Friday Harbor Laboratories
Revised: 01-22-2014

Blinks - NSF REU - BEACON Internship Program

Research Experiences for Undergraduates

Integrative Biology and Ecology of Marine Organisms

Application deadline: March 1, 2015

Program dates: June 15 to August 8, 2015 (tentative)

Program Description

Friday Harbor Laboratories' Blinks - NSF REU - BEACON Summer Internship Program seeks to link undergraduate students with scientist-mentors as collaborators in marine science research projects. The program takes advantage of the pristine environment, remarkable biodiversity, and the scientific and technical resources at University of Washington's marine science research facility. We have combined the NSF REU program with the Blinks Research Fellowship program, which targets groups who are historically underrepresented in the marine sciences, with the NSF-funded BEACON Program. With additional support from the United Negro College Fund, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the American Society for Cell Biology, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, and the Anne Hof Blinks Memorial Fellowship, the Blinks-REU Program offers a full immersion research experience for motivated undergraduates, post-baccalaureates and graduate students. In keeping with the University of Washington's policy of encouraging diversity in its student body including underrepresented groups, the program seeks 10-15 students of diverse backgrounds and interests to participate in a eight to twelve week summer research project in the marine sciences. By linking fellows with marine scientists in a 1:1 research experience, fellows learn both the process and the substance of scientific research. As the research progresses, fellows will be encouraged to become semi-independent collaborators. The experience will expose fellows to the life and work of a marine science research laboratory. The program will incorporate workshops, seminars and training sessions in addition to hands-on research.

The mentors and projects vary from year to year according to the developing research interests of faculty and students. Research projects are designed by the scientists to be achievable projects which dovetail with their research plans. Project descriptions are posted below. Fellows will work semi-independently with mentor supervision for approximately 40 hours per week.

For summer 2015, the BEACON Program funding will augment the REU funding.

As participants in the FHL community, students will participate actively in FHL community activities, e.g. attend the weekly seminars, eat in the Dining Hall and live in the student dormitory. Early in the summer session, there will be a meeting of student participants with graduate students and mentors to share perspectives on graduate programs and participation in academic life, with a brief description of ongoing projects, and a question/answer session. At the end of their internship, fellows will present their research in a short powerpoint talk. Fellows will also write a scientific paper describing their work, and revise it based upon feedback from the mentor.

The Setting

Friday Harbor Labs is University of Washington's marine science field research station. Located north of Puget Sound in the San Juan Islands, FHL takes advantage of a remarkable diversity of marine habitats and organisms. FHL hosts 15-20 courses per year and approximately 100 independent researchers during the year. The 484 acre campus is the site for thirteen lab buildings, a dining hall, 3 dorms and other housing units.

Research at FHL emphasizes marine invertebrate zoology, phycology, fisheries science, conservation biology, cell and molecular biology, biomedical sciences, oceanography and other scientific disciplines. Investigators and students use diversified field resources as well as modern analytical technologies such as a nucleotide sequencer, scanning laser confocal microscopes, scintillation counter, centrifuges, HPLC, TEM, SEM and other equipment. Friday Harbor Labs is equipped with a 58' research vessel, numerous smaller boats, cold rooms, and an extensive seawater system serving numerous lab buildings. The facility includes a computer lab, networked research labs, wi-fi connectivity, a well equipped stockroom, a 17,000 volume library, and SCUBA facilities.

Financial Support

Participants will be provided with financial support to meet costs of room, board, round trip travel and a monthly stipend.


The NSF REU Site grant supports U.S. citizens or permanent residents during their undergraduate careers. The Blinks Endowment supports students who bring diversity to the FHL student body in any phase of their undergraduate or graduate career.

To Apply

APPLICATION PERIOD NOW CLOSED. We will open the application period when we get an adequate assemblage of projects from which to select. We expect the application period to be open from late November until March 1, 2015.

Questions may be directed to

Students who are selected will be notified in late March.

FAQs about FHL

REU Project Descriptions for 2015 (more to be added in November & December 2014)

The hard & fast of salmon biting biomechanics

Figure: Simple biomechanical model of bite force in a salmon head

Dr. Nick Gidmark
University of Washington - Friday Harbor Laboratories

When obtaining food, an animal can either bite hard or fast. Any organism has to deal with the fundamental tradeoff between strength and speed. This summer, we will be using dissection, computer models, and muscle physiology to investigate how different species of salmon balance the force-speed tradeoff. Using simple biomechanical models (e.g., Figure), we will compare maximum biting force and maximum biting velocity between salmon species of the San Juan Islands.

What you'll need: I can teach you everything you need to know for this project, so the only necessary qualifications are the ability to work hard and absolute dedication to having fun. If you have any experience with animal husbandry, dissection, photography/videography, animal surgery, or excel, that's a plus. In short, all you need is a good attitude and we'll figure the rest out.

What we'll do: To study salmon jaw muscles, we will begin with detailed dissection of salmon heads, focusing on two species: king salmon and pink salmon. These two species are plentiful in waters around FHL in the summers. Using previously-gathered x-ray video data, we will model skeletal movements involved in jaw opening and closing (see for a detailed description of this technique) and calculate muscle length changes. Finally, we will collect wild specimens to conduct muscle physiology testing, measuring muscular force and speed in living muscle tissue.

What you'll get: The goal of this research will be a scientific publication, so our endeavors will be geared to that end. Co-authoring a publication is a great resume or CV builder, not to mention a great tool to improve your writing skill. Experience with animal surgery will improve your skill as an anatomist, and give you experimental tools that very few people have. Most importantly, you'll gain an appreciation for vertebrate muscle-skeletal anatomy that can be related back to any organism you choose including your own body!