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REU or research with professor

  1. Sep 19, 2010 #1
    Which would you recommend in general?

    (1) Doing mathematics research with a professor more or less one-on-one over a summer or
    (2) doing a traditional mathematics REU, of which I've already done one.

    I ask because my favorite teacher at my school has been giving me some research-level problems to work on over the semester, and it has occurred to me that he may accept a request to mentor me over next summer provided he doesn't leave the country.

    I know there are lots of details missing. I'm just hoping to get a general impression of what's thought about this, and it may be an interesting question for others as well for whom the details differ but the general question is the same.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 19, 2010 #2
    I'm in the same boat and am leaning toward (2) because....

    -In my experience, what you'll work on with your professor one on one will be MUCH more interesting and elegant than anything that most REU's can offer.

    -I've always sort of viewed an REU as a stepping stone toward number (2).

    -More freedom in (2) and although an REU is a taste of the research experience, working with a professor one on one for any length of time seems much more like what "real" research is like.

    -Getting to know a professor in this regard is generally a good thing (LOR's, etc.)

    Again, these are just my opinions based off my experience, and I too am interested in hearing what others say.
  4. Sep 19, 2010 #3
    One thing to keep in mind is that REU's expect a paper by the end of the summer. If not, that's that, whereas with a professor you can continue with a bigger problem over a longer period of time. REU's, by nature, can't really be too difficult or unique because you have to be done by the end of the summer. I'd say if you have a professor willing to let you do research with him, take that chance.
  5. Sep 19, 2010 #4


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    I'd say they are about equivalent for grad school applications and overall experience. Funny, the schools I've attended saw research with a professor as a stepping stone to a REU instead of the other way around, and the REUs I've been in and supervised lead to publications much more often than the individual research projects, which were often less directed and the students put much less time into it.
  6. Sep 19, 2010 #5
    Interesting. You're talking about math REU's right? What about the quality of these papers? The REU I've done is well known for pumping out alot of papers. Some of them are quite good but most of them are just alright. My (perhaps incorrect) assumption was that working with a professor all summer one on one would lead to a higher quality paper provided one is capable of producing such a paper in the first place.
  7. Sep 19, 2010 #6
    REU? Hm, we don't even have that in Belgium, lucky :)
  8. Sep 19, 2010 #7


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    Sorry, no, these were physics/astrophysics. But I doubt there's much of a difference at least in the theory ones (not the observational ones). In physics it's still possible to finish a good, short project.

    The REU program is funded by the NSF in the US, so it's a US-only program for US citizens. Other countries have similar programs but don't call it the same thing.
  9. Sep 19, 2010 #8
    Well if they have it in Belgium, they're hiding it goddarned well :(
  10. Sep 19, 2010 #9
    You probably have some institutes doing physics research in Belgium, right? Look them up and send them e-mails. It may well be the case that there aren't any "widely-advertised" openings, such as REUs in the US, but that doesn't mean undergrad students can't do research. Perhaps there is even an institute that collaborates heavily with your university and takes on students to do some of the work and to learn. This is all guesswork on my part, but I know that where I lived it was done this way, so it may be the same in Belgium. I think it's a direction you should consider looking in even if this isn't exactly the case.
  11. Sep 22, 2010 #10


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    @Newtime: I think you interchanged (1) and (2) :P
  12. Sep 22, 2010 #11
    Woops. Good catch. At least the meaning wasn't lost.
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