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NSF Awards $405,000 to NCSA for Research Experience for Undergraduates Site Program

Translucent photograph of the NCSA building on a sunny day with a centered Block I logo and navy text that reads REU FoDOMMaT

The National Science Foundation’s Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure awarded a $405,000 grant to the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign for a new three-year Research Experience for Undergraduates site program, following another successful REU site program at NCSA. The new NCSA REU site will provide intensive hands-on training to undergraduates on machine learning and open-source software methodologies.

Principal Investigator Volodymyr Kindratenko, Director of the Center for Artificial Intelligence Innovation at NCSA, and Co-PI Daniel S. Katz, NCSA Chief Scientist, lead this effort. Other key personnel includes Olena Kindratenko, NCSA Senior Research Coordinator, and Cherie Avent, Assistant Professor in Educational Psychology.

This new REU program builds upon our prior experience in REU INCLUSION and NCSA SPIN programs working with diverse student populations and Illinois faculty on high-impact projects. We are expanding our original efforts in open-source software development and HPC to include emerging machine learning based methods. We expect program participants to learn a great deal about machine learning and artificial intelligence and contribute to projects where such methods could make a significant impact. We hope this experience will stimulate the students  to continue with advanced degrees in STEAM and pursue careers in industry where these skills are in high demand.

Volodymyr Kindratenko, REU FoDOMMaT PI, CAII Director, NCSA

The program seeks to increase awareness and knowledge of research opportunities, encourage the pursuit of advanced degrees, and equip undergrads with the necessary skills for data science and analysis careers. At the same time, the students make contributions to ongoing research projects across the university. Its mission is to increase diversity, inclusion, and equitable representation in STEAM-focused graduate programs and industry workforces by providing unique training opportunities at UIUC for students from universities and colleges across the United States.

As an interdisciplinary center focused on problems that can be solved by advanced computing, NCSA is a place where faculty, staff, and students come together to ask questions and build systems and tools that enable us to then answer these questions. We strive to expand all three interlocking aspects of work: the people, the questions, and systems and tools. This REU site program enables us to address all three: we bring new students with new ideas into the academic research arena, and as part of their research projects, they influence the questions we can ask and help build the tools to answer them. And hopefully, they decide to develop their careers to continue participating in scholarly work.

Daniel S. Katz, REU FoDOMMaT Co-PI, Chief Scientist, NCSA

Each year, the NCSA REU program will conduct a rigorous selection process to select ten undergraduates to join the summer program – particularly seeking those who otherwise would lack access to such research opportunities – empowering them to work with cutting-edge technology and projects. Accepted students will be immersed in interdisciplinary research activities, gaining technical experience and hands-on training with state-of-the-art computing facilities, and participating in professional development activities.

How Does It Work?

The Future of Discovery: Training Students to Build and Apply Open Source Machine Learning Models and Tools (FoDOMMaT) is a 10-week on-site summer REU site program at NCSA and its Center for Artificial Intelligence Innovation. The program brings ten students to UIUC and pairs them with mentors leading research activities aligned with their interests. Projects include:

  • Integrated sensing, machine learning, and high-performance computing framework for real-time decision-making in smart manufacturing
  • Deep learning to enable multi-messenger astrophysics discovery in the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope era
  • Comparing deep learning and expert knowledge for sequential pattern mining

This REU Site project gives participating students experience in many aspects of machine learning, ranging from developing open-source machine learning models and tools to applying them in the real world. NCSA REU FoDOMMaT covers students’ housing, food, and travel expenses and provides a weekly $600 stipend.

Who’s Eligible?

This opportunity is open to highly motivated undergraduates from diverse academic backgrounds and schools with low levels of research activity, including community colleges. 

Students interested in this fellowship should be familiar with coding in Python. Those willing to learn new methods and apply their knowledge and skills to challenging problems will benefit the most from this program.

How Does This Benefit Society?

Machine learning is a powerful tool that has been successfully applied to a variety of problems that until recently were deemed too difficult or impossible for computers to solve. This emerging field offers limitless opportunities to design services and products capable of enhancing billions of lives by helping address climate, food and water security, energy, transportation, healthcare challenges and more.

The work carried out by these students will lead to advances in interdisciplinary research, science, and engineering – enabling discoveries in ways unimaginable today. The models and tools they develop will be open-source, making them available to other fields where these models can be used to make additional advances. 

The program contributes to developing a highly specialized workforce capable of utilizing machine learning and open source software to drive scientific discovery. Equipped with the technical experience and knowledge of research tools, NCSA REU students are prepared to apply their learned skills to other fields, collaborate and innovate to solve real-world challenges.

How To Apply

NCSA is now accepting applications for the Summer 2022 REU session that spans May 30–August 5. The deadline to apply is March 15, 2022. To be considered for this program, applicants must provide the following items:

  • Two-page personal statement
  • Resume
  • Completed online application form with two references
  • Official or unofficial transcripts from current institution

Learn more about NCSA REU FoDOMMaT and get more information on the application process, eligibility, and program requirements.


The National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign provides supercomputing and advanced digital resources for the nation’s science enterprise. At NCSA, University of Illinois faculty, staff, students and collaborators from around the globe use these resources to address research challenges for the benefit of science and society. NCSA has been advancing many of the world’s industry giants for over 35 years by bringing industry, researchers and students together to solve grand challenges at rapid speed and scale.

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