Why is the sky blue?
By Kevin Pitts
December 30, 2012
There are lots of opportunities for summer undergraduate research at lots of different locations. Now is the time to apply. Spend part of your holiday break putting together applications. I have students coming to me in April asking me what they can do this summer. I have to tell them that it’s too late for a research position.
I wrote an earlier post on doing research on campus. I refer to that as “independent” research. This post is about research opportunities elsewhere. (I also wrote an earlier post about doing research elsewhere, I encourage you to read it. It explains that you are probably better qualified that you think!)
First of all, there are REU’s. These are “Research Experiences for Undergraduates” sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Illinois has an REU program where we bring in about 10 students from other schools. (Note: If you are a UIUC student, you can apply to any REU program in the nation except the Illinois REU program!) I have quite a bit of experience with REU programs, both ours and at other institutions. These are great programs. You get to do research, experience a new place and make new friends. (I was in a program like this back when I was in school, and I still keep in touch with some of the friends I made that summer!) I know of many, many students who report that their REU experience completely changed their career plans and outlook on the future. By the way, REU programs pay very well for the summer.
Anybody who is currently a sophomore or junior is a good candidate to go for an REU this summer. There are some cases where a freshman might be a good candidate, too. Please contact me if you have questions. I count 57 different programs that you can apply to. Most of these programs have an application deadline in the middle of February. You need to give the people writing recommendation letters some time to get them in, so you need to be working on your applications now. By the way, many of these programs require a copy of your college transcript as part of the application. The Registrar's Office will send an official transcript directly to the places where you are applying. But again, it takes them time to process the request and send it, so don't wait until the last minute!
Next is the SULI program. It’s funded by the Department of Energy and is set up to bring students to national laboratories to do summer research. This is also a great program. Imagine spending the summer at Brookhaven Lab in New York, or Los Alamos Lab in New Mexico, or Fermilab in Illinois. The SULI deadline is January 10th. Get your applications in right away!!
Argonne Lab additionally has a “Student Research Participation” program. Deadline for applications is February 1, 2013.
Fermilab has a number of different programs. Check them out here. Deadlines vary from January to March. I happen to know that the Lee Teng accelerator physics program doesn't get many applications.
IBM and the American Physical Society are sponsoring an internship program for female undergraduates in physics. Deadline for applications is February 1, 2013.
Los Alamos Lab has a summer program. Details here. Application deadline is February 28, 2013.
Stanford has a program with SLAC (national lab).
Sandia National Laboratory has a number of great internship programs. Some of these programs don't get many applications.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado has some nice internship opportunities.
NASA also has a number of opportunities.
I'll add to this list as I learn of more opportunities. But so far, I've given you a list of about 65 different programs that are looking for energetic undergraduates to do research for the summer. Lots of students don't make the effort to apply. Do a bit of planning and a some legwork now to put together an application and it may change your life.
If you have questions about the Physics Illinois Undergraduate Program, contact the Undergraduate Office, 217.333.4361.
If you have any feedback or suggestions for this blog, please contact Kevin Pitts.
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