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How necessary is it for a ugrad to publish during a summer REU?

  1. Mar 10, 2007 #1
    I started an REU a Wayne State Univ at their Smart Sensors and Integrated Microsystems lab in the middle of January. Since then I have only been working there 10 hours a week. So far, it doesn't looks like I will even be getting started on any particular research project there any time soon. The reason for this is the experimental equipment used in this particular field is very expensive and there's just a ton of stuff to learn before I will be able to use it on my own. I am working with a professor that is growing Aluminum Nitride thin films by plasma source molecular beam epitaxy.

    Everyone keeps telling me to publish, publish, publish, but I don't feel this is will be the outcome of my experience there. Most of the time I am reading the literature and the manuals for a lot of the equipment. I am also just following my research advisor around all day and he explains the stuff to me. Sometimes he will ask me to calibrate some equipment, but usually I just follow him around and ask him questions. Perhaps since this is a longer term REU (part time in the spring 07, full time in the summer, and part time in the fall 07) they are just trying to get me fully trained before they give me a project, as opposed to other REUs where you are kinda just thrown into a jroject knowing next to nothing.

    I am giving a presentation on reflection high energy electron diffraction to the department in a few weeks, but this will not be on any original work. It will just be an overview of the topic based on what I have read in textbooks and the literature.

    Is this typical of some REUs? At least I am learning a lot of stuff, as opposed to just cleaning glassware or something like a lot of REUs are stuck doing, but I am not publishing. I am trying to get experience that will give me a competitive edge when applying to grad schools, and I just want to know if I am getting that.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 10, 2007 #2
  4. Mar 10, 2007 #3


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    If you're giving a presentation to the department, then I'd say that was pretty good experience!

    I don't know what an REU is though, so I can't comment on the questions like "is this typical of an REU?"
  5. Mar 10, 2007 #4
    REU stands for research experience for undergraduates
  6. Mar 11, 2007 #5
    i'm unaware of anyone publishing as a result of work performed during an REU.

    (then again, i was unaware of anyone doing an REU during the school year.)
  7. Mar 12, 2007 #6
    If any work you manage to produce is new and worth of publication, I'm sure your project supervisor will be happy to tell you. Otherwise, the learning experience is invaluable anyway - most people are thankful to have the chance to cover research experience at all in undergrad.
  8. Mar 12, 2007 #7
    Having participated in a number of REUs and REU-like programs in my undergraduate career, I would say that the majority of REUs do not lead to peer-reviewed publications--none of mine did--and that's fine. You're still learning a lot about your research topic in particular and the process of scientific research in general, and the experience will still strengthen your graduate school applications. Even with relatively mediocre grades and no publications to my name, I was able to get some pretty competitive scholarships (most notably the Goldwater Scholarship: http://www.act.org/goldwater/) and into some pretty competitive schools (including the University of Michigan, where I am currently finishin up my PhD in electrical engineering), and I think having a lot of research experience definitely helped my cause.

    That said, if you do manage to work on something publication-worthy (which does occasionally happen through REUs), I definitely encourage you to get any sort of authorship credit that you can. Having your name on a peer-reviewed publication will definitely give you competitive edge in applying to graduate schools.
  9. Mar 12, 2007 #8

    Thanks for the advice. This is good to hear.
  10. Mar 12, 2007 #9

    Thanks for the advice.
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