The Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program supports active research participation by undergraduate students in any of the areas of research funded by the National Science Foundation. REU projects involve students in meaningful ways in ongoing research programs or in research projects specifically designed for the REU program.
This solicitation features two mechanisms for support of student research: (1) REU Sites are based on independent proposals to initiate and conduct projects that engage a number of students in research. REU Sites may be based in a single discipline or academic department, or on interdisciplinary or multi-department research opportunities with a coherent intellectual theme. Proposals with an international dimension are welcome. A partnership with the Department of Defense supports REU Sites in DoD-relevant research areas. (2) REU Supplements may be requested for ongoing NSF-funded research projects or may be included as a component of proposals for new or renewal NSF grants or cooperative agreements.
Undergraduate student participants in either Sites or Supplements must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States or its possessions.
Students may not apply directly to NSF to participate in REU activities. Students apply directly to REU Sites and should consult the directory of NSF-wide active REU Sites on the Web. For chemistry specific sites, please visit REU Sites: Chemistry.
To see the geographical distribution of active site, see the map of REU sites nationwide.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is REU?
REU is an NSF-funded program where diverse colleges and universities host visiting students (usually 8-10 students) to conduct research during the summer. This program was created to provide meaningful research opportunities to students who wouldn't otherwise have them.
Where is REU?
There are over 600 REU sites, spanning 16 different general research areas, across the United States and a few that are in foreign countries.
How long is the program?
Usually 10 weeks, but can be adjusted in some cases to accommodate the semester/quarter system, e.g. if your home school is on semesters and the REU site is on quarters, or vice versa.
Do the REU summer researchers get paid?
Yes! If you are accepted to a program, you will receive travel reimbursement and a stipend for the summer. In most cases, housing will be provided in dormitories or comparable facilities on or near campus.
What areas of research are available?
Diverse areas including: Astronomical Sciences, Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Computer and Information Science and Engineering, Cyberinfrastructure, Department of Defense (DoD), Earth Sciences, Education and Human Resources, Engineering, Ethics and Values Studies, International Science and Engineering, Materials Research, Mathematical Sciences, Ocean Sciences, Physics, Polar Programs, Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences.
More information can be found on the NSF website:
Do I need experience in the area of research?
You do not need previous research experience, but it is best if you have already taken classes in the area of research you are interested in, e.g. a chemistry or biochemistry major will be best matched in a chemistry program or one that is closely related, perhaps materials or some of the programs in biological sciences.
What type of research will I be doing once I am accepted to a site?
The Directors of the REU program will pair up the incoming students with participating faculty members, doing their best to match research interests. When you join a research group for the summer, you will work in the area of research that the group specializes in. Most students will work on a project that is ongoing in the group in order to have the most valuable research experience in 8-10 weeks.
What type of guidance and mentoring will I receive?
You will work very closely with a faculty member and often a graduate student, postdoctoral researcher or other group member. You will be given the necessary scientific and safety training to conduct advanced level research.
Will I get to publish my research?
In many cases, REU students are co-authors on publications resulting from the experiments they conduct over the summer. Sometimes the project is not ready for publication until after the student has left the program.
Is it all research, 24/7?
No, summer research is considered "full time", but work hours vary from group to group. You will also have time to explore the area the university is located in, and there are often planned group seminars, tours, and other outings.
Will this experience help me get into graduate school?
Yes! Your summer research advisor will often provide you with a supportive letter of recommendation and admissions committees recognize the NSF REU as a distinction that will mark you as a good candidate. In addition, many REU programs will include workshops on how to maximize the competitiveness of your graduate school application.
Will I be able to present the work I complete over the summer?
Yes! There is often a forum, such as a poster session, at the end of the summer for students to showcase their work. In addition, you might have the opportunity to present your work at a scientific meeting.
What kind of professional development can I expect?
Programs vary widely. Some will offer a formal series of workshops or seminars. Beyond that, the chance to work closely with graduate students and get to know and advisor is an important first step in your career as a scientist in any field. You will also receive valuable training in your area of research with regard to instruments and techniques specific to the field.
How do I apply?
Each site has its own application system, so you have to go to the sites that interest you and fill out an application for each one. The due dates are all slightly different (often in February or March), as are the timelines for application review. You can expect to hear back in March or April. There is no application fee, but you should look carefully at the various programs and apply to the ones that are the best match for your interests. You will probably have to provide transcripts, a personal statement, and one or more letters of recommendation.
What should I do if I am admitted to one program, but have not heard back from another one in which I am also interested?
Be honest with your contacts at both programs. It's OK to contact the second one and ask when you can expect to hear back. And it's OK to contact the admitted program to ask if you can have more time to make an acceptance decision, but understand that they may not be able to grant that request. In some cases, you might have to withdraw your application from one program if you accept a position. Most importantly, once you accept one position, you are obligated to attend. It reflects badly on you and creates difficulties for the REU site if you accept a position and then later back out.