Summer REU: Genes to Ecosystems

Since 2004, the Chicago Botanic Garden has hosted a full-time ten week summer research experiences for undergraduates (REU) internship program with a plant biology and conservation (PBC) focus. One key goal of this program is to broaden diversity in the biological sciences, particularly by increasing the participation of groups historically underrepresented in science such as women, minorities, persons with disabilities, veterans, and others.

As part of the Chicago Botanic Garden's Science Career Continuum this internship is a critical link where undergraduate interns, mentored by graduate students, also serve as co-mentors to Chicago Public High School students while learning firsthand about post-baccalaureate opportunities.
We provide budding scientists opportunities to grow personally and professionally through:

  • Professional-development workshops
  • Field trips to local partner research institutions
  • Participation in a near peer mentorship network (Science Career Continuum)
  • Training in scientific communication 
  • Presentations at local research symposia

Internship Benefits

Through a National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) site grant, 10 internships are offered every year. Two additional internships are also offered for alumni of the Chicago Botanic Garden’s College First program. These 10-week full-time (40 hours per week) internships include:

  • $5,750 Stipend
  • Paid Travel to and from Chicago 
  • Room and Board at University Center in Chicago 
  • Commuting Cost from the Center to the Garden

NOTE: Every year we also welcome a number of interns that participate in our program with outside funding, or on a volunteer basis.

Program mentors include faculty and graduate students from the Chicago Botanic Garden and Northwestern University Graduate Program in Plant Biology and Conservation (PBC), and occasionally mentors from other partner internships. Projects typically involve fieldwork and laboratory work in the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center, which provides participants access to innovative resources for their research.


NSF-supported Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) interns must be:

  1. Citizens or permanent residents of the United States or its possessions
  2. Currently-enrolled undergraduate students
    • Students between high school and undergraduate are NOT eligible to apply
    • Must NOT graduate before winter 2020
    • Graduating seniors or recent graduates are not eligible to apply
    • Students who are transferring from one college or university to another and are enrolled at neither institution during the intervening summer are eligible to participate
  3. Able to participate from June 15, 2020 to August 21, 2020

The REU program is particularly interested in helping students who lack research opportunities at their home institutions, who have not participated in a REU or similar experience in the past, and/or are from groups traditionally underrepresented in the biological sciences. The Chicago Botanic Garden values diversity and is committed to equal opportunity in all its programs.

If you are graduating this academic year, please consider the Conservation and Land Management Internship Program, which hires college graduates for 5-month internships each year (

Question about eligibility can be emailed to

In accordance with Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, Chicago Botanic Garden does not discriminate on the basis of sex in its programs or activities, including in employment or admissions. Please call 847-835-8264 to contact our Title IX Coordinator should you have questions or concerns

Application Requirements

Before you begin your application:

  • Explore the projects for summer 2020 as you will be asked to select the subject areas of interest for the application form
  • Speak with someone who knows you well and who will take the time to complete a brief survey. Discuss with them your goals and how an internship at the Chicago Botanic Garden fits into that plan.
  • To submit your application you will need to create an account. When you create an account be sure to select that you are a "Student submitting an application."
    • You will be able to save and return to your application; however, once you submit you cannot make any edits. 

The following documents are necessary for an application to be considered complete: 

  • Completed application form (online)
    • You will select the subject area(s) that interest you
    • Statement of interest (to be filled out online)
    • One reference (with name, email address, and institutional affiliation)
  • One recommendation survey must be completed online by the individual you list as your reference. We will email your reference an online link for submission after you submit your application, and you will be notified when we have received the recommendation. 
    • The person has until February 21, 2020 to submit the survey
    • The survey is a short (5-10 minute) survey regarding the applicant's potential benefit from participating in this specific program, and evaluation of the applicant’s motivation to benefit from this program
  • Upload unofficial or official college/university transcripts 
    • You may submit an unofficial transcript for your application; however, if selected we may request an official transcript. All transcripts must be uploaded as a PDF to your application. 


  • Mid/Late November mentors will submit their potential summer internships
  • Early December create an account or log in
  • EXTENDED to February 14, 2020 midnight CST applications close
    • Extended to February 21, 2020 recommendation survey must be submitted
  • Mid/ Late March mentors will interview potential applicants
  • Late March offers are sent out. Those not selected will be notified in early April

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the application deadline?

We will accept applications through midnight Central Standard Time Extended to February 14, 2020. Only completed applications will be considered. Please provide the person completing the recommendation with enough time (minimum two weeks is usually appropriate) to complete a recommendation survey. They will have until February 14, 2020 to complete a short survey. Please discuss with your recommender about your goals and choose someone who is familiar with your skills, traits, and motivation. All materials must be submitted through the online application by the deadline.

How can I improve my application?

Ensure that all elements of the application are complete and carefully proofread. Answer all questions thoroughly. Whether you have past research experience or not, highlight assets that you feel demonstrate your potential and clearly articulate how an REU experience at the Chicago Botanic Garden would fit into your larger academic and professional goals.

What do you look for in an intern?

Applicants are matched to projects based upon interests, personal background, and enthusiasm. Other factors will also be considered such as relevant coursework and experiences. A subset of applicants will be interviewed by phone or email. Final decisions on offers will be made by prospective mentors and the program co-directors.

Is there a stipend?

Yes, students with NSF-funded REU internships will receive a stipend of $5,750.

Can I apply to multiple REU programs at different institutions?

Our program is highly selective (3-5% of those that apply are offered an internship), and we encourage people to apply to as many programs as they are interested in. 

What are the start and end dates of the program?

The exact dates change from year to year but our program runs June 15, 2020 to August 21, 2020.

How binding is acceptance to the program?

If you are offered an internship, you will have a set amount of time to respond. We expect you to join the program if you formally accept an offer.

My classes end after the program starts. Can I still apply?

This situation will be handled on a case-by-case basis, and depends on a number of factors. We encourage you to apply if you forsee a potential scheduling conflict that is out of your hands (e.g., your finals week coincides with the beginning of our program), as it should not prevent you from being offered an internship. If you are offered an internship, we will discuss potential ways to accommodate the situation.

How will I get there?

The program will cover costs for participant travel to and from their home to Chicago.

If I live in the Chicagoland area or have a friend who lives there. Can I stay at home or with a friend during the program, instead of at the University Center?

ALL students funded by NSF-REU or the College First alumni program are required to stay at the University Center in downtown Chicago. This is because we have found that students who stay elsewhere do not get as much out of the program as those who do. Students stay in shared suites, and room and board costs are covered by the program. The program provides accommodation and one meal a day at the University Center, but does not pay for alternative arrangements.

Summer REU: Genes to Ecosystems Mentors

This program is funded in-part by the National Science Foundation, and we aim to improve student retention in the STEM fields by providing high-quality research experiences for undergraduate students. One main focus of this program is to broaden diversity in the sciences, particularly by increasing the participation of groups historically underrepresented in science such as women, minorities, persons with disabilities, veterans, and others. The summer internship program entails students completing an entire research project, working full-time (40 hrs/week) for 10 weeks from mid-June to mid-August. If your project is selected for funding and you become a mentor, you will have a budget for field and lab supplies to use. The time commitment associated with this program is somewhat substantial, especially given the nature of the program. However, based on past accounts, this experience is very rewarding and can help mentors develop very important mentoring and collaboration skills.

Those seeking to mentor the next generation of scientists as part of the summer research experiences for undergraduates program can view more details on our Info for Summer REU: Genes to Ecosystems Mentors page

Who We Are

The internship is managed by the following individuals at Chicago Botanic Garden, and is supported by grants and generous contributions from our funders

For general questions about the internship program, please email us at

Jeremie Fant picture

Jeremie Fant, Ph.D., Co-Principle Investigator

Jeremie is a molecular ecologist at the Chicago Botanic Garden who is interested in the genetic diversity of rare species. Even though we tend to think of them as a collective group, rare species often have very different reasons rarity. So although Dr. Fant’s work focuses on genetic data, field data is an invaluable component of all his studies, helping to ensure that the biology and ecology of the species inform the outcomes of genetic research. His lab page provides more detail about his research and lab members. Jeremie has co-managed the REU program since 2011.

Andrea Kramer Picture

Andrea Kramer, Ph.D., Co-Principle Investigator

Andrea has been a Conservation Scientist at Chicago Botanic Garden, and adjunct assistant professor at Northwestern University, since 2012. Her research helps answer questions aimed at making ecological restoration practices as economically feasible and successful as possible. Her lab page contains more information on her publications and the research conducted in her lab. She has co-managed the REU program with Jeremie Fant since 2015.

Hilary Noble Picture

Hilary Noble, Coordinator of Research Labs and Undergraduate Programs

Hilary has the responsibility of organizing the operations of the genetics lab and herbarium at the Chicago Botanic Garden. This includes day to day activity as well as training and working with students and volunteers. She also encourages diversity in the sciences by assisting in the coordination of the undergraduate summer internship program.

Current Funders

The Chicago Botanic Garden's Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program in Plant Biology & Conservation-From Genes to Ecosystems is supported by:

  • NSF awards:
    • DBI-0353752 
    • DBI-0648972
    • DBI-1062675
    • DBI-1461007
    • DBI-1757800
  • The Chicago Botanic Garden College First Program
  • Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation


Additional Support

We would also like to acknowledge sponsors of individual students, which has enabled them participate in our Plant Biology & Conservation Research Experiences for Undergraduates program. This includes:

  • Northwestern University Undergraduate Research Grant (URG)
  • Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program (University of Florida)
  • Oakton College
  • Carleton College