Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) sites widely serve as the first major research gateway for undergraduates seeking a structured research experience. Given their lack of prior research skills, and the highly compressed duration of the REU programs, these students frequently encounter barriers to a seamless transition into a new laboratory environment. We hypothesized that the design of a unified short course on laboratory and analysis techniques could serve as a pivotal orientation experience. Our goal was to rapidly align student expertise to their summer research goals while also integrating the student participants into a cohesive learning community. This article discusses the design and outcomes of a Cellular Bioengineering Boot Camp, which is offered at the outset of the 10-week REU site at Rutgers. The Boot Camp provides hands-on, supervised training for techniques and procedures that are common among projects. The training establishes a common language and baseline for the REU students and allows their first laboratory experiences to be with each other, and creates an immediate network of peers and mentors. Surveys before and after the Boot Camp and at the end of the summer indicated a significant improvement in student proficiency in the techniques that was retained throughout the summer. We believe that the Boot Camp approach can be tailored to the specifics of each REU site and its associated projects and research foci.