Summer Research Opportunities in Physics
We've compiled a resource guide to some of our favorite large (and not so large) physics-related summer research programs. This isn’t an exhaustive list-use it to jumpstart your creative thoughts in designing a summer of scientific exploration.
Why do summer research?
Summer research allows you to go beyond your classes and try your hand at daily life as a researcher. These programs enable you to explore different types of research and work environments (national laboratories, observatories, universities), make contacts and develop and demonstrate your skills as a scientist. Many programs will also encourage you to present your work, possibly at a national conference! This experience and the contacts you make can be invaluable when applying for jobs and/or graduate programs.
When does summer research happen?
Dates vary from program to program, but tend to run 6 to 10 weeks in late May-mid August. Most programs are willing to work with your school and personal schedule.
Do I get paid?
Yes! The vast majority of programs offer compensation at or above minimum wage. Taking the NSF REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) program as an example, stipends are typically ~$500/week, with additional funds for housing and travel.
How and when do I apply?
The typical application will ask for a CV or resume, your current college transcript, one or more letters of recommendation from faculty, and an application form, which usually asks you to describe why you are interested in that particular program. For the vast majority of programs, there is no application fee and the application (except for letters of recommendation and transcripts) is online. Deadlines for most programs fall from January to March, with a few programs closing applications in mid-December and a few accepting applications through April 1.
What programs are out there?
The federally-funded NSF REU program has sites at many institutions across the US. Many of this year's opportunities are listed on the NSF’s REU website www.nsf.gov/crssprgm/reu/ and at the Nucleus www.compadre.org/student/research/
Many national labs host programs for undergraduates. These are run separately by different labs-check out our partial list and the employment and education sections of individual national lab websites.
There are also internship programs in industry.
AIP and AAAS sponsor programs in science policy (AIP/SPS deadline 2/1, spsnational.org/programs/internships; AAAS (unpaid) deadline 3/1, www.aaas.org/spp/cstc/about/intern.shtml)
Many physics departments host REUs, which you can find through the NSF’s website: www.nsf.gov/crssprgm/reu/
Sites with deadlines on or after 3/1 include: University of Idaho, Indiana University, Purdue University, Louisiana State University, Michigan State University and William and Mary.
MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory: rolling deadlines, www.ll.mit.edu/college/summerprogram.html
For next year: Caltech’s MURF Undergraduate Research Fellowships: deadline was 1/11, www.murf.caltech.edu
Astronomy REU programs operate with many large observatories, from Mauna Kea (deadline 2/1, www.ifa.hawaii.edu/reu/) to Arecibo (deadline 2/1, www.naic.edu/reu_program.html)
Links to these programs and more: phobos.physics.uiowa.edu/~clang/reu_info.html
National Institute for Standards and Technologies (NIST): deadline 2/15, nist.gov/surfgaithersburg/ and www.nist.gov/surfboulder/
NASA: deadline 2/1, intern.nasa.gov/
Lawrence Livermore National Lab (LLNL) and the National Ignition Facility (NIF): rolling deadlines, scholars.llnl.gov/
Also check out: Sandia National Lab, Fermilab (FNAL), National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL) For next year: SULI is a DoE sponsored program that has one application for opportunities at 17 different national laboratories (deadline was 1/10, science.energy.gov/wdts/suli/)
APS/IBM Research Internship for Undergraduate Women: deadline 2/1, www.aps.org/programs/women/scholarships/ibm/
Engineering companies such as the Aerospace Corporation (www.aero.org/careers/intern.html), and AT&T (deadline was 1/15, research.att.com) offer summer internship programs, as do software companies like Wolfram (deadline 3/1 www.wolfram.com/company/opportunities/intern.html)
Germany’s DAAD RISE program (Germany, deadline 1/31, www.daad.de/rise/en/)
Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (Ontario, Canada, deadline tba,www.perimeterinstitute.ca/Scientific/Applications/)
For next year: University of Florida’s gravitational physics REU (www.phys.ufl.edu/ireu/) and University of Michigan’s CERN REU (deadline was 12/20, www.um-cern-reu.org/)