Summer Jobs doing Research

Is there a plan B?

Even though there is snow on the ground, you might want to start thinking about what you’ll be doing in the summer.  Well, if you are planning to be chief tater tot fry cook at your local Sonic, then you’ve got plenty of time.  But if you’d like to get paid to do cutting edge research in math, physics, biology, engineering, computer science, …., then now is the time to get moving.

There are literally hundreds of programs around the country.  We’ve already mentioned a few:  like this one. The biggest bunch are the REUs (Research Experience for Undergraduates).  These are programs funded by the National Science Foundation (aka the government).

To give you an idea, here are the places which had an REU in 2009:

P.S. There are ones in Hawaii and the Arctic, too!

The right question to ask yourself is “How to I get one of these sweet gigs?”  The answer is simple.  Follow these easy steps:

  • Go to the OU Math Department’s page on REUs. This has lots of good informaton, including some excellent advice on how to go about applying.
  • Go to the NSF master list of REUs for 2010.  You can search for REUs by location and area of research.  It also provides links to the programs so you can learn more details about what exactly they will be doing for research.
  • Important! There is lots of interesting REUs beyond math.  It is well worth applying to other REUs if they look interesting (your intrepid correspondent did a mechanical engineering REU!).
  • There are also other REU-type programs which are not on this list.  The OU webpage lists several and no doubt you can google others.
  • Don’t delay! Although the deadlines are still weeks away, it takes quite awhile to get everything put together and you don’t want to rush it.  Plus, you usually need letters of recommendation from professors and nothing annoys letter writers like short deadlines (and you don’t want annoyed recommendation writers!)
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9 thoughts on “Summer Jobs doing Research

  1. I participated in these the last two summers, one at Texas A&M and one at Michigan State. These were some of the most challenging and rewarding summers of my life. I learned much about mathematics and research, built contacts (read: friends and recommendation writers) at these universities, and got paid (read: paid >=$3000 each summer) to do it! Unfortunately I’m graduating this semester, so I’m not eligible this summer. If you’re at all interested I would encourage you to apply!

    • Ted,

      Thanks for the wise words! It sounds like anyone who’s interested should talk to you!

  2. I’m applying to the N.C. State one. It wants me to submit an essay, but it doesn’t say how long it should be. Does anybody have an estimate, or should I contact some people involved?

    Also, how many of these things should I apply for if I want to get in to at least one of them? i.e. how hard is it to get in to one of these things. I have a 4.0 in math, but no research experience.

    • Hi Justin – I would contact the organizers at NC State and ask about the length. Not only will this tell you what they have in mind (probably one page) but will let them know you are very interested in their program. They will remember your name!

      REUs are getting increasingly competitive, so my advice is to apply to a number of them. But this means more work for professors writing your recommendation letters, so be sure to give them lots of notice.

      Good Luck!

  3. I’m in my senior year and have just recently learned about REUs. Though I’ve been searching for a while, I’m finding it difficult to find REUs for which graduating seniors are eligible to apply. Is it too late in my undergrad career to do an REU?

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