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A Guide to Undergraduate Summer Programs / REU's


Over the past two days I've been searching for some summer research/intern possibilities for undergradutes hoping to boost my resume (good resumes just make life so much easier) and to find fun things to do over summer. And, I thought I would share the fruits of my labor with the internet audience. Much to my surprise, there are TONS of research opprotunities for undergraduates, especially for those doing anything SCIENCE-oriented and tons of internships for things non-science. I especially wish to emphasize the sheer amount of these opprotunities out there if you just take the initiative and look for them. There are a number of textfiles/guides out there that describe the benefits of these programs and their relative value to you depending on your career goals, but that is far beyond the scope of this document. This is primarily a meta-list of programs and a collection interesting tidbits I've learned along the way.


A few general rules of thumb I've discovered about summer positions...

  • GPA Requirements are generally either 2.5, 3.0, or 3.3 GPA. Most programs have $2,000-4,500 stipends, and last 10 weeks. Some of the richer ones will even pay for your boarding and airfare.
  • The Ivy Leagues (minus Stanford, and sometimes Cornell) generally only accept minorities for their summer programs. If you're not a minority, the odds of getting a foothold in the Ivy's is decidedly unlikely. The government is sometimes also this way.
  • Some of them prefer that you have certain career goals. (i.e. research as a PhD, medical school, etc)
  • There are significantly more options for established fields than newer ones. This is primarily because some of the programs require your major to be something in particular, and if you're doing something sort of interdisciplinary and off-the-wall, (i.e. Cognitive Science) a psychology program may want only Psychology majors, and Neuroscience programs will want Neuroscience majors. One may be able to skim past this by simply saying your major is the one they are looking for and by the time they notice otherwise [usually via your transcripts] they will have to have already thoroughly scanned your application and considered how fit you would be for the position. I'd probably only recommended this if you have a fairly strong application.

    There are a good number of lists out there, all with a good deal of cross-over between them, and many of them having old and outdated entries. However, they're still your best source of locating these programs. Most of these lists are run by university departments dedicated to maintaining such lists and a few lists are maintained by big science organizations. Internship/REUs for specialized/obscure interests are usually found within a particular university department and are not affiliated with any overarching program and are thus more difficult to find, but definitely not impossible to.

    Primary Lists I found

  • http://www.scied.science.doe.gov/scied/sci_ed.htm -- National Laboratories
  • http://www.yale.edu/yser/fellowships.html -- generic scholarship stuff
  • http://www.yale.edu/yser/links/extramural.html -- currently mantained version of yale's necuse, it's not nearly as good, though it is up to date.
  • http://www.yale.edu/necuse/ -- no longer mantained, but definitely one of the most complete guides out there.
  • http://www.hhmi.org/grants/reports/scienceopp/main -- List for the Howard Hughes Medical Inst. funded 'sites' for this year.
  • http://www.nsf.gov/home/crssprgm/reu/reu_search.cfm -- List of the NSF funded 'sites' for this year.
  • http://www.amherst.edu/~neuro/SummerResearch.html -- A very impressive meta-list from Amherst University.
  • http://www.sciencenet.emory.edu/undergrad/summer_research.html -- A rather impressive list from Emory with emphasis on the SouthEast.
  • http://www.princetonreview.com/cte/search/internshipAdvSearch.asp -- A fairly long list of internships. Lots of variety. Most non-science oriented. ):
  • http://www.acm.org/crossroads/resources/internships.html Computer Science related internships, mostly repeats from the lists above. But still worth listing.
    Smaller Lists run by random universities.
  • http://www.cc.colorado.edu/careerCenter/summerJobsAndInternships/SpecCategoryLinks.htm
  • http://www.evergreen.edu/research/intern.htm
  • http://www.si.edu/ofg/resopp.htm
  • http://www.pitt.edu/~intern/intsearch.htm#allmajors
  • http://www.urop.uci.edu/opportunities/frame_offcampus.html
  • http://www.fsu.edu/%7Eugres/oppor.html
  • http://web.mit.edu/xingxing/www/bcss/summer.html

    If you happen to know of any other lists please send them to me. virgil at yak dot net


    There are 3 basic different types of summer undergrad positions:

  • 1. Those funded by incredibly huge programs/organizations. (NSF, NIH, HHMI, etc.) These programs have different 'sites' that move from university to university across the country every few years ensuring a good spread of disciplines and geographical locations.
  • 2. Programs primarily organized and paid for by an individual university department. Generally these stay in one place as long as the primary organizing professors are still at that university, and are harder to find. These programs also have the ability to talor their focus much more narrowly. If you know exactly what you want to do, something like this would likely be a good option.
  • 3. Individual Appointment/Internship to a particular professor.

    You might find the 3rd option a bit odd, and I did as well. Much to my surprise however, this actually seems to work. After I had contacted various university departments to see if a particular research program still existed or not, one faculty responded saying that although it did not exist, but: "lots of faculty take undergraduates into their labs for the summer...Most are <Home Instituition's Name Deleted> Undergraduates, but some labs take on students from other universities. If you are interested in persuing this option, I suggest you contact faculty directly."

    ... An interesting way to bypass the general system of things...I like it. However, A caution on this approach in the hope of not wasting time. Ivy League schools seem to frequently get people trying this approach, and as such it doesn't work very well at all. If you want to try something like #3, it would be best if it were not an especially competitive instituition. (Ivy or Psuedo-Ivy League)

  • The Princeton Review wrote a short article about this 3rd option.

    === ADDENDUM: 20-Feb-04 ===
    I've recently become aware of a new type that is a combination of #2 and #3. Let us call it #2.5. Basically, larger universities run smaller programs or "summer research scholarships" that simply never make it onto any of the major lists. I've often been amazed at the new opprotunities I've discoverd via this method. Also, since none of these smaller programs make it onto the general lists, the competition for them can be expected to be very light -- a definite plus.

    The method runs something like this:

  • 1) Find an particular professor/research group at university X that interests you.
  • 2) Goto Google and search for: "site:X.edu Undergraduate Summer Research"
  • 3) Find a program specific to university X that will allow you to request any particular group/professor. Many of them span across the entire university.
    === === === ===

    Howto Successfully get into these programs..

  • Weselyan University
  • Harvard University
  • Indiana University

    Miscellaneous

    Some general favorites that weren't well covered elsewhere and I thought were particularly notable.

  • National Security Agency
  • Central Intelligence Agency
  • Big List of National Labrotories. Almost all of these have some sort of internship program. And if they don't I imagine they'd be very receptive to the 3rd option.
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Wolfram Research
  • Xerox PARC
  • E-Systems
  • Big huge government organizations These programs usually go to family members of employees simply because they're not widely-known.
  • Most huge corporations (IBM, Microsoft, AT&T, etc.) have some sort of program. But it's not what I'd call research, more of, "You come here and work for a summer and if you don't fuckup we offer you a job afterwards." I like to think of them as really really long job interviews. I personally didn't find many them very interesting.
  • Interesting Bioinformatics stuff at Los Alamos National Labs
  • This company does very off the wall interesting things. They have an internship but don't advertise it.

  • (last modified 2005-08-06)       [Login]
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