REUs and Internships

Exchange information on where, when, how many, etc sites should you apply for a summer REU or internship.

Slide show of Megan’s MUSE (Summer research at TCNJ) experience in 2009.
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35 Responses

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  2. Hi everyone,

    This past summer, I participated in a Physics REU program at Kansas State University, in Manhattan, Kansas. I applied to about 25 REU programs, which is apparently a lot more than most people, but I was only accepted into the K-State program, so I guess I applied to the right number. (Keep in mind, I was a rising senior with 2 years prior research experience, a year as physics laboratory technician, two good letters of recommendation from Drs. Ochoa & Wiita, and a fairly good GPA. It’s surprisingly competitive to get into these REU programs – some say even moreso than graduate school competition.)

    K-State, as well as nearly every other REU-sponsoring university, provided me with a summer salary stipend, as well as covered my travel, room & board for all 10 weeks of the program. My stipend alone was about $4200, but essentially I lived for free, so it was all money I could keep. They even paid for me to go to Chicago for a week to present my research at Fermilab. We had field trips almost every weekend – this summer I canoed on the Kansas River, went a mile underground to visit an old salt mine, had picnics at the park, and even hung out with Zohaib Iqbal for my birthday.

    In any case, you can find out about all of these programs on NSF’s Physics REU website, where they list all participating universities, typical stipend, and areas of research — but all of this is also available in greater detail on the individual schools’ websites. All of the applications are free (50,000 OchoaBucks), and 99.99% of them are online. It took me a full weekend to apply to all 25, but it was time well spent.

    A very pertinent piece of advice — something I experienced firsthand, as well as some unfortunate souls like Rob Sobczak — it is imperative to research which schools have quality Physics departments. Some schools might seem like they would be easy to get into, but in fact have incredibly well-known Physics departments, and so it is nigh-impossible to get accepted there. So, in my case, Kansas State University might not seem like a great school, but it actually has the 12th best program in the country for Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics.

    Okay, so enough with the boring details. I’ll give you the quick rundown of what I actually did this summer. After I was sent the acceptance for KSU, I was asked to pick which program I’d like to work on. I chose to work on with Drs. Tim Bolton & Glenn Horton-Smith, two particle physicists at K-State. We were working in collaboration with Fermilab (Chicago) on a few neutrino experiments. I was doing computer-based simulations for experiments that will be happening within the next 5-10 years. I won’t go into too much detail, partly because I’m contractually obligated not to, but you can check out the full details (as well as a bunch of pictures from the summer) at

    http://www.phys.ksu.edu/reu2011/jstarr/Home.html

    All in all, it was an extremely fun summer. In my program there were 12 other physics majors from around the country, and we bonded really well, to the point where we all still keep in touch every week. It’s a great opportunity to network and get very hands-on experience in a field of your choice. If you are a sophomore or a junior, or even a freshman, you should already be looking at REU programs for Summer 2012. It was certainly an incredible summer, and I urge each of you to get involved with an REU program as soon as possible.

    tl;dr, apply to a bunch of REU programs, get hands-on experience, make mad billz $$$$$

  3. Sup guys,

    This past summer I managed to luck my way into a great REU with Duke University. Some background: I applied to 10 NSF-funded REUs, and either got rejected by all of them flat out, or waitlisted only to be rejected later. Some institutions don’t decide to tell you when you’ve been rejected, so I emailed the people in charge of those ones, which included the REU with Duke/Triangle University Nuclear Lab (TUNL). The Duke/TUNL REU administrator guy told me that I had in fact been rejected but informed me of a possible late grant that Duke might receive and that I could be considered for that, which eventually worked out. So, lesson learned, contact people who are in charge of your applications; good things can happen.

    Anyway, I spent about 3 weeks at Duke University learning the ropes of high energy particle physics under Dr. Al Goshaw. After a lot of reading, I was assigned with the task of testing a new monte carlo generator they had recently received to make sure it accurately depicted results expected from the ATLAS detector at the LHC. I basicaly had to channel data into histograms to make sure the distributions of particle energies were in line with what we know. Nothing too intellectually strenuous at that point, but definitely informative and necessary for the later parts of my REU.

    Then, I got shipped off to Europe with three other undergrads (all from Duke). We were living in St. Genis, France and commuting across the border every day to work at CERN in Meyrin, Switzerland. Duke paid for travel, room, and board, essentially, in addition to my normal stipend so that was awesome. Geneva was also about 10 minutes away, so during the 3 hours or so a week I wasn’t working, I was taking in Geneva. Very fun, we should all take a trip some time.

    My research at that point was to analyze events from the ATLAS detector and create “cutflows”, programs that would filter huge amounts of data and spit out the few dozen events or so that showed instances of things we wanted to see, in my case definite evidence of W+ and W- bosons whose energy was determinable. Basically, I would take about 10^7 events and run them through my program, throwing out an event if it didn’t meet one of 12 or 13 certain criteria (having particles in between two energies, having particles leave tracks in predicted ranges of angles, etc.). We were collaborating with a few Chinese students, and a lot of our time was spent comparing cutflows so we were getting the same outputs with the same starting set of data, which was monte carlo generated. After we confirmed that our cutflows were accurate, we started churning through massive amounts of data.

    I’ve been continuing my research into this semester, working on a cutflow with one of the Duke students that tracks Z-bosons. It’s a lot harder to get through now that my schedule is so much more hectic, but we’re making progress.

    So anyway, this summer I learned a lot about high energy physics and a lot about how the LHC itself works, which to me is almost cooler than the physics itself. I had a great time over in France and Switzerland and I made some decent friends with the other undergrads I worked with. I highly recommend doing research if you can, and even if you think you can’t, I highly recommend trying anyway; you’d be surprised at what might fall into your lap.

    -Rob Sobczak

    P.S. The particle physics I learned was useful on at least 3 of the questions on the GREs, so if nothing else, you’ll score 3 or more points higher on them if you do research!

  4. Hey guys!

    This is a tad bit late, but I have been a little bit busy as of late. I am currently studying abroad in Rome and I’m traveling a ton, so I’ve been a bit busy. Physics majors can definitely study abroad! I am currently working on a Mechanical Engineering Minor and I managed to fit a semester abroad in my schedule. I am knocking out a lot of liberal learning requirements, but there are a ton of options abroad where you can take Physics classes. You just need to spend a little time planning but its possible to do!

    Anyway about the research I had been apart of.

    This past summer I took part in the MUSE program with Dr. McGee (an awesome addition to the awesome Physics faculty) and worked with Mina Shenouda and briefly with Rob S. Since Dr. McGee was new to TCNJ we spent a lot of time setting the lab up. This involved dealing with a ton of very expensive and awesome equipment (pardon my layman’s terms). I became familiar with a lot of these devices and I got some great hands on experience.

    Once we we were comfortable with these devices we started working on the actual research project. If you are curious about what we did you can read Mina’s post, or better yet, check out the Poster we completed (it should be hanging right outside Dr. McGee’s office). I can go on about the project itself, but I’d rather talk/ramble about what I got out of the MUSE program.

    A little background on my research/REU application experience. My freshman summer I had applied to several REU’s, but most if not all are looking for Upperclassman. I was, however, able to work with Dr. Magee (not Dr. McGee) through the MUSE program. It was a phenomenal experience, especially for a Freshman. When it came time to apply for REU’s for my Sophomore summer, I felt much more confident in my resume, having previous research experience. I originally applied to several different REU’s for the summer, and was rejected from them all. I received a call back from a project in Colorado, but unfortunately someone else was selected for the position. One piece of advice to anyone applying to REU’s is to apply to A LOT! Once one application is done, you can pretty much use that to fill out all of the other ones. REU’s are EXTREMELY competitive, and it really helps to apply to a lot of them.

    Anyway, about the same time I was waiting to hear back from Colorado, I got the email from Dr. McGee looking for students to work with him during the summer. I was one of the lucky students to work with him, and the rest, as they say, is history.

    The experience was AWESOME. I really had a blast coming into the lab and working with Dr. McGee and Mina (despite an hour and a half commute most days). I had a lot of fun, but I also got an incredible amount out of it. I could never gain the experience I got from taking a class. I got hands on time with incredible pieces of equipment, began learning Labview and how to use it to run experiments, and so much more. Even things that I may have taken for granted, like proper lab safety procedures, are things that I have learned that make me that much of a better candidate for a future research position.

    Another great thing about doing Research is that you get to experience many different science fields. I personally am not strong in Chemistry, but it was a huge part of our Research, so guess what? I learned a bit of Chemistry. I also got hands on time at an accelerated rate then I may have had in a classroom. The interdisciplinary aspect of a Research program is mind blowing. In a single lab their could be Physics (and many of its specialization’s), Chemistry, and Biology all working together. It’s (sniff sniff) so beautiful.

    This last bit goes out to the Freshman, or the Upperclassman that don’t know that many professors within the Physics department. One great thing about MUSE is how awesome our department is. There are a lot of Professors doing research and they are all interested in each other’s projects. I got to meet a lot more of the faculty on more then just a student-teacher basis. I remember one night Dr. Magee and Dr. Benoit had a Barbeque at their house. We ate great food and ended up playing Mafia, which turned out to be a lot of fun. Being able to interact and socialize with our Professors is an amazing experience and really makes you feel welcome in the department. It also doesn’t hurt to be friendly with the Professor who is grading your tests!

    Wow, this went on forever. I may have rambled/made grammatical mistakes but it’s very late here. If you got through to the end I hope you’ve found something useful!

    John

  5. Hi all!

    This past year was my second year applying to summer REUs/internships and since I had success on my first try the previous year, I followed most of the same process as before. I reapplied to a few of the same programs as the previous year but since I had a better idea of what I actually want to do in graduate school and in life, I had a much better idea of what types of programs to apply to. A good place to start looking is the NSF website since they list all of the programs that are funded by NSF and you can filter by subject area. I applied to ~15 programs and was ultimately accepted into one of my top picks.

    I was one of 15 undergraduate students in the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) internship for the summer of 2011. This is a really great program for anyone interested in geophysics or seismology and I would highly recommend it. They have many different projects to choose from and you get matched up with a project/mentor/research institution based on your interests and preferences that you have expressed. The program also has a one week orientation in New Mexico which is the only time when all of the interns are together. We had mini-workshops on things like programming, seismology, and field work to try to prepare us for the wide variety of projects we would be working on over the summer.

    My placement for the remainder of the summer was with Dr. Monica Kohler at the California Institute of Technology (which also has a very good REU program for almost any subject you can think of). My project entailed calculating focal mechanisms for earthquakes off the coast of Southern California to determine which offshore faults are currently active and if any of those faults are capable of producing a tsunami. In the process, I also had to determine if data from offshore seismic stations improves the calculations of focal mechanisms for offshore seismicity. This project relied very heavily on my knowledge of computer programming and was made much simpler by knowing how to write scripts.

    A secondary component of my internship was returning to California to participate in a 10-day research cruise to help recover ocean bottom seismometers (OBSs) and analyze the data they recovered during their deployment. I really liked this portion of my project – despite being sea sick for the majority of the time, it made me realize that I really do want to study oceanography in graduate school and would be more than willing to participate in another research cruise. It also provided me with a data set that significantly improved my results and proved one of the things that I was supposed to determine.

    While my internship is technically not yet completed – I will be presenting my research at the AGU conference in San Francisco in December – I would definitely say that it was a positive experience and I learned a lot.

    PS. If you’re really interested in the research I did over the summer, you can read the blog (from the bottom up for chronological order) I had to keep as part of the program: http://www.iris.edu/hq/internship/blogs/user/30

  6. Hey y’all,

    I’ll start off with the few setbacks I had in terms of summer programs.

    The past two summers (freshmen and sophomore years), I applied to the RISE (Research In Science and Engineering) program at Rutgers University. I got rejected my freshmen year despite the fact that as a freshmen I made it to one of the last cut off lists and was described as an “exceptional freshmen.” I also learned that they favor upperclassmen who may be more serious about the research than a freshmen. The next year, I thought I had a spot for sure, but lo and behold, I was rejected again. This time I emailed them asking them to give me a reason why I was rejected and asking them to reconsider. Apparently in the application, I described myself as a premed student hoping one day to apply to medical school. This was the chief reason they gave me. I was obviously unhappy with it, but there was nothing I could do.

    So my suggestion to you is know exactly what each program is looking for and make sure you stress the reasons why you would fit the position. Don’t lie, but be open to new experiences.

    After a couple other botched applications, I had nothing to do in the summer. Until one day late April I received an email from Dr. McGee asking for a few good men (or women) to work with him this summer building his lab. I quickly collected all the essays for my failed applications and put together my resume and emailed him.

    A few weeks later, he came down from Drew University to meet with a few of the applicants and described to us the research that he will be working on and it seemed very exciting. His research projects involved “Nonlinear optical materials which can control the speed of light through electric field-induced changes in their index of refraction and are integral to applications such as fiber optic data transmission,” as his abstract described. This required extensive knowledge of chemistry, from understanding chemical bonds and mixing up APC (plastic) and dye solutions to thin film making. Since I had taken Orgo II, I had a pretty good idea about organic and inorganic chemistry and it proved to be invaluable to the research. Plus building the actual lab from the ground up was pretty fun.

    I was accepted into this program which was run by MUSE and funded by NSF. Rob and John Lenehan were also supposed to be in the program with me, but by some unfortunate circumstances, Rob was unable to continue (CERN got nothing on Dr. McGee, nothing). John and I had a great time working in the lab together, and by the end we were able to produce a poster which is now hanging outside Dr. McGee’s office.

    This research opportunity really opened my eyes to the possibilities and potentials of using nonlinear optical materials for the advancement of technology. The lab facilitated a profound learning environment. I learned how to operate many devices which are used to process and run the optical experiments and learned basic language of Labview with which I was able to control devices using a computer interface.

    I continued the research this Fall and will continue the research into the Spring semester (and beyond?).
    I hope you all have a great experience with your REUs and such!
    Mina Shenouda

  7. Hey all,

    So this past summer, as well as the previous summer, I was a-maze enough to get a position at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC). The REU, or SURP (Summer Undergraduate Research Program) as they call it, focused on a variety of different biological projects. The lab that I was placed in was a lab that focused on SIV research in Rhesus Macaques. THAT IS A MONKEY!! SIV (Simian Immunodeficiency Virus), for those of you who may not be familiar with it, is a disease that mimics the HIV virus in humans. This makes it a great model for studying what HIV is actually doing in the human body.

    My project this summer was to analyze all of the different flow cytometry data that my lab had collected over the past 2 years. Flow cytometry is a technique that allows you to visualize different cell populations and how many cells are actually expressing certain antibodies (which is how we identify them!). After SIV infection, we notice many different populations depleting, such as the CD4+ and the CD8+ cells (these are your T cells – the cells that fight infections), and others increasing. While I didn’t get to play with monkeys, I was able to have a great time in the town of Omaha and make life-long friends.

    Many people do not realize that REUs and coursework are very different. During your REU, you will be able to do basically whatever you want in your free time and you will have the ability to have FUN outside the lab, as well as inside. Making connections is very important in any field, and it will be very important in your field too. Let me tell you, that advisor’s letter of recommendation becomes really important when applying to grad school, or even a job.

    Also, REUs don’t necessarily have to be in physics, such as my experience. Physics majors are qualified, usually, to take on many biology REUs, chem REUs and engineering REUs, so try to choose something that you are interested in.

    Good luck in applying, and I hope you guys have as great a time as I did.

  8. Hey all,

    This past summer I did research at Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago for the ATLAS experiment at CERN (they have support centers all over the world). The first thing I want to say is that it was a wonderful experience, because there is no better way to understand what it’s like to work other than to actually work. I know, very surprising. I would say that participating in an REU is the best way to experience what it means to work as a physicist/scientist so as to understand right away whether or not this is what you want to do in life. Maybe you know for sure it is. However, maybe it’s not. An REU is an interesting, fun, and usually lucrative way to understand right away. For instance, working at Argonne this summer was more educative to me about what I want to do after I graduate than however much time I spent speaking with professors/friends. In the end, we learn and understand the most through experience, not discourse, and an REU is perfect for this.

    Some brief comments from my experience about applying:

    In general, its good to get started early. Procrastination is usually countered well if you start thinking about it early, browsing sites, etc. This takes almost no work, and then when you realize you’ve put off the applications until a week or two before they are due, you already have the background. That means probably around now.

    Regarding applications, simply apply to a lot of them. The applications cost as much as it takes you to obtain postage stamps (hint: your parents have tons of them 🙂 ) so it is to your advantage to apply to many of them. I think I applied to between 10 and 15.

    Regarding personal statements, you will have to write one for most of them (sometimes you can just change the name and project, other times you have to write a completely new one). I recommend it be very down to earth, with an emphasis on the reason you are applying, past experience, and whatever goals you have for the future. Even if you are not completely sure, make a concrete and well thought out statement about these three things! Most places want to have students who actually want to be there, learn, and gain experience. If you have even a tentative plan for your future, it means you have given it thought and care about/are interested in what you are studying (and will be studying/doing at the REU).

    Regarding letters of recommendation, don’t wait until last minute. The professors don’t like it, and you’ll regret it too. Asking a professor who you have had at least a class with is a good idea, previous research projects make it better. Don’t be nervous, just ask, and I’m sure ye shall receive 🙂

    Also grades are important yes, but not the most important factor. As long as your not failing/almost failing all your classes, I would apply. And even if you are, it is FREE.

    So in summary:

    REU: great work experience with fun and money thrown in
    Applications: Not so fun, but important to get them started early and take them seriously so you can get to the experience, fun, and money part.

    Good luck!

    Michael

  9. The following are comments from an REU reviewer on how his site judges applications (I have done some minor editing):

    I’m anticipating ~150-200 applications — some of the long-running physics REU programs report that they get more than twice that number each year!

    I do an initial triage of the applications, removing any that clearly don’t meet expectations (GPA below 3; D’s or F’s in physics or math classes; won’t have 1-yr general physics + corresponding math by the summer program; NSF-mandated US citizen or permanent resident; or incomplete applications).
    Using a 3-faculty committee, we rank the applications (rather qualitatively) on strength of personal statement, including how well they express their interests and expectations regarding the REU program, as well as the relative strengths of reference letters and academic performance. For me, the expressed interest and the reference letters are most important; other faculty might weight their rankings differently. For juniors and seniors, I look for evidence of a solid skill base, a clear sense that they’re interested in a science career, and a demonstration that the students understand how a research experience can help advance their goals. Freshmen and sophomores won’t have as much skill set or clear indication of career goals, so for them I look for enthusiasm and a sense (mostly from the reference letters) that they have strong potential. In brief, I look for juniors/seniors who are goal-oriented and motivated, while for freshmen/sophomores I look for that sense of wonder that we can use to hook them solidly into physics.
    Combining the rankings of my faculty evaluators and myself, I make a Top 25 (or 30) list, which I massage a little bit to try to get a good balance of males vs. females, minority representation, probable research interests, etc. From that, I start making offers to students until I fill the 10 available spots.

    Best advice that I can give your students is to apply to many programs, to maximize the chances of success. Some programs focus on particular niches, while others provide a range of topics – students should target programs for their topical interests, without regard to the dollar amount of the stipend or the location (not that undergraduates believe us old out-of-touch professors about these important facts of life!). The way I tell our students, it’s only for 10 weeks and it’s a great chance to see a different part of the country; all programs have sufficient stipends that you can live very well for 10 weeks, or live reasonably and come out with some savings for the next school year.

  10. Hi Everyone,
    This summer I did an REU at the University of Florida Physics Department. Overall, it was a really great experience, and I’m glad that I did it. It gave me a real idea of what grad school is like and I got to talk to a lot of PhD students and hear about their experiences thus far. Also, it was interesting to see how a big research university works. In their labs, it was usually the graduate students and post docs working, and there was usually a once a week or less meeting to check in with the adviser and update them/get their feedback on your work. This was a big change for me, because at my last summer research experience, I met with my adviser almost daily about my progress and got input from him all the time.
    I found that I had a lot of free time this year because my adviser didn’t seem to have a lot of time for me, but I also found that this was often the case for other REU students too. A lot of the students rarely saw their advisers and were not able to make a huge amount of progress over the summer, but then there were also a few students who had the exact opposite experience and saw their advisers daily and worked all the time, so I suppose your experience really depends on what kind of adviser you get.
    Overall, even though there were times where I felt like I was wasting my summer, I really am glad I did the REU, because I never would have seen that side of research if I hadn’t. I got a good idea of what grad school is about, and I got a taste for a new project, which was super interesting.

  11. This summer I worked with Dr. Magee through the MUSE program. It was pretty cool. We did some stuff and learned some stuff. It would have been a lot better if TCNJ’s purchasing department didn’t suck. We’re going to continue the work we started over the summer.

  12. Per Dr. Ochoa’s request, I will be sharing my summer research experience. I was accepted into the Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials and Princeton Center for Complex Materials (PRISM/PCCM).
    During my time there, I worked with my advisor Dr. Nan Yao in the Imaging and Analysis Center. In the center, I was trained to operate an atomic force microscope, scanning electron microscopes, an environmental scanning electron microscope, transmission electron microscopes, a focused ion beam microscope, X-Ray diffractometer, ion mill, multi-prep polisher, ion beam sputterer, and carbon coater. These are million-dollar equipments that I had only learned about in class and our department unfortunately lacks. These skills not only look great on resumes, they also put what we learn in class to real world applications.
    My advisor and I did not meet very much because he prefers that we learn from journal articles and discovery. Fortunately, there were several graduate students and our imaging and analysis specialist Gerald Poirier for me to turn to when I stumble across something I can’t figure out myself. On my team was another girl who is a chemical engineer and her project is similar to mine, but with different materials.
    The main goal of my specific project was imaging and analyzing nickel nanowires, in order to find out the adhesion force between the cantilever tip of an atomic force microscope and the nanowires and resistance of the nanowires. Nickel nanowires are easy to manipulate and can be used in magnetic data storage devices or as an optical-magneto switch (http://iopscience.iop.org/0957-4484/16/10/036/pdf/0957-4484_16_10_036.pdf). Of all the equipment I learned to operate, I used the atomic force microscope and the transmission electron microscope to analyze the surface and the lattice structures of the nanowires. At the end of the program, I presented my results at the university.
    Throughout the 8-weeks, the program coordinator arranged for various speakers to come and talk to us on different topics that are of immediate concern to us, such as publishing papers, problem-solving, coding, trends in material science, applying to graduate school… etc. So not only did I learn a lot in lab, I also learned a lot about the material science field in general. The program is also great at create social events so even though I did not live on campus, I still met and befriended a lot of people from all over country and some from abroad.
    Despite the massive amount of papers my advisor had me look up and read and the dreadful commute to Princeton from Ewing, the whole summer experience was positive. I learned a lot about what the material science field is like, which is helpful because it is a field I am considering for graduate school.
    I stumbled across this REU on http://www.the-nucleus.org/, which is an amazing source site for a list of internships and REUs offered during the summer. Since I applied late (which I do not recommend), I applied to practically everything that was available on the site at the time. Don’t be afraid of being rejected from an REU because as long as you prove that you’re willing to work, you will have a pretty good chance. And unlike graduate school, these applications don’t cost $100 each so there is no reason you should restrict yourself to a certain amount of applications. REUs and internships are great because you have the chance to network with people working in your field and learn a great deal of knowledge that you do not in class.

  13. Hey guys,

    This past summer (2010) I was accepted into the MUSE program here at TCNJ. I worked under Dr. Magee on an Acoustic Raindrop Disdrometer. Basically this device was supposed to be able to record the sound of rain drops and then analyze the audio and calculate how many drops there were, as well as the drop size (the distribution).
    We designed our apparatus and built the housing from scratch and figured out the best way to record the sound. Then from there I used Matlab and it’s audio tools to filter out background sound and try to isolate individual peaks to see what constituted a ‘drop’ on the recording as well as it’s magnitude to calculate the drop size.
    At the end of the program I made a poster and presented it at the MUSE banquet, and it is currently on display in the Physics department. The MUSE program was a great way for me to get hands on experience in a lab and actually get to work independently on research.
    Oh, and I also got to work with Kayla Spector and Joe Grippaldi on their projects, which meant I got to play around with liquid nitrogen… alot. That was awesome.

  14. Hey everyone,

    This past summer (2010), I was accepted into the SURP (Summer Undergraduate Research Program) at the University of Nebraska Medical College. This obviously wasn’t a physics REU, but nonetheless I learned a lot.

    I worked under Dr. Howard Fox from the Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Neuroscience. My research dealt with the differentiation of monocytes into macrophages. I didn’t deal with the mechanics of the process, but more so with the differentiation factors. The three factors I used to differentiate the cells were GMCSF, MCSF, and CXCL4. MCSF (Monocyte Colony Stimulating Factor) is the common factor that everyone uses, but my PI was interested if different types of macrophages arose with different functions when differentiated with other factors.

    I used a couple key methods for this experiment, including cell treatment and colonizing, FACS (Fluorescence Activated Cell Sorting) analysis for phagocytosis, respiratory burst, as well as labeling antibodies. Believe it or not, the FACS machine is all physics based, with different lasers involved, and I recommend everyone to take a quick peak at its wikipedia page.

    Overall, we found that there were some differences with the differentiation macrophages that were consistent. My PI will look further into it, and he has one of the graduate students looking at the RNA expression for the different macrophages. RNA expression is able to tell us a lot about the overall function of the macrophage, which is very important for how it fights off different foreign substances. I would love to go into great detail about all of this, but it is more biochemistry and biology than physics.

    What I do want to stress, however is the importance of these REU programs. I learned a lot about immunology, but I learned a lot more about myself when I went to Nebraska. Even if you don’t get accepted into your number one program, any program gives you an opportunity to not only expand your resume, but also expand your knowledge and versatility. For most programs, especially physics programs, you get paid to do this research, so it’s not like it prevents you from making money. I feel everyone should have a real academic experience and see what is out there in the real world.

  15. Hey everyone!

    I would like to share with you all some details about my summer internship. I was accepted to the IRIS (Integrated Research Institutions for Seismology) Summer Internship for the summer of 2010. This program accepts about 15 students from all over the country and scatters the accepted students to all different institutions to work with an IRIS mentor. It is technically an internship program but is not too different from an REU. It provides the intern with a stipend and is a research based internship for undergraduate students.

    I was placed to work with Dr. Miaki Ishii at Harvard University. Although I was the only undergraduate working there for the summer amongst a number of Harvard graduate students, the earth and planetary sciences department was very welcoming. Miaki gave me an overview of the project she wanted me to work on for the summer – I was to find a way to image and digitize old Harvard station seismograms; a lot easier said than done. I assumed she would have some kind of digitization program ready for me but I was mistaken. Apparently I was responsible for finding a program to execute this digitization, very few of which exist! So I spent the majority of my summer imaging the old nasty seismograms (which had been damaged by rodent excrements) with different imaging techniques including a camera, scanner, and copy machine. Then after investigating the pros and cons of each imaging technique I attempted to find a program to effectively digitize the imaged seismograms – this was by far the most difficult part of the internship. I also had the opportunity to make a few presentations to Harvard professors and graduate students – being told by the professors that your presentation was one of the “better ones they’ve every seen” is extremely encouraging!

    To say I learned a lot this summer would be an understatement! I learned how to read old seismograms from the Harvard station, the importance of preserving old seismic data, the difficulty in digitization of seismograms, and the important parameters that need to be taken into account when attempting such digitization.

    The internship is not over! I recently submitted an abstract to AGU to attend the Annual Meeting in San Francisco in December. There I will be presenting my findings about the different imaging techniques and different programs I investigated for digitization. I am also currently working on a draft of a paper that would include information about the data available from the Harvard station (seismic data dating back to the 1930s!) and information about imaging and digitization techniques. This has absolutely been the most challenging summer of my entire life but it has also been the most rewarding! I now have a feel for what graduate school research entails and can prepare myself for such research.

  16. Hi everyone!

    This past summer I was an intern with the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC) in the Undergraduate Studies in Earthquake Information Technology (UseIT) program. Over the years, UseIT interns have developed 3D visualization software called SCEC-Virtual Display of Objects (SCEC-VDO) so that scientists can see earthquakes, faults, and geographic features in three dimensions conveniently on their computer.

    The software development interns for this past summer worked on creating 3 new features for the software: displaying earthquakes in real time, fault rupture models, and fault participation probabilities. As a part of the video production interns group, my job was to use the software (including the new features) to create short animations about earthquakes. These animations will be used by scientists and the public to raise awareness about earthquake preparedness. My group also created a series of tutorials so that people will know how to use the software to their advantage. My project page can be viewed at:
    http://scec.usc.edu/internships/useit/challenge/2010/1215.
    Exploring the website will also give a greater understanding of the UseIT program and SCEC.

    I feel that this was definitely a positive experience. I gained some great professional contacts that could be useful in the future and met many other intelligent interns, as well. I also learned quite a bit more about computer programming and earthquake science. Everyone seemed very happy with their research experience. The only negative about the program was that those of us not from California were feeling homesick by the end of the two months, but the rest of the time was fun and informative. I would definitely recommend UseIT or SCEC’s other internship programs (SURE and ACCESS) to anyone interested in computer science or geology/geophysics.

  17. Doug Jenkins (http://www.thorlabs.com) also e-mailed the following as part of the Job Posting:

    “… Also if you have any current students that are still looking for an internship please have them forward me their resume as well…”

    His e-mail is:djenkins@thorlabs.com

  18. I also wanted to share some summer research opportunities for
    undergraduates at NASA Goddard in Greenbelt, MD:

    The Summer Institute in Earth Sciences program provides students
    the unique opportunity to conduct an intensive research project,
    along with a mentor, in Earth Sciences. Students receive a grant
    of $4,000, local housing, and economy travel expenses.
    Deadline to apply is February 12th:
    http://gest.umbc.edu/student_opp/summer_institute_in_earth_scie.html

    Goddard summer Internships are also available in a wide-range of
    disciplines (Engineering, Computer & Information Sciences, Earth
    Sciences, Space Sciences, Instrument Sciences, etc.).
    Deadline to apply is February 7th:
    http://education.gsfc.nasa.gov/Opps/OppsHome.php

    I have worked here at NASA Goddard for almost 15 years, and in
    that time I have been a mentor to several students within the
    Summer Institute in Earth Sciences program. I don’t plan on being
    a mentor this coming summer, but many of my colleagues will have
    projects available. It’s a great program, and can also be a way to
    gauge your interest in a career in Earth Science research before
    applying to graduate school.

  19. And also, if anyone is interested in aerospace engineering or working for NASA in any number of fields, there are several summer research opportunities..

    The LERCIP program at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/glenn/education/LERCIP_GRC.html

    and

    Undergraduate Student Research Program (USRP) : http://usrp.usra.edu/

  20. Hey Guys!
    Here is a kind of delayed update on REU poster presentation. In November, I flew down to Atlanta, GA. with the other students in my program to the American Physical Society Division of Plasma Physics National Conference. I only went for the one day but it was a really great experience. I made my first ever research poster (and printed it here at TCNJ for about 1/3 the price of printing at a store). Even though I wasn’t around long enough to check out the other poster sessions, I was able to meet a lot of new people and make some new connections at my own session. I had a lot of people who I had collaborated with over the phone or via email on my project come up to me and discuss my work, and almost everyone I met came from a major university. It was a great way to meet people who’s names I could recognize from the papers I based my research off of, and mostly it was an awesome networking tool.
    It was a great learning experience, since it was my first poster session that I had ever attended, let alone had a poster at. I didn’t realize this before I went but it was pretty much me giving mini 10 minute summary presentations over and over again, not people just looking at my poster on their own.
    So, overall, if you have the opportunity from research, definitely attend a conference, because it is an extremely valuable networking tool and just a good experience to have!

  21. A slide show of photos, submitted by Megan T. , of her summer research experience are posted at the top of this page.

  22. I got this email today. If you are interested realize the date is really soon. The earlier the due date the better chances you have!

    We wanted to remind you about a SULI option for students who are interested in nuclear engineering policy.

    The Naval Reactors Directorate, which is a joint DOE/US Navy group that manages nuclear propulsion plant systems for the Navy’s land-based training reactors and for all US Navy aircraft carriers and submarines, is hosting 2 SULI participants here in Washington, DC next summer. Students must have their applications completed by December 11, 2010 (in order to allow additional time to obtain the required security clearance) and will be notified by December 31, 2009 for a summer 2010 appointment in Washington, DC. Students submit the normal SULI application, but select the Naval Reactors program as their first choice lab at question 22 to designate that they would like to be considered for this special program. If you are not selected, your application will still be considered by the other labs as part of the normal SULI pool of applications. Further information is online near the bottom of this web page: http://www.scied.science.doe.gov/scied/erulf/choose.html.

  23. I would like to remind everyone that the start of November usually is the opening of REU’s and Internships applications.

    For those of you interested in obtaining an REU, I recommend thinking about what areas interest you, personal statements, recommendation letters (at least 2), cvs, and start doing some searches. The list of REU program websites that were posted on this blog will most likely run again so that is a good place to start looking.

    The earliest due date for applications from what I remember was mid December so that is only a month and half away! As you can see from previous blogs, for many of us, our REU experiences have taken us all over the country and were absolutely incredible experiences.

  24. Hi Everybody,

    This past summer I participated in the MUSE Program here at TCNJ. I worked with Dr. Benoit, geophysicist of the physics department, on two projects. Our first project was gathering seismic data from an online data system on the IRIS website about earthquakes that have occured in the past 7 years that were detected by certain seismic stations in Northern Italy. Analyzing this data would help us determine the crustal/lithospheric structure undernearth Northern Italy. In knowing this, we can provide more effective earthquake hazard awareness to the area.
    Determining the subcrustal structure of the region has a number of steps. As stated previously, we gather the data from a number of earthquakes that were recorded by seismic stations in Northern Italy. From this information we can determine the amount of time the earthquake waves took to travel from their focus to that specific station in Italy. From that we can further determine the type of material through which the wave traveled in order to acheive such speeds. Waves with higher velocities more likely traveled through cooler (thus denser) areas, whereas waves that had much lower velocities more likely traveled through warmer (or less dense) material. In knowing the temperature of the subcrustal material through which the waves traveled, we were able to form tomographic images of the cross-sectional areas beneath Northern Italy. Due to the number of earthquakes and geologic history of the area, we were expecting these images to resemble that of a subducting oceanic plate with a detached slab. Our images however, suggest that the structure of the crust resembles a lithospheric drip! If this is the case, the idea of a lithospheric drip has not been studied in much detail and would provide us with further research! Hopefully we can publish a paper about what shocking data we have obtained thus far and attend the AGU Conference in December 2009 to present about our findings!
    The second project this summer was a study of the crust beneath the Appalachian Mountain Range in North Eastern America. In order to study this we took a trip in which we installed a number of seismometers across West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. These seismic stations are capable of receiving earthquake waves from all over the world and, like the previous project I explained, from this information we can gain a better understanding of what the crust is like beneath this area. We chose this region because from what previous studies have shown, the crust beneath these mountains is not consistent with isotropy. Isotropy explains that any areas that have higher altitudes above the crust will also reach to deeper depths beneath the crust and vice versa. This specific part of the Appalachian mountain range is not consistent with this idea. Over the next year or so Dr. Benoit and her colleague from Yale will occasionaly travel to our seismic station sites and collect any data gathered by the equipment.
    Well I might have went a little too indepth about all of the research I helped with this summer, but at least you can get a better feel for what the program is like. What I liked about the MUSE program was that I could apply what I learned in the classroom to “real life” research. I was able to work on the data analysis side as well as the equipment installation and field work side of the research. It was a fun and extremely educational opportunity! Having previously taken geology before the MUSE program I thought I understood a great deal about seismology, however this program openned my eyes to a much deeper understanding of the subject matter. I would highly recommend the program to anyone!

  25. Hey everyone,

    This past summer I participated in the college’s Mentored Undergraduate Summer Experience (MUSE) program with Dr. Magee. We worked on the project “Sublimation of Electrodynamically Levitated Ice Crystals at Low Temperatures”. The first few weeks consisted of Dr. Magee and I running around buying parts and building the apparatus and equipments in the physics machine shop. We build a five-electrode quadrupole levitation cell, which is placed in a vacuum, which is placed in a large freezer that can go down to -80 degree Celsius!! We levitated ice crystals inside the cell and through optical and eletrical data we observe and analyze its sublimation. This experiment is important because the rate of ice particle sublimation is a subject of recent controversy in atmospheric science literature. Theoretical sublimations rates do not appear to match aircraft and satellite observations of cirrus clouds. The outcome of research could potentially affect parameterizations within cloud and climate models, ultimately affecting climate change predictions. We’re continuing this work this semester with Corey Tong so if anyone is interested, feel free email any of the three of us and stop by when we’re in the lab.

    We will hopefullly publish a paper with the data we are collecting and go to the American Geophysical Union conference in December 2009 in San Francisco. Another plus is we got to play with liquid nitrogen AND dry ice. 😀 Who doesn’t like that!

    The MUSE program is great because you have a chance to test the water of research with a mentor whom you know. It allows you to get a feel so what it’s like co-working with a mentor in the lab, which is what you’ll be most likely doing after you graduate college. I don’t mean doing busy work and paper work and just manual labors, but actually co-working in the research. This is a really great research opportunity TCNJ has provided and is definitely worth looking into if you want to find something to do for your summer.

    The following is a link for the MUSE program:
    http://fscollab.wordpress.com/muse/
    You can find out more about the program and other projects in the program on the website.

  26. Hey guys, this summer I was offered a position as a chemist/engineer at a company called Eventide. I was hired to research, design, and build little electrolytic fuel cells. These fuel cells held approx 25mL of Deuterium Oxide + .2m K2CO3 (electrolyte). The electrodes were pure Palladium and Tungsten. The 100mL bottle of D2O cost like 120 bucks which was pretty cool. For those of you who recognize this experimental setup, you would notice that it is exactly like the one done in 1989 by electrochemists Fleischmann and Pons. These two famous chemists claimed to produce a nuclear fusion by electrolyzing D20 using a Palladium Cathode, which is exactly what I was suppose to do. They claimed that the input energy was measured to be less than the output, which indicates a possible fusion rxn. I ran approximately 15 experiments that all proved that energy was conserved, indicating no excess energy. All in all, at this company, I built the electrolytic cells, wrote Visual Basic 6.0 software, coded programmable measurement devices, created a differential voltage thermometer, purchased many cool materials, met many engineers, made some money, and gained alot of experience. I also wrote a paper and am working on a website. If anyone has a chance to do a summer research, I highly recommend it, it was alot of fun!!

  27. In an attempt to redeem myself, I’m (finally) here to give a little insight into my REU experience. The program I participated in this summer was located at the Cyclotron Institute at Texas A&M University and was geared towards research in nuclear and particle physics. The Cyclotron Institute itself houses a K500 cyclotron used to conduct many low energy experiments. However, there are many research groups at the Cyclotron Institute and not all of them use the Cyclotron. The group that I worked with dealt with high energies and took their data from the STAR experiment where they are studying the Quark-Gluon Plasma, a new phase of matter believed to have existed until very shortly after the big bang. More specifically, I was given the task of modularizing a clustering algorithm being used to analyze data from the STAR detector. At the beginning of the summer, I was given the ugliest piece of code I had ever seen. By the end of the summer, I handed back a program that was clear, concise, portable, and very useful for analysis purposes.

    I believe that this program benefited me in many ways. Not only did I learn more about physics and make important connections, I also developed very important skills which will be extremely valuable later in my career. While it was great learning about some of the frontier topics in particle and nuclear physics at a leisurely pace outside of the classroom, I feel that the real benefit of my experience comes from developing as a person and becoming more mature and well rounded. Experiences like this force you to challenge the way you think and push yourself harder than you normally would. They expose you to an area of the scientific world that you don’t normally get to see in your undergraduate career and teach you important lessons that can’t be learned from books or coursework.

    I’d also like to add my personal insight into the program itself to help future students decide if this is a program for them. Out of the thirteen students there, I would say two went away unhappy. The eleven others went away extremely satisfied. Each research group is different, so your experience could vary, but I definitely enjoyed my time there. The accommodations were very nice and everyone involved in the program is very friendly. They had weekly talks about topics in nuclear physics as well free lunch every Thursday! The program coordinator is one of the nicest ladies in the whole building and she goes out of her way to make sure everyone in the program really enjoys themselves. Parts of the program that I thought were extremely helpful were the mandatory poster session with all the other REU students on campus, and the twenty-five minute presentation we had to give at the end. As an added bonus, at the end of the program, everyone submits an abstract to the Conference Experience for Undergraduates, is invited to attend the conference where the CEU is being held, and is given the chance to apply for travel and lodging grants. Even though that all may seem scary at first, it really helps going through the process for the first time with thirteen other students just like you. The one obvious negative to this REU is that it’s in Texas. It’s extremely hot there and about a 24 hour drive from New Jersey. It gets a little lonely, but if you have somebody who’s willing to come visit you, it really helps make the ten weeks away from home seem not quite so long.

    In less words:
    I had a great time this summer. I met new people, learned cool physics, and grew as a person. Don’t miss out on a chance like this.
    -Darrick

  28. Hey everyone I also did an REU this summer at Princeton University(only 15 min from TCNJ) for PCCM (Princeton Center for Complex Materials). This REU was a material science internship that had students working with Princeton Professors on various topics in the area of materials research, the most prominent being nanotechnology.

    My specific project was the synthesis of bismuth nanowires. One of may favorite parts of this internship was the access to and training on the scanning electron microscope, as this was vital in looking as the results obtained from the “growths.” Princeton’s Imaging and Anaylisis Center also had a variety of sample prep equipment and two transmission electron microscopes that the students in the program were also welcome to get trained on however I could not as the TEM that was easier to learn was down this summer. The research had me working prominently on my specific project with a high school student on our project, but I also learned about my professors research on quantum dots(nanoscale device to capture and manipulate single electrons, a kind of synthetic atom in a way) and also attended many seminars from other professors from Princeton on their research.

    The housing accomodations were very nice. 18 other students and I lived in a house converted to a dorm with a huge kitchen which was helpful since there is no meal plan. The housing arrangements were also nice because by the first few weeks there was a very tight community. It was a great experience for me and I’d highly recommend this specific REU for anyone interested in materials research or nanotechnology, and just in general to get involved in REUs as early as possible if considering grad school or even if you just want to be exposed to some cool research.

  29. Hello everyone,

    As requested, I’ll tell everyone a little bit about my summer research. I did research at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab (close to school!) as part of the National Undergraduate Fellowship Program. While there, I studied the dust particle dynamics of a dusty plasma in a varying gravitational field while analyzing the data obtained from the dusty plasma experiment. It was truly a very valuable experience; not only was I able to learn a lot about what its like working in a lab but I made a lot of new connections and met many new people.

    One of the things I really liked about my program was that I got to learn about projects going on all over the lab, not just mine. I got to talk to researchers and have them explain what they do at the lab to me one on one, and everyone was more than happy to talk to me.

    Sorry this is so broad, let me know if you have any specific questions! merali3@tcnj.edu

  30. Hello all,

    As Dr. Ochoa requested I will put my two cents in on my REU this past summer. My research was at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland Ohio working for the National Cancer Institute Integrative Cancer Biology Program. This program took an integrative approach at cancer as our focus was to take experimental biology or lab bench results and implement these data into mathematical and computational models. It was really interesting to be on the forefront of this innovative research as this approach has become very popular in the last few years.

    My work specifically was in the experimental biology creating DNA substrates that contain mispairs, for example, G/T or G/IuDR(Thymine analogue). I also had some experience in the mathematical modeling of protein kinetics that are used to study protein DNA interaction. By the end of the summer, I designed and created a DNA plasmid that contained modified restriction sites to be utilized in studying mismatch repair. Mismatch repair is essentially a house keeping process ensuring genomic stability through DNA synthesis. It was truly a rewarding experience. I got to make connections for graduate/medical school and met some of the most highly regarded researches in the field of cancer biology.

    I can not emphasize enough how important these experiences were for me the past two years. They have really put my future in perspective and guided me to my passion. I have learned that I am really interested in clinical research and want to continue pursuing research in addition to medicine. For all of those PHYH students who don’t know exactly what they want to do or any students for that matter, apply to physics and biology programs and see where it takes you. If you are worried about being rejected, I believe I got rejected over 30 times from REU’s in my undergraduate career and after a while it does not faze you. NIH and several other programs are looking for physics students like you and I who offer a different perspective on biology and come equipped with more mathematical and analytical skills than traditional biology students. On top of all of these lessons and experiences, generally speaking, REU’s give a semi-decent stipend. I received 3500, travel, and an apartment (with kitchen, bath….) for only 8 weeks. In addition, it is a time to get away from home and learn some independence.

    So in summary, I hate to agree with Dr. Ochoa, but REU’s were possibly the best experiences of my undergraduate career. It is he who initially introduced me to the idea, and I am forever grateful. I hope to be the same influence to anyone (specifically underclassmen) who reads this blog. I applied my freshmen year and got rejected from everyone I applied to. This failure ironically was a great start to my undergraduate studies as it made me want it that much more. The next year I came equipped with a few more semesters of grades and newly polished personal statements and was fortunate enough to be offered one opportunity. Worst comes to worst, writing the personal statements is good practice for future applications! If anyone would like more information about medical school/ REU’s in biology or in general/ graduate school please feel free to contact me (Tong2@tcnj.edu) I will gladly answer all of your questions or concerns. I apologize for the long post.

  31. The previous submissions were really insightful and have a lot of good advice for obtaining an REU. For those who have no applied yet, it is still not too late to submit those last minute application. From some personal experience, Last year while applying to some REUs and after being rejected by many, I decided to hand in one more application around this time (early March). The program I applied to was from one of Dr. Ochoa’s emails. I was tentative about something my application but I decided to just for kicks. I found out a week later that I was accepted into the program. I was incredibly lucky but had I not submitted my application I really dont know where I would be now. The experience was incredible (the research ehh not so much) and really put my life into perspective. I highly recommend at least trying because really there is no harm in a “no.” At least you get some personal statement writing experience out of it! For those of you who just recently received Dr. Ochoa’s Boston College REU email, give it a try it will take 2 hours out of your day, but really could change your life.

    My best advice for being successful as an REU applicant is to submit your application as early as possible and follow up. I recently heard back from Case Western in an NIH NCI ICBP program, a program which I could have only dreamed of obtaining. I submitted my application early January thinking that it was a long shot. I sent some emails to PIs and the director as standard follow ups to show that I really am interested (again thinking that I didnt have a chance). I heard back yesterday that I had been accepted to participate.

    Overall though the whole application process is tedious but rewarding. After all your applications have been put it, you really feel accomplished and it is exciting to check your email every minute in the month of march to see the status of your application. So if you are reading this and havent applied yet, apply to the BC REU due March 13th!!

  32. Agreed with above: apply to as many as possible. Applying is free, and REU applications aren’t that hard or time consuming, so there is nothing stopping you from sending an application to every opportunity that interests you. My first summer, I was only accepted by one of the 8 or so that I applied to, so I didn’t have much choice there, but my second summer was more interesting. I was contacted by one REU (Cornell) early on, and by the time their notification of acceptance was due, I still had not received a definite answer from any other schools.

    So, my suggestions would be to make a list of your preferences (in case you hear back from a few), wait as long as you can to get back to finalize your acceptance decision (make sure you know all of your options by that point) and just have an open mind and be ready to jump on an unexpected opportunity if it comes up.

  33. Also, I’ve attached the website of my summer research at U. of Rochester to my name, so just click on my name to go to the site to see some interesting stuff.

  34. A few tips for anyone looking to do an REU: apply to many places (I applied to 10, got accepted to 2), have someone read over your statement of purpose/interest (you really do have to sell yourself, show them that you’re interested and excited to get involved in research), get the applications in early! From what I understand, they read them as they come in and start admitting people as early as February or early March, so the earlier you get your app’s in, the better.

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