Advice for Successful REU in Materials Science

In summary, the conversation provides advice for being successful in an REU program related to materials science. The main tips include working hard, networking, explaining your project clearly, keeping a detailed log, setting clear goals with your supervisor, and asking for help when needed. It is also recommended to minimize personal distractions and take advantage of opportunities for skill development, such as expedited classes.
  • #1
Hello again PF!

I was accepted to an REU for this summer. I was just hoping to get some nuggets of good advice for what to do to be successful. Only thing I keep telling myself is to work HARD so I can make a good impression and hopefully contribute to a successful project.

Any good advice from experienced folks out there?


P.S. - the REU has to do with materials science, if that helps anyone to give advice.
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  • #2
Show up early, leave late, work hard, ask lots of (but not too many) questions and network. By network, I mean get to know your advisor, your advisor's colleagues and even people down the hallway. Solicit advice (but not too much).
  • #3
Awesome, thank you so much.
  • #4
In no particular order...
  • Learn to explain your project clearly and succinctly to lay people.
  • Learn to explain your project clearly and succinctly to other scientists outside your field.
  • Learn to explain your project clearly and succinctly to other scientists inside your field.
  • Keep a detailed log of your work, even the tangential stuff.
  • Do a lot of background reading and keep track of the papers you read so you can reference them later if you need to.
  • Write up your results as if you're going to put them in a paper.
  • Establish clear project goals with your supervisor. Understand what you hope to accomplish by the end of the project.
  • Establish clear short-term goals. What does your supervisor want you to deliver for your next meeting?
  • Ask for help when you don't understand something.
  • Minimize time on personal stuff. You don't want your supervisor to catch you on Facebook.
  • Don't be afraid to spend time exploring the details of how a program or piece of equipment works. One of your personal primary goals should be your own skill development.
  • #5
Thank you! I definitely like those ideas, especially the log one.
  • #6
Regarding asking for help, only do it if it's not something that you can look up yourself (even if on your personal time). Especially if you're an upperclassman, an REU is an opportunity to show that you're capable of graduate-level work, which means not being too dependent on your adviser. This was a hard lesson for me since I was used to a very hands-on adviser, but during my REU I only met with my supervising professor three or four times throughout the summer - during the first few weeks I spent a lot of time spinning my wheels because I didn't know how to study things for myself (basically if it required more than a Google search or looking something up in a textbook, I was screwed).

Of course, there are exceptions - some questions take a nearby grad student 5 seconds to answer but 5 hours for you to figure out by looking up, or your project might involve a method developed by someone else in the group, etc. etc. but chances are you'll be sharing workspaces with undergrads or grad students, so don't be afraid to ask them!

Also, when I did an REU I had the opportunity to take an expedited version of some classes through the department (free of charge). Definitely take advantage of this!

What is a REU in Materials Science?

A REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) in Materials Science is a program that offers undergraduate students the opportunity to gain hands-on research experience in the field of materials science. It typically involves working closely with a faculty mentor and conducting research in a laboratory setting.

How can I find a REU program in Materials Science?

There are several ways to find a REU program in Materials Science. You can start by searching online databases such as the National Science Foundation's REU program database or the Materials Research Society's REU program directory. You can also reach out to your university's materials science department or faculty members to inquire about any REU opportunities they may know of.

What are the benefits of participating in a REU in Materials Science?

Participating in a REU program in Materials Science can provide numerous benefits, including gaining hands-on research experience, networking with other students and professionals in the field, developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and potentially leading to future research opportunities or graduate studies.

How can I make the most of my REU experience in Materials Science?

To make the most of your REU experience in Materials Science, it is important to have a positive attitude, be open to learning new things, and communicate effectively with your mentor and fellow researchers. It is also helpful to set specific goals for your research project and to actively seek out opportunities to present or publish your findings.

What resources are available for REU participants in Materials Science?

Most REU programs in Materials Science provide resources such as access to laboratory equipment and materials, mentorship from faculty members, and opportunities for professional development and networking. Additionally, many programs offer stipends or financial support to cover travel and living expenses for participants.

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