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REU/anything useful after freshman year

  1. Aug 4, 2009 #1
    Hi, i'm an incoming freshman at SUNY Stony Brook. I know it might be a little early planning for my next summer, but I want to make sure i dont waste it like i did this one. I worked at a camp job and watched the Lewin lectures on freshman physics (to supplement AP physics) and the MIT lectures on Multivariable Calculus. Now, the job did help with money and the lectures will help with the classes, but its nothing i can really put on an application for a physics major.
    I was looking at REUs, and they appeared perfect. I would get paid more than i do now, they would provide housing, and best of all, i get to work on physics research over the summer. However, it appears like a lot of them prefer sophomores and juniors, and as of now I have no research experience to speak of, although i'll try to fix that in college. In terms of physics courses, first semester i'll be taking Physics B (an intro course on waves, fluids, thermodynamics, motion of rigid bodies), but next semester I'll be taking two sophomore physics classes, PHY 251 (modern physics and lab) and 277 (where I'll be learning C+++ or fortran 90), and maybe an intro to chemistry or an intro to astronomy. I'm hoping the knowledge of computer languages will make me more marketable.

    If anyone has info on an REU that targets freshman or that they've had good experience with, any help would be appreciated. I looked at the NSFs website for a list of REUs, but they dont have a complete list (they didnt include some colleges like boston college). I'd be willing to look beyond REUs to any internships or programs, but obviously an REU would be preferable.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 4, 2009 #2
    I think if you are freshman, then best (and easiest) way to get research exp. is to ask the profs in your department whether they can offer you a job.
  4. Aug 4, 2009 #3
    Note that I have not done a REU, however this is what I have gathered from friends that have.

    It seems like the most important things for the app is physics/math courses completed and letters of references. Also depending on the REU, programming languages.

    Unfortunately, as a freshman this limits you a bit. The best LORs would come from a professor/PI who you have done research with. Also the amount of physics and math classes you would have completed is minimal.

    Good luck.
  5. Aug 4, 2009 #4


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    I also recommend getting a job with one of your professors over the summer. Some colleges have unofficial 'pre-REU' programs where they can set you up with a prof at your school or a nearby one to do research, often paid. This is great experience for getting an REU the next year - I did one of these at a local university after my freshman year of college. I went in with only intro physics and astronomy courses, but I learned a lot and got into 5 REU programs the next summer with that experience. And take a programming class! Most REUs will require some degree of computer knowledge, and they'd rather not have to teach you all of it.
  6. Aug 4, 2009 #5
    Welcome from a fellow Stony Brook student and someone who just completed an REU!
    An REU is a great experience and I would make every effort to get into one. You can certainly get into an REU as a freshmen, although it is very difficult. I know someone who got into Texas A&M's program as a freshmen and had a great time. I can't say I know of any others of the top of my head. Your best bet will be to go through the list on the NSF website and essentially apply to all the ones you are qualified for.
    A tip for admission--being in an REU I have learned the importance of letters of recommendations. It is perhaps the most important aspect of your application. Get to know some professors at SB. In fact, the math faculty are probably my favorite part of SB. Professors are very knowledgeable, but still approachable.
    Good luck!
  7. Aug 5, 2009 #6
    Remember to diversify. The NSF REUs are great, no doubt, but I'm doing a kind of REU-equivalent in England right now. There's always international programs to do summer research that you get paid for. And yes, housing and travel costs are usually covered.

    But yeah get involved in research early. You definitely need programming experience in some form or another and definitely need to take courses relevant to whatever REU you want. Of course, there are elements of randomness involved and you may wind up not getting the REU despite perfect qualifications.

    Research done, coursework, labwork (sometimes people forget to market what they've learned in lab, that can probably rate as high as coursework, if not moreso), programming experience, letters of recommendation. I'd probably rank them in terms of importance like that.
  8. Aug 5, 2009 #7


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    Is that the summer research position at UCL? I heard about that, and it seems to be one of a kind over here...
  9. Aug 5, 2009 #8
    Thanks for the advice and the help. I figured it would be tough to get into an REU (i did find another program run by the Department of Energy called SULI) but that's probably just as tough. Believe me, I'll be trying to contact some professors for research, for the summer like a pre-REU or for the spring semester once i get settled in. Meh, either way I guess I'll have a bunch of applications and contacting to do.
    I'll be honest, I find it a little odd being a freshman and having to ask for LORs again (i dealt with some a**es in HS) especially since none of the professors will know me that well. I doubt i'm the only one dealing with this and definitely not the first but its still a little odd. Either way, thanks again
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