Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) are competitive summer research programs for undergraduate students studying any STEM disciplines. Sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) grant program, they are hosted in various universities and research laboratories around the country. The programs are small, usually with 8 to 10 students per program, and they typically last 8 to 10 weeks.
REUs offer many benefits to students. These include:
Hands-on experience in an area of interest
Gaining lab experience and formal safety/ethics training
Opportunities to have your research work published
Solidifying your career direction
Attending seminars or conferences to gain more knowledge in their area of study
Finding a graduate research program and graduate research mentor
The National Science Foundation provides students some or all of the following:
Research stipend – payment for your work. This can be given as a one-time payment, or spread throughout the length of the experience.
Housing, often at the university at which you’ll be working
Possible travel to and from REU site
Total package range from $3,000-$6,000+
Because programs are funded by federal money, REUs are open to U.S. citizens or permanent residents only. In addition, graduating seniors are normally not eligible. It is required that students return to campus to finish their studies after their research program.
Some research programs may require a certain level of academic preparation and/or a certain GPA (>3.2).
Finding an REU
Although the National Science Foundation sponsors a majority of Research Experiences for Undergraduates, there are several other organizations that offer great research experiences.
Review all REU programs through the resources listed above. Do your research on the programs you plan to apply to and start a large list of programs. Plan to apply to as many programs as possible as there is heavy competition across the U.S.
Application materials should be available, based on program, in November of each year. The application deadline is typically in late January or February. March is the typical universal date to commit to a program.
Essay(s): You will have to complete an essay as part of your application; in some cases there may be two essays – a career-related and a personal essay. Make every effort to individualize yourself, as the hiring committees look at the whole student. With students taking the same overall coursework and lab projects, think about what makes you unique and sets you apart from other students. It’s recommended that a student personalizes the essay for each program.
Letters of Recommendation: It is typical for the application to request at least two, or maybe more, letters of recommendation. In most cases these will be faculty members who can speak to your interest and passion for the field and your academic abilities.
Transcript: Your transcript will most likely have to be included. An unofficial transcript may be acceptable depending on the program. You can obtain your transcript from the Registrar’s Office.
There is no application fee for REUs. Complete the application for each REU in which you’re interested. Because of heavy competition, it’s recommended you apply to as many as possible to increase your chances of being accepted into a program.
Faculty can help determine potential REUs that are a good fit, write recommendation letters, and read the personal essay.
Academic Advisors can help prepare the application materials and read the personal essay.
Career Services Coordinators can help you prepare the application materials and read the personal essay. The office posts REU opportunities on the Career Connect platform as well.