Program Overview: Why Apply?

The Biocomplexity Research Experience for Undergraduates (BREU) is an educational program open to aspiring scientists from all academic backgrounds. BREU prepares students to pursue highly competitive STEM careers, offering hands-on training that extends far beyond the traditional classroom learning experience. This program encompasses a wide range of research opportunities including both paid and for-credit positions.

undergraduate research group

Make a real impact. BREU students participate in hands-on research activities in each of our institute's Leading Laboratories—work that’s fundamentally transforming the way we understand the world. At the Biocomplexity Institute of Virginia Tech, our projects help guide the creation of resilient cities, inform effective policy responses to public health crises, and uncover key factors that drive industrial innovation.

Diversify your expertise. Our students work in teams, closely supported by graduate research assistants and supervised by faculty. Your colleagues and mentors will be thought leaders in a wide variety of fields: statistics, biology, social, behavioral and economic sciences, computer science, data analytics, epidemiology, simulation science, information technology policy, and infrastructural resilience.

Form professional connections. The Biocomplexity Institute's dual locations in the National Capital Region and Virginia Tech's Blacksburg campus put our students in contact with a number of leading decision-makers in science, government and industry. Our "alumni" have established their careers at a variety of high-profile institutions including the Department of Defense, Department of Health, Bloomberg, and Amazon.

About the Institute: Our Leading Laboratories

BREU students will perform hands-on research in one or more of the Biocomplexity Institute's Leading Laboratories. Each of these unique research programs works to support the institute's overarching mission to predict, explain, and visualize the behavior of massively interacting systems.

Before applying to the BREU program, students are encouraged to consider how their research interests will fit in with one of these major divisions:

  • The Mathematical Biocomplexity Laboratory explores logical relationships in the building blocks of life, uncovering new algorithms that can be used store, sort, and make meaning out of huge amounts of biological data. Students with a deep interest in computational theory and its potential applications for advancing life science may find success in the MBL.
  • The Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory develops new technologies, capable of simulating highly complex systems at scale—tools that help decision-makers identify the best possible course of action during a crisis. Students with a passion for computer science, statistics, and public health are encouraged to apply.
  • The Nutritional Immunology and Molecular Medicine Laboratory aims to speed up the discovery of new treatments for chronic diseases using a combination of clinical trials and advanced biological simulations. Students whose interests include nutrition, healthcare, and the emerging field of precision medicine will enjoy taking part in NIMML's research.
  • The Social and Decision Analytics Laboratory develops new methods for drawing accurate analyses from massive, messy data sets. Students wishing to gain experience leveraging big data to discover solutions for social problems may make a great fit for SDAL.
  • The Biosystems Research Laboratories work to expand our fundamental understanding of human health, from the causes of cancer to the science of our internal clocks. These labs offer a wide variety of hands-on research opportunities for students who prefer one-on-one mentorship in a small group setting.

Program Structure: Opportunities and Resources

undergraduate researcher works under supervision of lab director

Key Features

  • Internships available in the fall, spring, and summer semesters
  • Team research with dedicated graduate students, postdocs and research faculty
  • Opportunities to present findings in technical reports and scientific publications
  • Meaningful research that addresses major challenges in science, social policy, industry, and public service
  • An introduction to essential tools for scientific and statistical computing: Hadoop, R, Python, GIS, and other software tools as needed for projects
  • Access to a state-of-the-art parallel cluster with high-performance interconnect in the Biocomplexity Institute of Virginia Tech’s High-Performance Computing Facility
  • Engaging with practitioners and researchers through the Biocomplexity Institute’s Visiting Scholar program, which includes mathematicians, engineers, economists, statisticians, and other social science researchers with diverse federal and private sector experience

How to Apply: Program Requirements

To apply for the BREU program, you must complete the following steps:

If you have any questions about the application process, please contact us.

Application Requirements

Participants in the BREU program will be expected to meet the following requirements:

  • Be enrolled as a current student at Virginia Tech
  • Demonstrate an academic background in some area of social sciences, engineering, life sciences, or physical sciences
  • Display necessary qualities for working both independently and within a diverse team structure: high motivation, good communication skills, strong work ethic

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