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Is it bad to not do an REU?

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Main Question or Discussion Point

So I've been apart of a research group for the ~1.5 years and am in the process of getting a paper published although I'll be 2nd or 3rd author. How much does it impact me if I don't do an REU? I'm currently a 3rd year student and I plan on graduating in 4 years.
 

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  • #2
Choppy
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Impact with respect to what exactly?

For things like graduate school admissions, making decisions about what fields to pursue, or just general experience building, the point is to get *some* research experience. Whether that comes from working with a local research group, an REU, a senior thesis project, or some other means doesn't matter all that much.

For what it's worth, as an undergrad doing work in a group where you're getting a publication is about as good as it gets. If you enjoy the work, are learning from doing it, and there are continuing possibilities for more publications, I'd certainly stick with it. I would only change if you really feel the need to explore other options, have decided you want to go into another area for graduate school, don't like the group, or don't feel like you're learning anything.
 
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Dr. Courtney
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Impact with respect to what exactly?

For things like graduate school admissions, making decisions about what fields to pursue, or just general experience building, the point is to get *some* research experience. Whether that comes from working with a local research group, an REU, a senior thesis project, or some other means doesn't matter all that much.

For what it's worth, as an undergrad doing work in a group where you're getting a publication is about as good as it gets. If you enjoy the work, are learning from doing it, and there are continuing possibilities for more publications, I'd certainly stick with it. I would only change if you really feel the need to explore other options, have decided you want to go into another area for graduate school, don't like the group, or don't feel like you're learning anything.
Opportunities for productive work in a short time are likely to be better after 1.5 years than shorter term opportunities like internships and REUs. I often counsel undergrads to stay at their home institutions and pursue research over the summer rather than chasing every external possibility that comes along. I recommend that external opportunities should be in a completely different league to lure students away from good research at their home institutions.
 
  • #4
radium
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REUs are good in the sense that you get to see another institution and can get a letter from someone outside of your school. However, they are only ten weeks long, so it is hard to get anything significant done. If you are already having a lot of success in your current group, then you shouldn't feel the need to do an REU, although it can be a nice experience. For example, I stayed at my institution for two full summers (I also worked in the same group during the year starting the second half of my sophomore year), stayed for a few weeks in the third summer and the remainder at an REU, which I chose to go to since the specific research I did was a great opportunity.
 
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Dr. Courtney
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REUs are good in the sense that you get to see another institution and can get a letter from someone outside of your school. However, they are only ten weeks long, so it is hard to get anything significant done. If you are already having a lot of success in your current group, then you shouldn't feel the need to do an REU, although it can be a nice experience. For example, I stayed at my institution for two full summers (I also worked in the same group during the year starting the second half of my sophomore year), stayed for a few weeks in the third summer and the remainder at an REU, which I chose to go to since the specific research I did was a great opportunity.
One possible advantage of summer opportunities outside the home institution is that if you are really good (I mean REALLY GOOD), there is a chance to maintain employment from a distance when back at your home institution as well as a chance to return in future semesters and years.

One student we mentored a few years ago (while she was in high school) did a summer lab gig at an institution much more prestigious than her home institution. She so impressed them, that they are paying her (very well) to keep analyzing their data from a distance as her ongoing research job even while continuing to work on her degree at her home institution. I bet they'll do backflips to bring her back next summer and also try and get her there for a regular semester also.
 

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