1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

How likely is it for one to get into a REU program?

  1. Dec 4, 2006 #1
    Hi, I'm currently an undergrad freshman in some university. I think I should be applying to REU programs right now...well I just got a couple of questions:

    1. how likely is it for a freshman to get into a research opportunity?

    I am probably above average Joe, i am taking some second year class right now, but I'm no Ivy league genius...just an above average guy who likes physics. Also, I don't have any prior experience except a math summer program I took when I was a junior (in high school), and neither do I have great skills in computer programming (I only know a tiny bit of java). Furthermore, I'm not a minority (well, I'm an Asian, I guess that doesn't count as minority in the field of physics), and neither am I a female... Despite all these, is there any chance that I can get into a REU program?

    2. how many should I apply to? are some programs more competitive than others?

    I checked out the REU websites about physics research programs... I looked over some programs from Cornell and Calc tech and they seem very demanding and competitive...Maybe I should be looking for ones that "feel" less intimidating?

    3. As for recommendations, so far I can only get one from my Calc techer (we often discuss math problems/theorems after class)...I can probably get one more from my Physics TA, but that's about it...my physics professors do not really know me...So, is that going to be a problem?

    Thank you for your time reading my posts. I am just really worried about getting good experiences for my future physics career.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2006
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 4, 2006 #2
    you're best chance of getting an reu is to show you're capable of doing quality research, so you should look to do some research on-campus with one of your professors. it wouldn't hurt to apply for an reu this summer, but chances are they will goto people who already have experience doing research.
  4. Dec 4, 2006 #3
    Well I don't know about Caltech, but there were definitely a few freshman in my REU at Cornell (Materials Science). As far as I know they all had research experience, though. I had a little research experience, but it was in no way related to Materials Science. I was a junior at the time though, so I had a more options in the way of recommendations. Might as well apply to some if you have the time and your recommenders don't mind printing out a few copies of their letters. I definitely ran into some people on their second or even third REU, so it can't be that unusual for freshmen to get them. Good luck!
  5. Dec 5, 2006 #4
    thx for the apply... I did try to get some on-campus experiences (asked my professors)... my physics professor says he asks his faculty members but there is not a reply yet. Well, my guess is they probably don't need a freshman...
  6. Dec 6, 2006 #5
    Actually, I'd think getting someone to work in their lab EARLY would be an asset (they aren't training you just to have you graduate). I'd suggest talking to faculty members yourself... particularly one of YOUR professors that you had for class and really liked as an instructor.

    One question: Probably right now you just don't even have an ACADEMIC record... have your term grades even come out? A thought that after they do, then you can prove that you could handle classes, and someone might be more willing to take you on in their lab...
  7. Dec 6, 2006 #6
    I'm almost in the same boat, at least in terms of recommendations. One of them will be from my research adviser (been doing research for one semester). The other one is from my PDE math professor, who is probably the most able to judge my academic standing. Will it hurt me to get a recommendation from a math professor rather than a physics professor? I'm a junior, by the way.

    Sorry for hi-jacking the post.

    -Alex W.
  8. Dec 6, 2006 #7
    Thank you for all the replies.

    I haven't got my grades yet, but I do have a solid 4.0 GPA on all math/physics (so far at least, except my writing class which I am getting B's). I really hope for some opportunity about some research during the winter break (so that I can get a better shot in REU)...So, a GPA alone may get me some chances as you suggest? I have already asked the professors who are currently teaching me...but neither needs any assistance. So, should I be trying to find professors who I don't know?

    I'm also curious to know if letting a math professor to write me a recommendation (instead of a physics professor) may affect my application to REU.
  9. Dec 7, 2006 #8
    Bumping the thread.
  10. Dec 7, 2006 #9
    It's good that you have the solid GPA to talk about when looking for positions. :biggrin: Did you ask the professors who declined you if they could think of anyone? ...Even if they could think of collegues at other institutions who perhaps who work with REU students (getting in inside loop might be possible)?

    If it seems like you are having difficulty getting research at your own institution :grumpy: , it MIGHT be also helpful to mention that in an application for an REU spot (since I'd imagine the purpose of REU's is for students to GET research experience).

    How many letters do the REU applications need? 2, 3? I'd say getting a strong recomendation from a math professor would be better than getting a weaker one from a physicist... but if you need two or more, maybe make the other ones physics.

    Some other randomness... could you put together a small CV for perspective positions, showing the courses you're taking (with anticipated grades, maybe some awards in science from HS, maybe some special interests -- like fixing cars or building airplanes). Along these lines... does your department have a machine/lathe shop? Getting some training in machining is useful to seeking a research position (in experimental projects).

    Then -- could you also do some work in the math department? Or another science department? I didn't start research until my sophomore year -- and that was in chemistry. I later switched to a project in physics.

    Good luck! :biggrin:
  11. Dec 10, 2006 #10
    Any joe blow can get an REU at a state univserity. I know plent of freshman with 2.x's who just applied at a few places and were chosen for many. People act like it is difficult, but it is not.
  12. Dec 10, 2006 #11
    really? any average Joe? freshmen with 2.x GPA's? really?!? do you know what programs they applied to? what university and is it physics research or some other subjects?
  13. Dec 18, 2006 #12
    I had a friend who receive average grades in physics but interned at Los Alamos labs studying ultra cold atoms in his senior year. He told me he just went up to a professor and asked if he needed a research assistant
  14. Dec 18, 2006 #13
    It really depends on the University. Here at University of Calgary, just about everybody does undergraduate research. But I've heard at some places only the smartest people get to do it.
  15. Dec 18, 2006 #14


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    as my friend told me when i pondered applying for an nsf postdoc "one thing for sure, if you don't apply you will definitely NOT get it."

    i applied, and unlikely though it seemed, i got it.
  16. Jan 15, 2007 #15
    Hmm, that's interesting. Here in Canada, most of them require a 3.0 GPA before they even consider the application.

    In what tier are the schools that accept GPAs around 3.3 for REU? (Examples?)
  17. Jan 16, 2007 #16
    Do any of you know how hard it is to get an internship if you have no previous research experience or programming experience? I am a sophomore, and I have a good GPA, but will that be enough to get me an internship? I really want one because it sure beats working in a kitchen.
  18. Jan 22, 2007 #17
    Does anyone have an opinion?
  19. Jan 22, 2007 #18
    Potentially very difficult... though it really depends on where you apply. If by internship you mean REU, then that might be different. REU is pretty much designed for undergrads to get their first research experience. Of course there will be many people with experience but not all will.
  20. Jan 22, 2007 #19
    Oh ok, thank you. I meant REU. I am applying to around 15 internships, most of them REU, but one in Germany. So I'll see if I have any luck. Thanks again.
  21. Feb 5, 2007 #20
    I applied to five of these last year as junior and went 0 for 5, I only had like a 3.2 gpa though.
  22. Feb 6, 2007 #21
    I've applied to about 6 of those this year........ I didn't want my professors to send out too many recommendations...

    I'm quite anxious and worried now... but what else could I have done? hopefully I'll get into at least one of them! otherwise... I don't know what I am going to do over the summer.
  23. Feb 6, 2007 #22
    I applied to over 15...
  24. Feb 6, 2007 #23
    Btw, to give an idea, I applied to an REU at Ohio State last year and didn't get an offer, but got accepted to their Ph.D. program for next year (I did have a semester of good grades and months of solid research work/decent GRE score since then).
    Those of you applying to many are probably doing the right thing - it is a huge lottery and I know of students with horrible GPA/hardly any research/etc. who got work at a top lab, and students that I would be consider "elite" who had problems finding one. Also, they say it is really tough for non-juniors. Grad school is actually the same way from what I hear, so get those credit cards/trust funds ready and apply to as many as you can.
    Honestly I am glad I didn't get into an REU - I paid out of my own $ (which does suck) to stay around and work at my home school over the semester and did tons of work on a project in optics that involved just me and one professor. I didn't get to work on a "cutting-edge" type project but I learned a much bigger variety of skills since most of the work I did was independent and I had to learn all aspects of the project. Timewise it was nice also, I usually worked 4-6 hours a day during the week which is a nice pace that left me time to study for the GRE and make $ playing poker.
    The REU is great for the 4 grand and real experience, it looks great on a resume, and is way better than some crap summer job, but it might be a little overrated.
  25. Feb 6, 2007 #24
    yeah... doesn't it suck to get rejected all the time? there are just wayyyy too many smart people in the world.....
  26. Feb 6, 2007 #25
    i applied to 6 or 7 mathematics REU programs, hoping i get accepted into them. although at this point, i'm not too sure if i'm going to attend if i even get in, partially because i would really like to take time off and travel, on whatever limited funds i have.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook