Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does "REU" stand for?

    REU stands for Research Experiences for Undergraduates. It is a type of program put together and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). National laboratories and observatories also have programs.

  • What is an "REU" or Summer Research Program?

    The REU program and other summer research programs are an opportunity for undergraduates - particularly those majoring in Physics &/or Astronomy - to get paid to work on a research project for the summer with a scientist. Typically, these REU programs are hosted by a University or a National Laboratory or Observatory. The NSF provides money to the site so that they can hire 6-10 students to work with faculty who are interested in hosting a student. Typically all the students are from different universities and colleges.

  • Who is eligible to go to an REU or summer research program? and can I participate AFTER my senior year?

    Usually the only requirements to be eligible for one of these programs is that you are pursuing an undergraduate degree in physics and/or astronomy. The REU specific sites are usually only open to students who are currently STILL pursuing their degree (i.e., NOT graduated seniors), however more and more sites are also opening up to graduated seniors and first year graduate students. For example, NRAO and most NASA centers encourage graduated seniors and first year graduate students to spend the summer doing research at one of their sites. Don't write off a summer research job just because you are graduating - spending the summer before graduate school at one of these sites can be an important foot in the door to a future research project.

  • Why would I want to do an REU or summer research program ?

    There are a number of reasons to undertake research projects in the summer: (1) Opportunities to get involved with types of research you may not have here at UCSC; (2) a chance to see how a national laboratory or observatory runs; (3) To make contacts at other universities, laboratories, observatories (these may come in handy later if you go on to graduate school); (4) to see what physicists and astronomers REALLY do; (5) to spend a summer somewhere really interesting (Southwestern US, Puerto Rico, California, ...).

  • What dates do these summer programs usually run ?

    The dates of employment absolutely depend on the program. Some programs have set dates, some do not. There is usually quite a bit of flexibility to accommodate for some summer vacation time as well as different schools finishing at different times in May and June. Usually the dates of the REU programs are early June - mid August.

  • What do I get paid?

    Typically, the summer stipends are very reasonable  with money also supplied for housing and usually the travel to/from the REU site is covered. The NSF likes to support students to travel also to the national astronomy or physics meetings and present a poster on their summer research.

  • Where would I live?

    Often the housing is set up by the REU site - in dormitories or houses the site maintains. Other times, the REU students get in touch via email before the program starts and agree to rent a house together and to cook meals. There are usually a lot of weekend outings to explore the local environment.

  • How and when do I apply?

     Typically the applications for REU positions are due between early January and early March, and you will be offered positions between March and April.

  • What other ON CAMPUS options for research exist if I don't go away or want to stay here in Santa Cruz for the summer?

    If you are a first-year student, it may make the most sense to get your feet wet with research with one of the faculty in the UCSC Astronomy Department. Some of these 'on site' research positions often give preference to students who are sophomores or juniors and who have shown initiative by getting inovlved with research during their first or second summer. Or there may be other constraints that require you stick around campus for the summer - in any case, some astronomy faculty have money to support students for the summer (full time, part time, or for part of the summer). It is best to approach the faculty in winter quarter and find out what options exist for summer research positions. In addition, the Astronomy Department holds a Research Social each spring.