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REU without funding

  1. Feb 6, 2012 #1
    Most of the REUs are for US citizens only. However, some of them do admit international students who are willing to fund themselves or find some external funding.

    Is it popular among international students to participate in such way? Is it much easier to be admitted because you are funding yourself? Are you somehow "treated" differently?

    What is your personal opinion whether is it worth it? For example, for a student which is planning to apply to PhD programs in the US later. It's much cheaper to do research at your own country, however, the research experience could be much better in the US, if you are from a relatively underdeveloped country, for example.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 6, 2012 #2
    I am a US student but I did something similar to this last summer. There was a professor at another university with an REU program that I wanted to work with but unfortunately they could not fund me for the summer for bureaucratic reasons (for math, they only funded their own students). So, I asked my school (which has their own REU program) if I could use the funding from the REU to work with the professor at the other school. They said yes and I was able to spend the summer at the other school without even applying for their program. It definitely felt like a sneaky back-door way in but I was treated the same as any other summer student there.
  4. Feb 15, 2012 #3
    The only issue about funding yourself is that it can quickly become very expensive to live as you will need to pay rent, food etc., and so unless you have a fair bit of money saved up it might be a struggle. Getting some form of scholarship from your home country may help (if they exist).
    If you don't have a scholarship but are instead paying out of your own pocket then this may pose some visa problems (though this is only me thinking out loud as it were - it could be absolutely fine). When I got US visas, the department I was going to (I got a couple of the REUs that allow non-US citizens - they funded me from non-NSF sources) had to tell immigration exactly how much I was being paid and i'm not sure how this would work in the case of using personal funds.

    Which field(s) are you interested in? I don't know if the closing dates have passed already, but here are the programs i know of that take non-US citizens:

    -University of Colorado LASP Solar and Space REU
    -University of Hawaii IfA REU (they have a solar physics spot for an international)
    -Montana State University Solar Physics REU
    -Kansas State University Physics REU - a range but mainly condensed matter/atomic stuff
    -Caltech LIGO Undergraduate Research program - not an REU but undergrad research in gravitational wave astronomy, with projects in both astrophysics and detector design.
    -Fermilab Internships - one of the Fermilab internships is for international students to work on various high energy physics projects.

    There are also RISE internships in Germany if you are looking for overseas work in general.

    And as for research looking better from the States, I wouldn't say that doing research in the US is necessarily better than your home country, but taking part in an overseas project does make you different from your peers and I think it gave me a broader overview of the field I want to do my PhD in.
  5. Feb 15, 2012 #4
    Why try jumping through American hoops? Don't you have enough hoops to jump through in your own country?

    There isn't an REU programme in the UK. Instead we have really tough standards for our BSc, and a really tough 'final year project'. Get a good honours BSc and you get to do a PhD in the UK. If that isn't accepted by the USA, then maybe that indicates they aren't interested in attracting international students at PhD level. Maybe they want to make sure anyone that 'comes in' is *really* good - that is, has a PhD + powerful backers.

    If you are in a small, impoverished EU country, and just can't find any mentor, then it should be a lot easier to move to a big EU country than the USA - given all the problems with the "common market" EU politicians bend over backwards to try and get Europeans working together, one major part of this is to make it really easy for students to study in other EU countries.
  6. Feb 15, 2012 #5
    Yes, but REUs offer an infrastructure (they often provide housing, bespoke summer schools, activities, you have other undergrads to spend the summer with etc.,), that you don't get by just getting in touch with a Prof you want to work with who might have some money. The only comparable European program I found was at CERN. RISE is a German program that links up students with PhD students or post-docs to work with, but the summer isn't as structured.

    This may be getting a bit off topic, but I think it is a bit naive, maybe, to think that just getting a good BSc is going to get you into a PhD program in the UK, considering the funding difficulties these days. Undergrad research experience during your summers really set you apart from your peers, particularly if it is overseas. Sure, it is not necessary to go the USA for undergrad research, but if you are keen to go there for a PhD it really does help (it is not uncommon for US undergrads to have publications and *lots* more research experience than students from the UK) and as I said above they provide an 'organised' summer. Summer research is very different than project work too, as it is full-time whereas with the project work you are juggling other classes etc., along side. I'm not saying that is necessary to have summer research to get a PhD but it certainly helps considerably - and also lets you know if you actually *like* research. I think the UK (and Europe) should really have a lot more similar programs to the REUs.
  7. Feb 15, 2012 #6
    I know of many cases, over many decades, of people who have done just that.

    Maybe in the USA it does... in the UK doing some directed reading might count for as much - if not more. Ask your mentors for advice on this... and perhaps go to the USA for a beach holiday...

    *If* you are keen to do that. But *why* would you be so keen to do that?
  8. Feb 15, 2012 #7
    I didn't say that you weren't able to get onto a PhD program without research experience, but funding is getting tighter and anything that sets you apart helps (whether that is summer research in your home dept or further afield- I only pushed the US since that was what the original poster was asking about). I would also think that hands on research might help better than directed reading since you would be reading loads of background material anyway to help understand your research (my mentors heavily encouraged me to apply for undergrad research funding in the UK and overseas), and there are lots of reasons to go the US, particularly if one of their research groups are really strong in the field that interests you

    ...but we're getting off topic....
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