Reactive Metals, Energetics, and High-Enthalpy Flows (REACH)

NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Summer Scholarship

2023 Summer Program (Pending funding from NSF)

The program is 100% in-person and will run from May 22 to July 28, 2023. Applications Open: Immediately, Apply Now
Application Deadline: February 24, 2023 by 5 p.m. ET. 

Reactive Metals, Combustion, and High-Enthalpy Flows (REACH)

Summer research for undergraduates in energetic materials. The Virginia Tech REACH REU Summer Program provides research opportunities for a cohort of ten undergraduates during a 10-week summer research program. This research aims to advance the fundamental science of reactive metals and polymeric binders used as the building blocks of modern energetic materials. The practical benefit of the research is the development of metallized energetic materials with precise and controlled effects, and that are also safer to manufacture, store, handle, and employ. REU scholars will be fully-immersed in the field of metallized energetics and learn how the latest research in this area can be used to generate compounds that: (i) fly further, faster, and longer; (ii) have precise energy release rates and controlled effects; and (iii) are safer to synthetize, store, handle, and employ.

The REACH REU faculty mentors possess a diverse background in all aspects of energetic materials and include experts from the Departments of Aerospace, Mechanical, Civil, Chemical Engineering, and Materials Science and Engineering, as well as the Department of Chemistry in VT College of Science. Undergraduates with an interest in energetic materials with a background in science, technology, engineering, and math are highly encouraged to apply

Undergraduate student participants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the United States. 

REACH REU Benefits to Students:

  • 10-week summer program, May 22 - July 28, 2023
  • Teamed science with REU students & their faculty advisors
  • Orientation week & team building activities
  • Professional development workshops and technical skills training
  • Weekly REACH REU group meetings
  • Social events
  • Field trips: Radford Army Ammunition Plant, energetics test facilities, labs.
  • Research presentation and networking at a DoD Energetics Meeting
  • $6,000 research stipend for summer work
  • $700 to help with travel expenses
  • On-campus dormitory housing
  • Meals at the dining hall

Research Areas for Students:

  • Development of novel polymer binders for enhanced energetics
  • Mechanochemical alloying of nanoenergetic metal powders
  • Macromolecular design of energetic polymer-metal composites
  • High-Speed propulsion and rocketry
  • Multiphase detonation & explosives
  • Flow visualization and diagnostics
  • Computational modeling & simulation
  • Machine learning and computer vision for energetics characterization


The application is open to students who are U.S. Citizens or Permanent Residents who are currently enrolled in an undergraduate degree program in science, technology, and engineering. The program will enable discovery at the intersection of mechanochemical processing, polymer chemistry and additive manufacturing, multiphase combustion, solid rocket propulsion, detonation of metal-gas mixtures, and advanced diagnostics. If you are interested in enhancing the production and energy storage, safety, stability, and simplicity of application of energetic materials while maximizing energy release, this undergraduate summer research program is for you!

Applicants from colleges and universities with limited research opportunities, groups underrepresented in STEM, and veteran undergraduate students are strongly encouraged to apply to the REACH REU program.

Energetics Workforce Development 

The REACH REU will help address the employment needs of the regional Appalachian and national energetics community through the creation of a talented and diverse pipeline of multicultural scientists and engineers prepared to tackle the 21st century challenge of advancing the science of metallized energetics. These outcomes will be enabled through activities that: 1) promote learning outside the laboratory; 2) stimulate talented students who otherwise would not have had the opportunity or confidence to pursue graduate degrees in STEM; 3) educate about graduate school and how to apply for fellowships; 4) improve communication skills necessary for a successful STEM career. Research outcomes will be disseminated through publications co-authored by multiple students and mentors working on overlapping projects. Students will be provided with an invaluable networking opportunity to present their work to academic, government, and industry stakeholders during Annual Department of Defense Tri-Service Energetics Meetings. Finally, workforce development and scientific impact will be assessed against institutional peer programs to identify factors common to successful undergraduate research and enhance future REU sites.

Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech is the Commonwealth of Virginia’s most comprehensive university and a leading research institution. Virginia Tech offers about 280 undergraduate and graduate majors with more than 34,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students located on its 2,600 acre main campus (Virginia Tech 2020). The university motto, Ut Prosim - that I may serve, reflects its heritage as a land-grant institution. The main campus is located 38 miles southwest of Roanoke, VA. Convenient public bus service is provided from the Roanoke airport to campus. The university also operates daily (twice on weekdays; once on weekends) from Blacksburg to Arlington, VA, allowing access to the Washington, D.C. for weekend excursions. The programs are well-regarded in total bachelor’s degrees awarded: in 2019, the VT College of Engineering ranked seventh nationally in the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded.  

Blacksburg, Virginia

Situated on a plateau between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains, Blacksburg is continually ranked as one of the best places in the United States to live. Home to about 42,600 residents and ample attractions, it’s a town that perpetually earns its good reputation. With abundant leisure activities, a reasonable cost of living, safety, moderate climate, and award-winning services, Blacksburg is known nationwide as a well-managed, forward-looking community. With magnificent mountains, cutting-edge research, and exceptional arts, entertainment, and education— the region is, quite simply, “A Natural Fit”.

How To Apply

The 2023 REACH REU Summer Program is now open. All applications must be received by 5:00 pm ET on February 24, 2023. Selections will be made by the last week of March. 

Applications require the following formation:

  • Biographical information, including your academic background, GPA, and career interests.
  • Short essay questions describing your interest and enthusiasm for the program. Be prepared to submit the following brief statements as part of your application:
    • Your career and academic goals, as well as your enthusiasm for the REACH program (3500 characters or less, including spaces)
    • Your education and work experience (1500 characters or less, including spaces)
    • Your experience with extracurricular activities (1000 characters or less, including spaces)   
  • Two letters of recommendation, with at least one from a professor.
  • Research project ranking in order of preference.
  • Optional supporting documents, such as unofficial transcripts, CV, and other academic work.

Selection criteria:
 Applications for the REACH REU program will be reviewed by a committee to select individuals with similar interests to faculty in the program. Emphasis will be placed on letters of recommendation and student essay questions, along with academic performance and other indicators of future success.


For more information contact the REACH Program Co-Directors: