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Which REU program/ grad school application

  1. Feb 16, 2012 #1

    I am a sophomore physics and mathematics double major, and I plan to attend graduate school for physics with a concentration in biophysics, or just biophysics. However, this is subject to change, as I find a lot of areas of physics interesting.
    I was recently accepted to two REU programs and I cannot choose between them. My main focus is honestly what will give me the biggest benefit for getting accepted to my top choice graduate schools (whatever they might be when I decide). Both programs are equally interesting to me otherwise. Here are the pros of each:

    REU 1:
    -It's international, either in Japan or the Netherlands (the program hasn't place me yet).
    -I will be working with biophysics and nanotechnology, which is consistent with what I researched last summer (and I've heard consistency is a plus when applying for grad school and NSF grants).

    REU 2:
    -Research is in high-energy/accelerator/particle physics, which I am also really interested in, but haven't had experience with before (that's fine, but again with the idea of "consistency")
    -The REU is at Cornell University, which I am DEFINITELY considering applying to for graduate school, so I would really love to get to know the professors and be familiar with their research.

    I would greatly appreciate any advice, so thank you very much in advance!
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 16, 2012 #2


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    I would be doing cartwheels if I got into EITHER of those programs right now as a sophomore. Both programs look great and will look great on resumes, so don't have that be your deciding factor. I'd just go with the one that looks the most interesting and where you'd be doing the best work. Read about their research and look through their websites to see what past students have accomplished in the program. I also applied to Cornell, maybe I'll meet you there, but if they've already sent out acceptances, I'm not too optimistic. :( Congrats to you though!
  4. Feb 16, 2012 #3
    D: I applied to Cornell too... I am kind of sad they haven't emailed me now, knowing they're accepting.

    To the OP: Good luck in attending wherever you choose! I would suggest asking you adviser if you can for their advice. The problem with international programs is that I can see them potentially being in less reputable schools. Not necessarily bad places, but if you go to a college nobody knows then it could be less of a factor in your application. Unless you do awesome research there, of course ^^.

    I would suggest you consider the Cornell REU, but I'm saying this from my perspective of *wanting* to diversifying my research, you may see things very differently.

    Again, good luck :P hopefully I get a spot at Cornell myself (not likely though)
  5. Feb 16, 2012 #4
    Just a fellow undergraduate's thoughts on the matter....
    Never underestimate the power of personal connections. I know a few people who have gotten accepted to certain prestigious institutions, partly because they were very good students, but also because they had internships at those places. Having an REU is great on an app, but having one that you did at the school you're applying is a huge plus. Also, it will look good for any other school you apply to, since Cornell is very high in the rankings.

    As you can see, the focus is prestige and your application strength for graduate school. I think this is more important than the actual research you do (as long as it's physics) because most people don't have the opportunity to do research in the specific field they want to work in when they go to graduate school. Admissions committees know this, so the research content isn't hugely relevant (and if you try to play the game of fitting your interests to a certain department from now, you'll lose because you can't tell the future (in terms of funding, faculty availability/interests, etc.) and it will only be a disappointment).
  6. Feb 17, 2012 #5


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    Cornell seems to have the edge here (not just because I'm from there!) for two reasons:

    1) Diversification is good. That's really the point of your undergraduate curriculum and research, to try out different fields and figure out what you want to study. So unless you know for certain that you want to study biophysics in graduate school, I would place heavy weight on experiencing new branches of physics.

    2) As mentioned, Cornell is quite a renowned program. The professors and researchers here have a lot of connections within their fields, and that really helps when they're writing letters of recommendation.

    Plus, you get to experience Ithaca during its nice few months out of the year :)
  7. Feb 17, 2012 #6
    Wow, thanks for all of the responses. All of you have really great points, and this has helped a lot. I feel like I might be leaning towards the Cornell REU now, but I'll try to inquire about my specific projects before I decide anything. Thanks again, and best of luck to those applying to REUs! Don't worry about it too much, Cornell probably isn't even done finalizing their list. I'm sure everything will work out just fine, and you'll end up working with something awesome this summer (:
  8. Feb 17, 2012 #7
    Don't think that just because an REU is at a good school that it is a good REU. The math REU at Duluth in Minnesota is incredibly competetive yet at an unknown school. On the other hand, I personally did the Cornell REU awhile back and the quality of people/research was significantly lower than the other REU I did. So be wary..
  9. Mar 12, 2012 #8
    Waiting to hear back from LIGO, Princeton and Montana State.
    Those were pretty much the only programs I could find that consider int'l students. Kinda worried since it's already mid-March and I haven't heard from anyone yet, though I know the selection process at Princeton might continue until late April. Anyone got into one of these already?
  10. Mar 12, 2012 #9
    Come to Cornell because I will be at their REU program as well and we can meet one another! Despite common first impressions I seem to give people, I am indeed a sociable person, at least in the correct context. :smile:

    Honestly though, I have heard many times that, at this point in your undergraduate career, it matters less where you do an REU and more that you did one. If you are more interested in going abroad than going to New York I would recommend you take that course of action. These undergraduate research programs are all well-funded, and faculty everywhere have become of such high average quality that I get the impression it hardly matters where you go in terms of whether or not you will receive a high-quality experience.

    Of course, as my above text reveals, I am but a wee undergraduate myself, and you may well be better off taking advice from people who are further down the line career-wise than I.
  11. Mar 13, 2012 #10
    thanks for the advice! I actually already accepted the international one though ): but I hope you have an awesome time at cornell! and I think I agree about what you said, that the program matters less than the reu in general, so that makes me feel a little better.
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