How Do REUs Shape Future Astrophysicists?

In summary, the author's professor encouraged the author to participate in an REU. The author participated in an REU and worked on a project that used MESA to trace the evolution of a Cepheid-like star through the blue-loop stage in the HR diagram. The project allowed the author to learn about the possibilities that lay ahead of him and the work required to achieve his goals.
  • #1
AlphaLibrae
7
0
Hello everyone, I am currently applying for physics REUs. I am looking for people who would help me proofread my essay and criticize it as much as you'd like please.

Beginning
It was my junior year of high school when I first harbored an interest for physics above other subjects. When I first learned about Newton’s laws of motion, I would spend days watching videos that demonstrated the laws and experimented with everyday objects such as a tennis ball, delighted with the idea that I could manipulate the motion of objects and yet the laws still held. My enthusiasm and curiosity with physics and its applications never diminished, and when I began my studies at the [college], I knew that I would be a physics major.

As a physics major, I aspired for an emphasis in astrophysics. When I took my freshman physics seminar and was required to write and speak about a particular topic, my chosen topic, stellar evolution, exposed me to the fundamental theories of physics I had always enjoyed on a larger scale in the context of describing the nature of the universe, which would come to hold the focus of my academic interest. I recall being particularly intrigued in astrophysics when one of my professors introduced me to using Modules for Experiments in Stellar Astrophysics (MESA), a modern stellar evolution code that solves the differential equations describing stellar structure, to trace the evolution of stars through the blue-loop stage in the Hertzsprung-Russell (HR) diagram. Running stellar evolution tracks not only defined my interest in doing computational work, but it allowed me to appreciate astrophysics even more and how technology drives astrophysicists forward into attempting to understand the universe. Shortly afterwards, I declared a minor in Astronomy. As my exposure to astrophysics and its applications increased at [college], I realized that I wanted more opportunities to continue work in astrophysics, and, as a result, my professor strongly encouraged me to participate in an REU.

During the Fall 2018 semester at [college], my professor assigned me a project that used MESA to trace the evolution of a Cepheid-like star through the blue-loop stage in the HR diagram. For two weeks in the middle of the semester, I collaborated with one other Astronomy minor to facilitate a working team dynamic, examine the sensitivity of the blue loops on this HR diagram to parameters governing the description of convection in MESA, and develop a poster summarizing our work. At the [college] Academy of Science Conference in 2018, we discussed our work to undergraduates and professors, and the possible avenues for future research. The project allowed me to recognize the possibilities that lay ahead of me and the work required to achieve my goals. I learned that knowledge in computation and numerical analysis is essential to succeeding with research, and that being able to teach myself new skills is perhaps even more important. I plan to continue my studies by pursuing a graduate astrophysics program once I complete my B.Sc..

Although I have no career-related research experiences, I am an active member of the Astronomy Club, where I guided students and the public in operating our school’s telescopes, allowing me to share my knowledge and skills in a meaningful way. In addition, my service to my community extends beyond science: I have participated in several community service events throughout my time at [college], including cleaning up litter around ________, conducting a homeless persons survey in the town of ________, and cleaning up a local church playground. Through my volunteer experiences, I gained many practical skills that can be applied to a research setting including how to communicate and work in a team, speak publicly, and lead and discuss plans for upcoming activities. I believe these skills, along with my strong work ethic, would make me a great asset to your program.

An REU would further my experience in astrophysics work by enriching my academic studies with a new perspective while providing the chances to develop key employability skills such as problem-solving, teamwork, communication and time management. I believe [college] presents an exciting opportunity for me to work with experts on individual astrophysics research projects. The lectures, roundtables and workshops the REU provides would enlighten my current understanding of astrophysics, hone the skills that are applicable to a work environment and place me in a group of diverse and like-minded people whom I can discuss my ideas and aspirations with. In addition, the experience would lead me to my true path in astrophysics, as the REU offers projects in a wide range of topics. I am prepared to work hard for years as I continue my academic studies and follow my passion, and participating in this program would be an essential step in my journey.
End
 
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  • #2
Did you run this by your professor who encouraged to apply? He/She knows you much better than all of us put together. Having said that, your statement doesn't explain what you will bring to the institution you are applying other than citing experience in outdoor cleaning and conducting homeless people surveys. They are commendable endeavors but unrelated to REU's in physics. Do some research, figure out how your skills and interests mesh with the advertised REU research and include that in your statement. You use a lot of space to explain how you got to like Astrophysics but very few words to describe the skills you have acquired so far. For example, you understand the importance of computation and numerical analysis but is just an understanding or do you have the necessary skills to do the analysis through computation?
 
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  • #3
kuruman said:
Did you run this by your professor who encouraged to apply? He/She knows you much better than all of us put together. Having said that, your statement doesn't explain what you will bring to the institution you are applying other than citing experience in outdoor cleaning and conducting homeless people surveys. They are commendable endeavors but unrelated to REU's in physics. Do some research, figure out how your skills and interests mesh with the advertised REU research and include that in your statement. You use a lot of space to explain how you got to like Astrophysics but very few words to describe the skills you have acquired so far. For example, you understand the importance of computation and numerical analysis but is just an understanding or do you have the necessary skills to do the analysis through computation?
Thank you! I'll make the necessary revisions.
 
  • #4
AlphaLibrae said:
Thank you! I'll make the necessary revisions.
Before you do, wait until you receive suggestions from other users unless, of course, your deadline for submission is tomorrow.
 
  • #5
I would start over.
  • Length is not a virtue.
  • Flowery language is not a virtue. If you don't talk like that don't write like that.
  • It's not a contest to see who wanted to be a scientist earliest. ("I've wanted to be a scientist since before my parents were born")
  • Why are you applying to this specific REU?
  • What do you bring to this REU? There is very little specific in there - anyone could hjave written it any and sent it to any number of REU's. (Same applies to the previous comment)
 
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  • #6
It's not that PIs don't look for desire, it's more that students tout desire itself when they lack concrete skills and accomplishments that offer proof of that desire rather than mere words.

You need to tell PIs what it is in your skills and accomplishments that make you a better bet for productive research in their group than the other applications in the pile. The other applications will have plenty of platitudes and desire also. What is different about yours?
 
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Related to How Do REUs Shape Future Astrophysicists?

1. What is an REU?

An REU, or Research Experience for Undergraduates, is a program funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) that provides undergraduate students with hands-on research experiences in various STEM fields, including physics and astrophysics.

2. How can I find REU programs in physics and astrophysics?

The NSF website has a searchable database of all current REU programs. You can also check with your university's physics or astronomy department for any specific recommendations or opportunities.

3. What are the benefits of participating in an REU in physics or astrophysics?

Participating in an REU can provide valuable research experience, allow you to work closely with faculty and graduate students, and potentially lead to publications or conference presentations. It can also give you a better understanding of what a career in physics or astrophysics may entail.

4. What are the typical requirements for applying to an REU in physics or astrophysics?

These requirements can vary depending on the specific program, but generally, applicants should be undergraduate students with a strong academic background in physics or a related field, have relevant coursework completed, and possess strong research skills and a desire to pursue a career in physics or astrophysics.

5. How can I make my application stand out for an REU in physics or astrophysics?

To make your application stand out, you should highlight your relevant coursework, research experience, and any relevant extracurricular activities or leadership positions. It can also be helpful to have strong letters of recommendation and a clear and well-written personal statement that outlines your interest in physics or astrophysics and your career goals.

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