Getting into an REU

markl
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Getting into an REU

Postby markl » Sat Mar 07, 2009 4:04 pm

Successful graduate applicants please advice me with your finite yet extensive wisdom:

I want to get an REU, how do i do this, are they hard to get into?

Obviously I'm a bit late for this year but I want to start working on stuff now that will make me stand out for one next year. I'd like to do it in astronomy or similar but any field is fine. I have solid programming skills(former CS major) and a good GPA at my current school. I have a dodgy academic past(before settling into my current school), but hopefully that won't even come up for REU's. What else can I do to look good and be competitive for a good REU next year?

Also, I should note my school has no Astronomy research available and very little in the way of physics either, its a pretty crappy school. Will that actually help me? Maybe they will pity me?

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quizivex
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Re: Getting into an REU

Postby quizivex » Sat Mar 07, 2009 4:24 pm

I've written a handful of posts on REUs and so have a few other users, so you may find some good info by searching the forum. The most important thing to know is, lol, yes they are very hard to get into, even at the least recognized schools...

quizivex wrote:4) About REUs, it's natural to worry whether your success with REU applications is a precursor to your success with grad school apps, but it absolutely isn't! Every time someone brings this up, I share the following because I don't want people to get demoralized. Most of the good students here and elsewhere have had horrible sucecss rates with REUs, but did quite well with GS apps. I always laugh at the fact that I was rejected by REU programs at Wright State University (never heard of them until I applied), University of Nevada at Last Vegas ($$$haha$$$) and Lehigh (who?), but was later accepted to grad programs at Caltech, Stanford and Princeton....

Here are the basic reasons why REUs are so much harder...

---There are typically only 8-10 REU spots available, which is usually less than the size of the entering graduate class at the schools that host these programs. And there are far fewer REU sites than physics grad programs. This is offset a bit by the fact that internationals can't apply to REUs, but there are still fewer spots per domestic applicant in REUs than in G.S.

----NSF is obsessed with diversity, so over half the spots at a typical REU (Ex. 1, Ex. 2, Ex. 3) are allotted to women and underrepresented minorities. Thus, white males are at a huge disadvantage. (Graduate programs also like diversity, but they usually don't take it to extremes... I doubt the student at my REU program who had a 2.7 GPA is at grad school right now. )

---At the time students apply to REUs, middle soph or junior year, there is an infinite supply of ~4.0 students with research experience and there is no way to distinguish between them since we haven't taken the GRE or many advanced courses yet. By senior year, grad programs have much more info to distinguish among the "good" students.

---Connections sometimes play a big part in REU admissions, whether it's the student having prior communication with a prof at the program, or the prof knowing his recommender.

---The goal of some programs is give research opportunities to students who haven't had them before. Others want to bring in students who they can extract the most benefit out of in the lab. Thus, they're either bringing in the overachievers who've been doing research since high school and already have publications before junior year, or they're focusing on students from places like liberal arts schools that don't have research.

Thus overall, the typical white male student with good grades and just decent research experience is facing ridiculous odds and should apply to as many programs as possible to maximize their chance of getting in somewhere. I applied to I think 9 and was accepted to 2 and rejected by 8... (U of Oklahoma sent me both an acceptance e-mail and a rejection letter). However, I was a soph the year I applied and a few of the rejection letters insinuated they give preference to juniors, so maybe I would've done better the next year.


markl wrote:Also, I should note my school has no Astronomy research available and very little in the way of physics either, its a pretty crappy school. Will that actually help me? Maybe they will pity me?
So yea as I said, many of the programs like to bring in good students who haven't had the chance for formal research at their school. So if you (and your recommenders) make it clear that you can't get any exposure to astronomy at your program but are very interested in the subject, that should work in your favor. But many still expect to see prior research experience (especially since so many of their applicants have it), so try to have some research background in something... pure physics or CS... That way you'll have both sides covered.

Besides that, just apply to as many programs as you can, especially any in which your recommenders have close colleagues. (You can find a comprehensive list of programs on the NSF website each year.) And of course make sure your resume gets as strong as possible by then (which you should be doing anyway lol).

Good luck.

markl
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Re: Getting into an REU

Postby markl » Sat Mar 07, 2009 4:28 pm

What can I really do to improve my resume academically, besides doing as well as possible in my classes? I can try to see if I can do anything research wise at my school I suppose, but like I said I'm doubting if there is much opportunity there even in regular physics.

activegalaxybuff
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Re: Getting into an REU

Postby activegalaxybuff » Sat Mar 07, 2009 11:25 pm

Don't limit yourself to just REUs!!! There's tons of other stuff out there which, logically, would fall under the heading of REU, but the information doesn't get passed to the undergrads because they are technically not REUs. REU: academic program funded by NSF. But stuff that isn't funded by NSF is equally as good but they aren't REUs.

For example, the Space Telescope Science Institute, home of the Hubble Space Telescope (and an awesome place to work! THERE! I SAID IT!) has a Summer student program. Mostly undergrads from Johns Hopkins attend because they are almost the only ones who know about it. This pairs you with a scientist and you will work on a project and likely get at least one publication out of it. Plus, it pays about $500 a week for 10 weeks (mooooore than enough to live on in this part of Baltimore).

Similarly, I attended a Winter school program in extrasolar planet detection, planet formation, and astrobiology in Split, Croatia. It was designed for graduate students, but I, a college junior at the time, got accepted. They even had money available for travel based on merit and they funded practically the entire thing for me. It doesn't get you a publication, but boy does it look impressive.

As for advice for getting in, don't try to hide the bad stuff, but try to emphasize the good things about you. Show your application to people who know you and your skills very well and see if maybe you missed something! You never know what might be important that you overlooked. Also, don't tell them in your statement all about how amazing their program is. They already know it (and probably think they are a lot better than they are). Instead, focus on what you want to get out of the program and perhaps how that particular school can help you achieve your goals. For example, let's say you have an interest in active galactic nuclei (because they're kickass), but you haven't had any formal coursework in extragalactic astronomy. Then a program with multiple researchers who work on that would benefit you by expanding on your knowledge of a topic you are interested in pursuing in graduate school.

My understanding of these programs is that they do look for people who will benefit from them the most and not so much the people who have copious amounts of experience and won't really get anything new out of it. Hope all my rambling helps!

markl
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Re: Getting into an REU

Postby markl » Sat Mar 07, 2009 11:48 pm

Galaxy Buff thanks for the information I have a feeling you have a lot of info I could find useful, we should chat sometime!

sterculus
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Re: Getting into an REU

Postby sterculus » Sun Mar 08, 2009 12:08 am

You should also look at the DOE SULI program - they run internships at all of the national labs (you pick two to apply to), and is also less known (and less competitive, I think) than the NSF REUs.

brassgod
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Re: Getting into an REU

Postby brassgod » Mon Mar 09, 2009 7:52 pm

The Department of Energy offers a couple of programs including SULI and CCI, which is for community college students.

Link: http://www.scied.science.doe.gov/SciEd/sci_ed.htm

There is also the National Undergraduate Fellowships (NUF) offered by PPPL for plasma physics.

Link: http://science-education.pppl.gov/NUF.html

Caltech offers the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF).

Link:http://www.surf.caltech.edu/

There is also MURF for underrepresented minorities including women.

Link: http://www.murf.caltech.edu/

Finally, the NASA Undergraduate Student Research Program (USRP).

Link: http://www.epo.usra.edu/usrp/

I hope this helps someone.
Last edited by brassgod on Mon Mar 09, 2009 10:45 pm, edited 2 times in total.

markl
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Re: Getting into an REU

Postby markl » Mon Mar 09, 2009 8:03 pm

Thanks brass, I will probably apply for the NASA one next year, do you have any experiences with any of them?

brassgod
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Re: Getting into an REU

Postby brassgod » Mon Mar 09, 2009 10:40 pm

markl, I have done SULI twice and USRP once.

A friend of mine did CCI before transferring and later did SULI while at his university.

cato88
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Re: Getting into an REU

Postby cato88 » Mon Mar 09, 2009 11:04 pm

brassgod wrote:
There is also MURF for underrepresented minorities including women.

Link: http://www.murf.caltech.edu/


It look like they use a pretty wide definition for underrepresented minority from the profile on
the front page (Caleb McKinney), the guy looks 80%-100% white 10%-20% asian. His name is Caleb
McKinney that sounds as much like the name of a URM as Clark Rockefeller.

brassgod
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Re: Getting into an REU

Postby brassgod » Tue Mar 10, 2009 12:18 am

You can't jump to conclusions on his background. For all we know, he could be a mix of Japanese, Mexican, German, etc. For example, his mother could be Japanese-Mexican and his father is American. There you have it, he can check off a lot of boxes or whatever.

cato88
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Re: Getting into an REU

Postby cato88 » Tue Mar 10, 2009 1:22 am

I feel like the programs weren't designed for people who are 1/16 URM. A whole lot of
people who dont consider themselves URM's are probably closer to being
an URM.
He is also a Caltech student so unless he is one the people in the 5 % Hispanic
or 0 % native americans. He probably isnt mexican unless he suddenly decided he
is for applying to MURF but not for college profile statistics. I cant say
it with absolute certainty but the statistics and profile support it being
unlikely he is a URM.

I am okay with Caltech giving more SURF's but I think it is bs when they create
another program pack in a few minorities and a bunch of Caltech students
who would otherwise receive a SURF and call it a program for URM's to shakedown
the federal government.

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zxcv
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Re: Getting into an REU

Postby zxcv » Tue Mar 10, 2009 5:06 am

Wow... let's not be a pricks, okay? How would this guy feel if he found this thread when he googles his name?

As for getting into REUs or other research experiences, work connections (make them!) to get in! Contacting a professor can make a huge difference.

cato88
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Re: Getting into an REU

Postby cato88 » Tue Mar 10, 2009 1:27 pm

zxcv wrote:Wow... let's not be a pricks, okay? How would this guy feel if he found this thread when he googles his name?

Possibly hurting his feelings doesnt invalidate my point. I dont really blame him if you read my last post I just think its BS that Caltech is expanding its SURF program with a few token minorities and calling it MURF to shakedown the government.

markl
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Re: Getting into an REU

Postby markl » Tue Mar 10, 2009 1:56 pm

I think it's really awful that race and gender even get considered at all. Listen, you will probably think I am a jerk since I am white male, but if I were a minority I wouldn't want my ethnicity to play a role in whether or not I got accepted for something. If they are going to continue this affirmative action charade, people who at least be able to opt out, I'd like to see a question on an applications that is something like.

"Check here if you would like your application to be considered without regard to minority or gender status"

I always, always, always list my race as HUMAN on applications that ask such things ;)

cato88
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Re: Getting into an REU

Postby cato88 » Tue Mar 10, 2009 2:04 pm

markl wrote:I think it's really awful that race and gender even get considered at all. Listen, you will probably think I am a jerk since I am white male, but if I were a minority I wouldn't want my ethnicity to play a role in whether or not I got accepted for something. If they are going to continue this affirmative action charade, people who at least be able to opt out, I'd like to see a question on an applications that is something like.

"Check here if you would like your application to be considered without regard to minority or gender status"

Shouldnt that be why Caltech should have more SURF's instead of a MURF charade. Aside from that I would think they make it for URM's just like in scholaships if you have ever applied for scholarships there are some for an infinite amount of reasons like scholarship for unicycle riding asian american daughters of General Electric employees. Im not going to fault Caltech if they had a scholarship for unicycle riding asian american daughters of General Electric employees that is being endowed by a ex unicycle riding asian american daughters of General Electric employees but I will fault them if they just use that money endowed for that purpose to give scholarships to juggling indian sons of Google employees.

surjective
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Re: Getting into an REU

Postby surjective » Tue Mar 10, 2009 2:33 pm

1)If Caltech actually is running the MURF to extract more funds from the government, and that bothers you, you should fault the government, not Caltech. They are just doing what they can to get funds within the system. However, it really should not bother you that the government is running such programs.

2)Look around the physics department you are in. I suspect that you will see some, but not very many, faculty who are: women, african-american, hispanic, native american, etc. As a group, there's no a priori reason to believe that these subsets of people have any less talent for physics than does the majority: white men. So, why the disparity in numbers? Possibly people in these groups don't see many positive role models they can relate to in physics, so they don't feel so inspired to go into it (and instead they do other things). Or, for various socio-economic reasons, they have fewer enriching academic experiences, making their chances of success in academia smaller (in the case of african-americans, this is a product of the institutionalized racism that was prevalent for a long time in the US, and is just starting to go away now). This is what programs like MURF try to address. They take people who have talent, but for whatever reason, wouldn't traditionally be physicists, and try to give them a chance. To complain about this simply because you don't fall into the group that benefits from it is insensitive and short-sighted: if we exclude from physics people who may have good (and possibly non-traditional) ideas, we are cutting off potential future progress.

While you may disagree with Caltech's choice of students for the MURF program (Caleb something or other), that's not a general fault of diversity-enhancing programs, but may instead be a fault of the specific actualization of that type of program at Caltech. Or, it may be no fault at all, and you just want to complain that you aren't being given this opportunity.
Last edited by surjective on Tue Mar 10, 2009 2:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

cato88
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Re: Getting into an REU

Postby cato88 » Tue Mar 10, 2009 2:54 pm

surjective wrote:1)If Caltech actually is running the MURF to extract more funds from the government, and that bothers you, you should fault the government, not Caltech. They are just doing what they can to get funds within the system. However, it really should not bother you that the government is running such programs.


Your 2) supports program like MURF and describes the reasons that such programs were started then it should bother you that the program is not really working towards that goal but just effectively taking money for/from such programs to fund more Caltech SURF students at no fault of the government.

surjective
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Re: Getting into an REU

Postby surjective » Tue Mar 10, 2009 2:58 pm

Cato:

It's more subtle than that. Caltech's motivation may be just to get more funds (I don't know, since I don't run their physics dept.), but the end result is that they get minority-allocated funds. Or, they may legitimately want to encourage diversity in the physical sciences.

Regardless of Caltech's motivation, their program is (or should) be getting more under-represented groups into physics research, which is a good thing.

The general point of my post is that affirmative action is not some crazy boogeyman, and that we, as academics, need to construct our system so as to not disadvantage people from non-traditional backgrounds. I think that, if you want to pick faults in the specifics of my post, you will be able to, but that the general message is still valuable.
Last edited by surjective on Tue Mar 10, 2009 3:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

markl
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Re: Getting into an REU

Postby markl » Tue Mar 10, 2009 2:59 pm

surjective you get it wrong in so many ways. I agree it's sad there isn't a more even distribution racially but by forcing and just saying,"well half of the undergrads have to be URM, and half women" you really aren't solving the problem. Your just making it appear that way, the issue is the education and social factors at work in that community and they should be the things addressed directly, not with this bandage. That way when it comes time to acceptance decisions, guess what, the minority students are just as good as the none so they get in based on pure merit! It's not going to happen overnight but that doesn't mean we should falsely compensate for it by setting quotas, it's absurd and I'm embarrassed that anyone on this planet wants to be considered on the matter of anything besides their merit.

abeboparebop
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Re: Getting into an REU

Postby abeboparebop » Tue Mar 10, 2009 3:03 pm

markl wrote:surjective you get it wrong in so many ways. I agree it's sad there isn't a more even distribution racially but by forcing and just saying,"well half of the undergrads have to be URM, and half women" you really aren't solving the problem. Your just making it appear that way, the issue is the education and social factors at work in that community and they should be the things addressed directly, not with this bandage. That way when it comes time to acceptance decisions, guess what, the minority students are just as good as the none so they get in based on pure merit! It's not going to happen overnight but that doesn't mean we should falsely compensate for it by setting quotas, it's absurd and I'm embarrassed that anyone on this planet wants to be considered on the matter of anything besides their merit.


Do you have a better way to fix society? Sometimes you have to wear a band-aid because nobody knows how to do the surgery.

surjective
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Re: Getting into an REU

Postby surjective » Tue Mar 10, 2009 3:06 pm

Okay, soon I will go to work and stop replying, but here's one last one.

I absolutely agree that there needs to be bottom-up solutions: better education in lower-income communities, etc.

But, at the same time, there need to be more positive physics role models for young african-american, native, hispanic, etc. people to look up to. For whatever reason (i am no psychologist), the role model is more effective if they look something like you, so if you are white, then white role models are probably most effective.

So, to encourage people from non-traditional backgrounds to want to be physicists, there need to already be some top-rank physicists that they can look up to. True, there are excellent physicists from these backgrounds, but few enough of them that most elementary and secondary school students will never have heard of them. When you see physicists in the news, they tend to be white and men. This is the second thing that needs to change if we want there to be more diversity in the physics community. Affirmative action makes steps towards this.

cato88
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Re: Getting into an REU

Postby cato88 » Tue Mar 10, 2009 3:11 pm

markl wrote:surjective you get it wrong in so many ways. I agree it's sad there isn't a more even distribution racially but by forcing and just saying,"well half of the undergrads have to be URM, and half women" you really aren't solving the problem. Your just making it appear that way, the issue is the education and social factors at work in that community and they should be the things addressed directly, not with this bandage. That way when it comes time to acceptance decisions, guess what, the minority students are just as good as the none so they get in based on pure merit! It's not going to happen overnight but that doesn't mean we should falsely compensate for it by setting quotas, it's absurd and I'm embarrassed that anyone on this planet wants to be considered on the matter of anything besides their merit.


Your talking about admissions to an optional program not undergrad admissions. You could make the same argument for any of these scholarships

http://www.ugeducation.ucla.edu/src/DUE ... shmen.html

why do fraternity members want to offer considering on the matter of anything besides their merit.
Why do first-year students from University High School in West Los Angeles want to offer considering on the matter of anything besides their merit.
Why do student diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis want to offer considering on the matter of anything besides their merit..

and on and on.

markl
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Re: Getting into an REU

Postby markl » Tue Mar 10, 2009 3:25 pm

I can understand people putting out scholarships based on different sorts of things, I may not entirely agree with it but they have the right, of course, that is more like a charity than anything. However getting accepted to a research program seems a bit different to me, even looking at it just from the standpoint of the university hosting the research program, shouldn't they want the most competent people?

cato88
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Re: Getting into an REU

Postby cato88 » Tue Mar 10, 2009 3:30 pm

markl wrote:I can understand people putting out scholarships based on different sorts of things, I may not entirely agree with it but they have the right, of course, that is more like a charity than anything. However getting accepted to a research program seems a bit different to me, even looking at it just from the standpoint of the university hosting the research program, shouldn't they want the most competent people?

It isnt that different since they offer SURF's at Caltech as well. The most competent people argument works for the scholarships as well.

brassgod
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Re: Getting into an REU

Postby brassgod » Tue Mar 10, 2009 10:59 pm

Way to go off topic. Maybe I shouldn't have brought up the Caltech SURF program, but I thought someone would benefit from it.

cato88
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Re: Getting into an REU

Postby cato88 » Tue Mar 10, 2009 11:39 pm

Thread was bound to go off topic or die after the here are some more research programs, and the get good grades/recommendations , and apply to as many as possible advice.




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