Integrative Microbial and Plant Systems Research Experience

Participants in 2017 REU

The Department of Plant and Microbial Biology welcomes applications for the Integrative Microbial and Plant Systems Undergraduate Research Experience.  The program focuses on basic and applied questions about plant-microbe interactions in the face of climate change and global food security hardships. NCSU has a strong core of plant and microbial biologists who are working in the areas of sustainable foods, fuels, and computer modeling for studying fundamental biological mechanisms. Four major research themes include stress resilience, nutrient acquisition in plant and microbial systems, signaling in plant-microbe systems, and plant-microbiome modelling. 

During the 10-week summer program, students will actively engage in a research project under the mentorship of a participating faculty member. Participants will receive housing on campus, travel expenses if they need to fly to the program, a food allowance, and a stipend of $6,000.  The program is funded by the National Science Foundation.


We are not currently accepting applications for this program.

Program Activities

The program kicks off with a three-day “biotechnology boot camp,” where participants will learn critical molecular biology laboratory skills. Participants will pursue independent research projects for the remainder of the summer under the guidance of a faculty mentor. Students will also have multiple public-speaking opportunities to present their research, including a poster presentation at the campus-wide undergraduate research symposium at the end of the program.

Projects fall under four general themes:

Theme: Stress Resilience

Sample Projects:

  • Evaluating the influence of endophytic fungi on plant stress resistance (Dr. Marc Cubeta).
  • Assessing the effect of weather-related temperature changes on plant stress responses (Dr. Colleen Doherty).
  • Establishing the contribution of Archaea to plant-microbe community structures and stress resilience (Dr. Amy Grunden).

Theme: Nutrient Acquisition in Plant and Microbial Systems

Sample Projects:

  • Characterizing the regulation of iron homeostasis in plants (Dr. Terri Long).
  • Analyzing the role of plant growth promoting bacteria on nitrogen acquisition and resistance to fungal infection (Dr. Oliver Baars).
  • Determining the impact of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AMF) and ectomycorrhizal fungi (EF) on plant potassium acquisition and plant-microbe symbioses (Dr. Kevin Garcia).

Theme: Signaling in Plant-microbe Systems

Sample Projects:

  • Identifying and quantifying proteins involved in plant-microbiome interactions (Dr. Manuel Kleiner).
  • Identifying Arabidopsis genes that are necessary for resistance breaking by two cassava genomic DNA sequences that function across pathosystems (Dr. Linda Hanley-Bowdoin).
  • Characterizing the response to low phosphate in Arabidopsis mutants altered in inositol pyrophosphate signaling (Dr. Imara Perera).

Theme: Plant-Microbiome Modelling

Sample Projects:

  • Determining the impact of the maize root microbiome on plant growth promotion and disease resistance (Dr. Ashley Beck).
  • Identifying high-yield, stress-tolerant plant phenotypes using advanced modeling (Dr. Christine Hawkes and Dr. Ross Sozzani).
  • Developing computational algorithms for spatial and temporal tracking of gene expression in plant roots (Dr. Cranos Williams).

Who Should Apply

The program is open to all rising sophomore, junior, and senior undergraduate students enrolled in a degree program leading to a baccalaureate degree with a demonstrated interest in molecular biology. Applicants will be evaluated based on their statement of interest, transcript, and letters of recommendation. We particularly encourage students from institutions other than NC State to apply, though there will be one slot available for an NC State student. Prior research experience is not required. NC State is an equal opportunity employer and encourages applications from underrepresented groups, including minorities and people with disabilities.

This program is only open to US citizens and permanent residents.

Financial Support

Stipends, room, board, and travel expenses are provided.

  • Stipend: $6000 for the 10-week session
  • Room and board: Apartment-style accommodations on campus and $100 per week food allowance
  • Travel expenses: Round-trip air travel will be provided to participants who do not live within driving distance of the program


Applications and recommendation letters are due by Friday, February 28, 2020.

  • Complete the online application.
  • Upload a one-page statement of purpose and a transcript (downloaded or scanned transcripts are acceptable). Please have these ready prior to completing the application.
  • The personal statement should demonstrate why you are interested in science and research, your career and educational goals, and why you think this research experience would benefit you. Include any laboratory skills, research experience, awards, honors, or extracurricular activities you would like us to know about. Please also discuss preferred areas of research based on sample projects on our website.
  • Ask one faculty member to use the program recommendation form to submit a letter of recommendation.
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