Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

REU Question

  1. Sep 14, 2008 #1
    In the spring, I'll be graduating with a math degree from one university, I'm still continuing my undergraduate education next fall to get a physics degree (and/or to do premed studies) at another university.

    So basically, I'm going to be a graduate in limbo between two universities during the summer.

    I'm wondering if it will be possible for me to get into any REUs in this situation? I think with a physics minor I've got enough physics education on my belt to do one, but I'm not sure if I qualify since I won't exactly be "in" any undergraduate programs during the summer. I'll be leaving one in the spring, and starting another one in the fall. I know these things are intended for undergraduates, and I'm going to be a graduate who is... still an undergraduate. But not quite yet taking classes for my next degree.

    I'd really like to do something with the next summer that's not working at K-Mart or something like that. I also really want to get a taste for the physics research environment and see if it's something I'd really like to do, which would help me decide between pursuing a career in physics or in medicine.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 14, 2008 #2

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2017 Award

    If you have a degree, you've graduated, and are no longer an undergraduate. Sorry.
  4. Sep 14, 2008 #3
    Well, wow, okay. Would that go for after, say, a year after I've been going to the next university as well, where I would be in the middle of getting another degree?

    If it's the case that I can't ever get into any REU's because I have a degree, I'm either going to have to deliberately not graduate, or dash any aspirations of pursuing a career as a scientist, because it is my understanding that undergraduate research is almost absolutely necessary to get into a good grad school.

    And what a ****ing shame either of those options would be.
  5. Sep 14, 2008 #4

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2017 Award

    Like I said:

    REU's are not the only way to do research. It's not true that research is almost absolutely necessary to get into a good grad school. And finally, you had a chance to participate in an REU as a math undergrad. Don't other students deserve their chances?
  6. Sep 14, 2008 #5


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    I am not sure if you would be eligible for an REU, but not all is lost if your not. Research Experience does not need to be in an REU program. Do you have any opportunities and either one of your home institutions? Have you talked to any of the professors at your own school to see if they have anything you could work on?
  7. Sep 14, 2008 #6
    Of course they do, but I see no reason why I couldn't as well, seeing as how I'm still pursuing a bachelor's, and would still be, for all intents and purposes, an undergrad. If I was a grad student, or looking to begin a career, it would be different, as there would be many other opportunities to make up for it, but that's simply not the case. And I could understand if they would turn me down for that summer during which I am transferring, as I wouldn't have a university to say I am "currently" attending, but I didn't expect that I would lose these opportunities... forever. The absurd part is that I could, theoretically, choose not to graduate and be perfectly eligible for REU's, while still having the same level of education, so what it comes down to is some technicalities and bureaucracy that I honestly hoped the scientific community was above.

    I wonder if physics REU's would turn me down if I had an English degree?

    I don't know, I probably should have got involved a little earlier on, but I didn't. My bad. What's done is done. For the better half of my college education I knew very little about them or their existence, let alone how important they are for grad school application. When I finally did learn about them, I changed my major, I decided I could put them off another year and stick around home for the summer, since I knew I would eventually come back to finish that physics degree. It was a silly mistake, but I don't think it's a reason for me to miss out on the opportunities. But alas, my bitching about it here isn't doing me any good.

    I suppose there are, but missing out on all of those opportunities just because I wanted to finish this degree (no sense in stopping when I was so close) is heartbreaking. It seems that the vast majority of research available to undergrads is, well, precisely REUs (albeit, undergrads who don't have any degrees). I will otherwise have to dig pretty deep, or create my own opportunities. Which can be done, I suppose.

    My current university... well, let's just say there's a reason why I'm transferring for a physics degree. There's simply not going to be any opportunity here. Perhaps at one of the potential schools I may transfer to will (mostly looking at University of Minnesota or Chicago).

    But I'm going to talk to some people, send some emails out, whatever, to find out what I can. And I'm not quite ready to take Vanadium's word for it that REU's are out of the question (no offense, but as far as I know, you are just one dude on the internet, and this is just the nature of the skeptic; if there was a large number of people that agreed, I'd be a little more willing to take your word for it, but nevertheless, what you do tell me is very alarming, as you can tell from the subtly panicked tone with which I type, and will require me to look into it further); I still can't find anything official regarding my particular situation. If worse comes to worse, I would consider abandoning my math degree. Physics is that important to me. The thought of it makes me sick to my stomach, and I'm sure I'd get some frowns from other people later down the road for doing so (ironically, they would be frowns from the same people who created the system which would force me to do so). I stuck around for one more year because, hey, it's one more year, and I could get a math degree, which would be a great symbolic accomplishment for me since I was a failure in math in high school. Why the hell not?

    Ahh. REUs. That's why.

    Ahh, **** it. I'm not going to abandon my math degree over this. Whatever happens, happens.
  8. Sep 15, 2008 #7


    User Avatar


    The way it is worded there means the decision could probably go either way and would be up to the REU site to decide. A lot of undergrads do research work at their home universities as a lab assistant. If you're planning on getting another degree at another university, you'll have time to find some lab to work in before you graduate.
  9. Sep 15, 2008 #8
    If you don't mind going abroad, go to www.daad.org. Then find the RISE program (it stands for Research for Scientists and Engineers). They have a RISE program for undergraduates and one called RISE professional for new graduates. They send you to Germany to do an internship. I did this one summer in medical physics and it was great (plus you get to go to Germany, practically for no cost - you have to pay, but then they give you a stipend, so I broke even :)). They have internships in a number of different science areas - don't know that they'll have a math research project in your field, but if all else fails, you can probably do something similar.

    Another option is to check out NASA. Last summer I interned there and a number of the other interns were people who'd just graduated. Again, it was physics, I don't know that there'd be something mathematical enough for your tastes, but we had a few mathematicians in the group.

    Good luck!
  10. Sep 15, 2008 #9
    Thanks for the replies, guys.

    Thanks for the link. That's exactly something I needed, something straight from the NSF.

    Yeah, seems to be at the discretion of the specific REUs. As far as the NSF is concerned, it seems I just need to be enrolled in a degree program, which I will be, regardless of whether or not you have a degree. Though this summer is probably a no-go. Won't hurt to see what opportunities there are, of course.

    Oh, that's no worry. Remember, I'm not looking to be a mathematician (I never really was), I'm looking to be a physicist. It's just that I got so close to a math degree that it would be silly to not finish it. Plus, you know, there's the whole wanting to show the world that I can do this, in spite of having a really bad start. And I think I was originally going to double-major, anyway.

    I like math, but I prefer physics... for a variety of reasons.

    Anyway, thanks for the info. Doing some research abroad is not a bad idea at all... That's something I will look into.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook