Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some answers to questions we are frequently asked about our program:
What if I don't have much research experience/don't know what kind of research I'd like to do?
We frequently consider and accept students without prior research experience, especially if it's because they come from schools where there were no research opportunities. Our program is structured to give you the background you need to succeed in a research project even without prior experience. We're mostly looking for students with a passion for research, a willingness to work hard, and an interest in physics. It helps if you have some idea of what type of research you'd like to be involved with (current projects are listed here: //reu.byu.edu/projects/), but if you don't have a preference just let us know in the free text section of your application and tell us what kinds of things you generally like to do in physics. We'll find a good match for you if you're accepted and will check with you before making an assignment to make sure you're okay with that.
I heard BYU is run by the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes referred to as the LDS or “Mormon” Church), and I'm not a church member. Is that a problem?
No, not a problem! We are anxious to give anyone who is interested an opportunity to participate in this program, and you do not have to be a church member. That being said, because BYU is a church-run university you do have to agree to abide by the church standards as expressed in the “Honor Code”. Some good information about the Honor Code is found on our "Code of Conduct" page, here: https://reu.byu.edu/codeofconduct.
Do I have to attend church services?
LDS church members are expected to attend their local LDS church services. REU participants who are not LDS members are encouraged to participate in their own church services if they have one, but attendance is not required.
What's Utah like?
Utah is great, especially for those who like the outdoors! It is the first state to receive a “3 star” rating by the Michelin travel guide (Salt Lake Tribune article from 2018), and contains five National Parks. There are many opportunities for hiking, cycling, sight-seeing, etc., both locally and state-wide. We organize many events for the REU cohort, and students often do additional things on their own. Note, however, that the climate is semiarid. This means that it only rarely rains in the summer (which can be nice, as you don't often have to plan around rain for your outdoor activities), but visitors from more humid areas may take some time to get used to the lack of humidity. And bringing water with you on any outdoor activity is a must. The temperature also swings quite a bit between daytime and nighttime. Here are the average daytime highs/nighttime lows for Jun, Jul, and Aug.
- Jun: 84 F / 52 F
- Jul: 92 F / 59 F
- Aug: 89 F / 58 F
What's there to do in Provo?
You won't be bored! Besides your active involvement in research on campus and social activities with other REU and BYU students, there are many things to do in the Provo area over the summer. As mentioned above, outdoor activities abound locally and throughout the state, and we organize many of them for the REU students. The Provo area itself is home to about 700,000 people and Provo was named “the happiest town in the USA” (USA Today article from 2014). There are two large universities (BYU and Utah Valley University), countless restaurants, many live music venues, movie theaters, play houses, malls and other shopping areas, and so forth. Provo is also only about 45 minutes away from Salt Lake City, the major population center of the state with 1.2 million people in its metropolitan area.
What about Sundays?
Due to the religious nature of the community, a lot of local businesses are closed on Sundays and public transportation options are greatly reduced. That's not to say that EVERYTHING is shut down, but a lot of things are.
I've never been away from home before. Will I be okay in Provo?
We work hard to make sure you have everything you'll need during your stay with us. We will make arrangements for your housing, provide you with transportation to and from the airport and for shopping needs, and help you find social activities when you're not doing research. BYU has a reputation of being a very friendly campus and our past REU participants have told us they found that to be the case. We work hard to support our REU students in everything they do while they are here.
Your schedule doesn't quite match my school schedule. Can you help me?
Depending on availability of research mentors and housing, we can often work to accommodate individual needs. Let us know your schedule constraints and we'll see what we can do.
I'm not a U.S. citizen. Can I still participate?
Our primary funding comes from the National Science Foundation and they have specified that we can only give stipends to U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
However, we do have an alternate summer research program that includes some funding for an international student currently studying at a U.S. institution. Please see here for more details on the Fletcher Research Internship program: https://physics.byu.edu/fletcher.
I am a minority student. Will I feel comfortable at BYU?
BYU and the state of Utah generally have smaller populations of minority students than some other areas of the country. Knowing that, we work very hard to make sure our minority participants feel comfortable and welcome on campus. Your participation in our program is a targeted goal we are serious about. Our past minority participants reported that they felt very welcome on campus and didn't have any serious problems being a minority student here. If you have any specific concerns, please send us an email so that we can discuss them.
Are all of the projects open for teachers? Are all the social events open for teachers?
Yes, all of the projects are available for our RET applicants! The teachers participate alongside the undergraduates, and teachers are invited to all of the social events, including sight-seeing, hiking, game nights, and so forth.
What does a typical work/research day look like schedule wise? For example, lunch breaks, 8-5 workdays, etc.?
We expect a 40-hour work week, but the specific times of day can be set between participant and advisor. Many work 8-5 or 9-6 with an hour lunch, but at times there are reasons other schedules make more sense.
Can you leave for a weekend?
Although most or all of our outings are planned for weekends, these are always optional and participants are welcome to spend weekends however they would like.
What is the housing situation like?
Typically we house students in two-bedroom apartments, with two students per bedroom.
What about housing for married REU participants?
Married REU participants typically find their own housing, and we give them a housing stipend which is the equivalent of what we would have paid for them in the singles housing.
I'd rather drive to Provo instead of fly so I can have a car available. Is that okay? If I drive, is there parking available?
You are welcome to do this if you like. We will reimburse you for your travel costs up to the cost of round-trip airfare. If you drive, there are parking spots available at the complex where you will be staying, free of charge. (The complex is right next to campus, even closer than most campus student parking lots.)
Is the stipend payout lump sum at the end, or done in increments?
The stipend is typically paid out in three individual payments throughout the duration of the program. The first payment is at the end of the first week once participants have completed and submitted a prospectus for their projects. The second is at the end of the fifth week once participants have done their midterm presentations. The final stipend is sent at the end of the final week once participants have passed cleaning checks and turned in their final reports.
Are you considering incoming sophomores? Someone for example that has had a trig-based physics class, as well as calculus, but not calc based physics.
Yes, we will consider you. The amount of math/physics background required varies strongly from project to project. Some of the more hands-on projects could potentially be just fine for someone in your situation.
Will you consider outgoing seniors? I'm graduating in April.
No, unfortunately NSF requires that students in this program have at least one semester left prior to graduation, after the completion of the REU program.
Can I be considered if I have not yet declared a major, but have been taking physics classes and am strongly considering a physics major?
Yes, we will consider you. We have even admitted non physics/astronomy majors from time to time, when their experience/interests match up well for one of our projects.
Are students from institutions without research programs preferred? Will I be at a disadvantage since my university is considered a “research institute”?
We do try to have diversity in our REU cohort in a number of areas, type of institution being one. That does mean that the type of institution is one of the factors that we look at when making admission decisions. However, we do want some students from more major research universities as well some students from places with fewer research possibilities. Both are important to us.
About how many applications do you usually receive compared to the number of available slots?
Admissions are extremely competitive. The past several years we have received approximately 200-300 applications for typically available 12 REU slots, and 5-10 applications for the 2 RET slots.
If you are especially interested in future graduate studies at BYU we encourage you to also apply to the Fletcher Research Internship program, see here for details: https://physics.byu.edu/fletcher. It is quite similar to the REU program in many ways but is funded by the BYU Department of Physics and Astronomy instead of by NSF.
When will we be notified of our acceptance status?
We will start reviewing applications immediately after the application deadline in early February. Our first offers will likely start being made around mid-to-late February. However, we will continue to make offers until all of our spots are filled, likely filling our last spots towards the end of March. We will likely not send out rejection letters until the end of April, just in case we have unanticipated cancellations, but if you haven't heard from us before the end of March, the chances of you being accepted after that time are pretty low. At any rate, you are always welcome to contact us to ask what your status is, especially if for example you have another summer opportunity you need to decide about.