PhD Students

REACT PhD students perform ACT research, mentor undergraduate students, and participate in the below training programs.

Apply to be a REACT PhD Student Fellow.

International Summer Research at GIANT

Each summer, U.S. undergraduate students, PhD students, postdoctoral researchers, and an early career faculty member will conduct research at GIANT in Grenoble, France. The GIANT network offers a truly unique setting for an international research experience for US trainees. Early career faculty will spend 4-5 weeks at GIANT. Postdocs and graduate students will spend 10-12 weeks at GIANT in an ACT partner’s laboratory for one summer during the REACT project’s duration. The timing of when postdocs and PhD students go to GIANT will be determined by when trainees join REACT and the duration of their funding (i.e., the international research schedule has been laid out by cohort). Each summer, REACT expects to support 5 undergraduate students from Penn, Bryn Mawr and Villanova for a 10-week research experience at GIANT.

The GIANT International Internship Programme (GIIP) provides an infrastructure for international trainees placed in labs within the extensive GIANT network and has hosted 18 Penn/ASU students since 2011 through Penn’s Nano/Bio Interface Center’s (NBIC) NSF IRES program (ending 2016). Because GIIP typically hosts students from other US institutions, the REACT participants from Penn/US Partners will have a larger circle of peers. GIIP enhances interns’ research experiences with tours of the state-of-the-art facilities, a weekly seminar session and cultural and social activities, and provides critical logistical support to the participants. PhD students and postdocs will contribute to GIIP programs by teaching a seminar that they have prepared as part of their communications workshop.

PhD, postdoc and undergraduate students will participate in the annual French-American Workshop (FAW) in June by presenting posters and “1 minute” talks. The U.S. Consulate in Lyon, France, supports and attends the FAW, and lends official support to 120 interns in Grenoble. The REACT Symposia will coincide with FAW so that both project-specific research and broader educational exchange can be shared.

Professional Development Workshops

ACT PhDs and postdocs will be required to attend one CTL teaching-related workshop (e.g., Active Learning in Large Classes, Mentoring Students in the Lab, Teaching with Primary Literature), one workshop on academic or industrial career paths (e.g., How to Develop a Research Program, Technology Commercialization), one workshop on communicating science (e.g., Writing for Grants, Technical Writing in Industry, Communicating Science to the Media), and a final workshop on a topic of their choice (total of 4 workshops per year).

Trainees also have the opportunity to attend additional professional development workshops. In addition to the workshops offered through REACT on career-related topics, the School of Engineering runs workshops on academic and industrial career paths and CTL offers teaching related workshops.

Solvay Internships and Mentoring

PhD students funded for three years on REACT will be matched with a Solvay mentor having expertise in the ACT project. Together, the student, U.S. PI and Solvay mentor will craft an internship plan that complements the ACT research. This 6-8 week internship at a Solvay facility will provide a valuable opportunity to (i) experience an industrial environment with its distinct characteristics (e.g., organizational structure; regular hours; safety and training standards; scale-up; products to market) and (ii) gain specific skills and knowledge in areas that will advance students’ research, such as formulation methods. Internship locations will be chosen for each student primarily based on scientific and professional factors determined to be most beneficial to the student. The ACT-relevant technical areas of the three Solvay facilities are coatings, formulation, and nanoparticles (Bristol, PA), nanocomposite films (Lyon, France) and organic electronics (Brussels, Belgium). After the internship, the Solvay mentor will continue to meet with the student to discuss technical and research-related topics, as well as career opportunities.

PhD students who are funded for fewer than 3 years as well as postdocs will be matched with a Solvay mentor, who will serve as a resource for informal interactions about technical and industry-related career topics of the trainees’ interests. Formal mentor-mentee events will be held once-a-year at Penn in conjunction with the annual REACT symposium to help facilitate and solidify these relationships. Most of the interaction with these industrial mentors will be through email or videoconference, with the frequency being driven by the trainees’ needs/desires.

Training in Communicating Technical Information

Penn-based PhD graduate students, postdocs and early career faculty will develop teaching and oral presentations through Penn’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). A CTL-Fellow will introduce relevant, evidence-based pedagogical methods for teaching and communicating STEM materials through a series of small group sessions. The participants will test this new understanding by developing their own teaching presentations on an REACT-related topic. By designing a presentation at an undergraduate level, students will hone their skills for excellence in communicating technical information.

The trainees will practice their presentations in a teaching-focused “Critique Session” with the entire Penn-based ACT in the spring semester prior to going to their summer research at GIANT. At each session, two trainees will give their teaching presentation followed by a collective critique. The CTL-Fellow will highlight general teaching resources and make suggestions for increasing effectiveness based on current pedagogical theory for engaging undergraduates (e.g., active learning techniques and effects and working with cognitive load constraints). The broader Penn REACT community will participate in these CTL-led Critiques to give presenters feedback on technical aspects and, importantly, to engage in a lively exchange of ideas about the best practices for STEM pedagogy. In addition to developing skills for communicating technical material to undergraduate audiences, trainees will create and maintain the content of a web site aimed at the general public that shares ACT highlights and videos about materials for water management, infection resistance and energy.

PhD students with the best presentations as determined by ACT leaders will be invited to speak at the annual FAW in Grenoble held every June. During the summer GIIP program, other graduate students and postdocs will present their teaching talks to the GIIP participants (typically ~25 international students). After returning to Penn, each ACT trainee will give this teaching presentation at Bryn Mawr or Villanova and recruit the next cohort of undergraduates in REACT’s international research experience during the upcoming summer. These trainees will also visit local middle and high schools to present an age-appropriate lecture about the role of basic science in addressing societal needs such as natural disasters. ACT trainees planning to perform research at GIANT the following summer will attend at least one of these teaching/recruitment events.

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