Help with REU list?

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  • #1
burntclaw
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Hi all,

Whoever's reading this, I hope you are well! I'm applying to 12 different physics REUs for the summer and only recently became aware of how competitive they were. I was wondering if anyone would be willing to help me with my current REU list– is the list too unrealistic? Are there other places you would recommend? Any general advice with REU apps would be appreciated.

My current list is REUs at LSU, U Rochester, UMD TREND, UC Davis, NIST SURF, UChicago, BYU, Oklahoma State, LSU computational, UIUC, and Lehigh.

For reference, I'm a sophomore, female, physics/cs major at a small liberal arts college. I have a 4.0 GPA and some research experience.

Thanks!
 

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  • #2
Choppy
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Twelve programs seems like a lot to me. Though I'm not too familiar with the specifics of REU programs and I can appreciate trying to play the numbers game. But don't you typically require some letters of reference for them? Are you going to ask a professor to write you twelve letters of reference? How much time and effort are you putting into investigating each opportunity?

You've listed them by location - but what will you be doing at each potential placement? How are the programs changed from recent years with social distancing restrictions? What fields would you like to be doing research in? What skills would you like to get out of such an experience? What are your plans for graduate school?

I guess the point is that before shot-gunning the process and handing in a lot of mediocre applications, it can help to really learn about each opportunity and when the best fit is likely to be. And perhaps develop a sense of what your personal goals are. You might find for example, that a summer job working for a local professor at your own school will outweigh any experience you might gain by the formal REUs.
 
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  • #3
burntclaw
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Twelve programs seems like a lot to me. Though I'm not too familiar with the specifics of REU programs and I can appreciate trying to play the numbers game. But don't you typically require some letters of reference for them? Are you going to ask a professor to write you twelve letters of reference? How much time and effort are you putting into investigating each opportunity?

You've listed them by location - but what will you be doing at each potential placement? How are the programs changed from recent years with social distancing restrictions? What fields would you like to be doing research in? What skills would you like to get out of such an experience? What are your plans for graduate school?

I guess the point is that before shot-gunning the process and handing in a lot of mediocre applications, it can help to really learn about each opportunity and when the best fit is likely to be. And perhaps develop a sense of what your personal goals are. You might find for example, that a summer job working for a local professor at your own school will outweigh any experience you might gain by the formal REUs.

Thanks for the reply! I'm currently extremely interested in doing computational physics research and going to grad school in the future. The schools I've listed have computational physics projects offerings, which is why I'm applying. I'm particularly interested in UMD TREND and LSU Computational because of this. However, I fully admit I am also shotgunning a little with the numbers. As for programs being virtual due to COVID, I don't mind doing remote research, as the research area I'm interested in can be done remotely without any problems.

I was worried about annoying my letter of rec writers with 12 applications, but my impression is that they only need to write 1 and then send it out to 12 instead of writing 12 separate ones. What are your thoughts on that? Is that still a bad thing to ask a professor to do? Thanks in advance.
 
  • #4
Dr. Courtney
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As hinted above, I usually recommend students focus on a high level of quality in their applications for a smaller number of opportunities. This allows the student to better target their essays and application materials to each opportunity and also allows recommendation writers to target their recommendations.
 
  • #5
Dr. Courtney
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I was worried about annoying my letter of rec writers with 12 applications, but my impression is that they only need to write 1 and then send it out to 12 instead of writing 12 separate ones. What are your thoughts on that? Is that still a bad thing to ask a professor to do? Thanks in advance.

Asking for 12 letters tends to motivate recommenders to send out the same letter. My preferred approach as a recommender is to tailor each letter of recommendation to the specific opportunity. I both take care to name the specific opportunity in my recommendation letters as well as highlight how the student's skills and strengths are a good match for the specific program to which they are applying. I write different things in support of an application for a computational opportunity than I would for an experimental opportunity. Even for different experimental opportunities, I like to focus on the student strengths that are the best match (assuming I know the student well enough to have choices here.) The less specific a letter of recommendation becomes, the less powerful it's impact is likely to be for the student.
 
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  • #6
burntclaw
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Asking for 12 letters tends to motivate recommenders to send out the same letter. My preferred approach as a recommender is to tailor each letter of recommendation to the specific opportunity. I both take care to name the specific opportunity in my recommendation letters as well as highlight how the student's skills and strengths are a good match for the specific program to which they are applying. I write different things in support of an application for a computational opportunity than I would for an experimental opportunity. Even for different experimental opportunities, I like to focus on the student strengths that are the best match (assuming I know the student well enough to have choices here.) The less specific a letter of recommendation becomes, the less powerful it's impact is likely to be for the student.

That makes a lot of sense. I'll keep that in mind in the future when I apply to programs. For this time around, unfortunately I already asked for the recommendations, so I can only delete programs where the professors haven't send the letters of recs to yet (I think...? I'm scared of asking them again about it haha). I've narrowed down my list to 8 currently.

Thank you so much for your insight, I haven't thought about the points you brought up before!
 
  • #7
berkeman
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Welcome to PhysicsForums. :smile:
For reference, I'm a sophomore, female, physics/cs major at a small liberal arts college. I have a 4.0 GPA and some research experience.
Congrats on the strong GPA!
UC Davis
My alma matter. It looks like they are shooting for in-person REUs this summer, assuming that vaccinations go well. Do you have a bicycle that you can take with you? The campus is closed to cars, and everybody gets around on bicycles... :smile:

https://london.physics.ucdavis.edu/~reu/reu.html

1611433759057.png
 
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