  • Canoe and camping trip
  • Research symposium

Mentors and Projects

Dr. Audrey Atkin School of Biological Sciences

Co-regulated Gene Networks

The Atkin lab studies gene regulatory mechanisms using yeast as a model with the goal of understanding how genes are co-regulated and the impact that regulation has on cell physiology.

Dr. Paul Blum School of Biological Sciences

Energy Metabolism in Thermophiles, Algae and Fungi

Diverse microbes are being engineered to improve synthesis of renewable energy and chemical feedstocks such as cellulosic ethanol, biohydrogen, and chemical intermediates.

Dr. Nicole Buan Biochemistry

Metabolic Engineering of Methane Production by Anaerobic Archaea

Metabolic engineering of methane production by anaerobic archaea Methanogenic archaea (methanogens) in the environment produce 2 gigatons of methane annually. The Buan lab is focused on engineering methanogens by manipulating the electron transport system to produce organisms that are suitable for industrial-scale production of methane as a renewable energy source.

Dr. Edgar Cahoon Biochemistry

Metabolic Engineering and Functional Genomics of Oilseed Crops for Improved Oil Content and Composition

We conduct research to modify lipid metabolism in oilseeds and algae to increase the oil content and improve fatty acid composition of vegetable oils for biofuels and biobased lubricants. The research not only is aimed at outcomes to address world energy needs but also at providing basic insights into plant and algal fatty acid biosynthetic and metabolic pathways and their regulation.

Dr. Heriberto Cerutti School of Biological Sciences

Algae as Model Systems for Oil Biosynthesis and Biofuel Production

We are interested in improving, by genetic, genomic and biochemical means, the capability of algae to accumulate oil in order to create a reliable and sustainable source for the production of next generation biofuels. Undergraduate students participating in these projects will have the opportunity to learn a variety of biochemistry, molecular biology and bioinformatics techniques; participate in the design, execution and interpretation of experiments; and contribute to publication in scientific journals.

Dr. Concetta DiRusso Biochemistry

Chemical Triggers of Lipid Synthesis and Storage in Algae for Biofuel Production

Undergraduate students participating in this project will be a part of the identification and characterization of chemical triggers of lipid synthesis and storage in algae for biofuel production.

Dr. Steve Harris Plant Pathology

Chemical Signaling in Fungi as a Potential Source for Biofuels

Fungi utilize an array of chemical signals to coordinate growth, morphogenesis, and development. Because these signals are related to biofuels and other high-value compounds (e.g., butanol, farnesol), we are interested in learning how they are synthesized and in understanding their mechanisms of action. Current projects will focus on the use of functional genomic screens.

Dr. Robert Hutkins Food Science and Technology

Modulation of the Gut Microbiota by Prebiotics

The Hutkins Lab studies bacteria important in human health and in fermented foods. The lab is particularly interested in understanding factors that affect persistence of probiotic lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. Specifically, we are focused on establishing the molecular basis for metabolism of prebiotic oligosaccharides and how these prebiotics shift the intestinal microbiota in humans and animals. We are also interested in the anti-adherence properties of oligosaccharides against intestinal pathogens and the molecular mechanisms involved in pathogen binding to the surface of host cells.

Dr. Kenneth Nickerson School of Biological Sciences

Physiological Aspects of Quorum Sensing in Eukaryotes

Our lab studies bacterial, fungal, and algal systems. Active areas of research include: fungal dimorphism in Candida albicans and Ceratocystis ulmi; farnesol as a quorum sensing molecule (QSM) produced by C. albicans; farnesol's mode of action as a QSM and as a virulence factor; anaerobic growth of C. albicans; urea metabolism in C. albicans and other fungi; biotinylated histones in C. albicans; chlamydospore formation in C. albicans; high cell density QSMs from diatoms and other algae; detergent resistance in algae; and microbial ecology of alkaline lakes in Western Nebraska.

Dr. Wayne Riekhof School of Biological Sciences

Lipid Biology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of Algae

Dr. Rebecca Roston Biochemsitry

Stress-triggered membrane remodeling as a learning platform for energy production in land plants

Formation and maintenance of the photosynthetic membrane and the responses of membranes to severe stresses are studied. These topics are relevant to improving crop engineering strategies resulting in healthier, more stable crop production. Students will have the opportunity to use techniques from basic plant growth to lipid quantification using gas chromatography and everything in between.

Dr. James Schnable Agronomy & Horticulture

High temporal resolution phenotyping technologies & gene regulation in response to abiotic stresses

Dr. James L. Van Etten William B. Allington Distinguished Professor of Plant Pathology

Pathogens of Algae

Research in the Van Etten laboratory focuses on the isolation and characterization of large (encode more than 400 proteins) icosahedral, dsDNA-containing, plaque-forming viruses that infect certain unicellular, eukaryotic chlorella-like green algae. These viruses are ubiquitous in fresh water from all over the world. In addition to being pathogens, the algal viruses are a source of elements (e.g., promoters) for genetically modifying algae for biofuels.

Dr. Karrie A. Weber School of Biological Sciences

Rock and the Role of Microorganisms in the Environment

Microorganisms are capable of utilizing a diversity of energy sources in the environment as such their metabolism has contributed to the production of biofuels and the generation of electricity. Research in the Weber laboratory assesses and seeks to understand how these organisms take advantage of these energy sources and influence carbon, nitrogen, iron, and uranium cycling in aquatic, soil, and sedimentary environments.

Dr. Bin Yu School of Biological Sciences

RNA Silencing in Plants

RNA silencing is a process triggered by 21-24 nucleotide RNAs to repress gene expression. The Yu lab is interested in understanding the mechanisms governing RNA silencing and development of RNA silencing based technologies that can be used to improve crop traits.