Sunday, January 15, 2017

My REU program/REU's in general/Flyers? Why do some Transcripts...

I run an REU program (Research Experience for Undergraduates) and I would normally urge you to urge undergrads who would benefit to apply to it and present both this link: here and this flyer: here.

I just did that. But I want to talk about REU programs, not just mine. A few points
which can be construed as advise- though its more questions and what I do.

1) Do flyers still have any effect? If there is a bulletin board in a dept that is known for where to look for announcements of summer opps, then YES. Otherwise--- not sure. when I asked this question to a professor I emailed the flyer to she said that at her school they stick flyers in the bathroom stalls where they are sure to get a captive audience.

2) Should you visit schools directly? I have done this; however, most of the applicants find out about it from the NSF REU website.

3) Should students pick projects ahead of time or in the first week? When students apply they list a  set of projects they want to work on (unranked but the Statement of Purpose can say which one(s)  they REALLY want)  so we can start on Day 1. Some of the mentors are in contact with students ahead of time. Other programs have them decide the first week. There are PROS and CONS to both.

4) How to do admissions? I do them myself since there are few enough of them (about 180 for 10 slots- though see next item) and since there are so many criteria to balance I'd rather not get into arguments with other committee members. I will sometimes (for example) say

``John, here are two people who want to work on your project. What do you think of them''

5) Of the 180 applicants about 50 do not have a statement of purpose. For me this is a deal-breaker. Either they were in the middle of applying and got another offer and took it- which is fine, but no reason for me to even look at the application, OR they have a hard time completing things and again, not worth my time. A prof once asked me `But what if they are really good''-- there are plenty of really good applicants who do fill out the statement of purpose.

6) The main activity is research but we have some social activities as well.

7) How big should teams be? We try to avoid teams of 1. We usually have teams of 2 or 3.

8) What about students from your own school? My REU grant tends to urge them to go elsewhere since the NSF likes to have people from NON-research schools, and because I personally think its better for broadening to go elsewhere. Other programs are set up differently.

9) Why do some transcript not have the name of the school on them. Drives me nuts.

In the Summer of 2017 I will be running this program for the 5th time. Feel free to leave questions about how to run one, OR your own experiences, in the comments.


  1. I would think having their project decided and even started a little before they show up would make sense but my question is whether you see students taking too long to get started on their eventual project and then end up getting less done. If you do then set the expectation that they all show up ready to start and have everyone have some contact before coming to make that happen.

  2. I find it hard to believe an official transcript wouldn't have the name of the college. Can you name some examples?