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: https://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”, found here: https://policy.byu.edu/view/index.php?p=26.
Tell me more about this Honor Code. What is required?
The full Honor Code is found at the link above, but here are some important parts of it:
- Be honest.
- Live a “chaste and virtuous life”, which among other things includes abstaining from any sexual relations outside a marriage between a man and a woman. It also means means no obscene language or conduct, no gambling, and no pornography.
- Obey the law.
- Abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee, vaping, and substance abuse. (Herbal tea is fine.)
- Participate regularly in church services (required only of LDS Church members).
- Follow the residential living standards, which includes the set visiting hours and rules against people of opposite sex inside bedrooms.
- Follow the dress and grooming standards, which are outlined here https://policy.byu.edu/view/index.php?p=229,and include the following:
- Men: shorts must be knee length or longer, hair length should be above the collar and ear, no beards, no earrings/other body piercings, shirts should not be sleeveless.
- Women: dresses, skirts, and shorts must be knee length or longer, not more than one ear piercing per ear, no other body piercings, shirts should not be sleeveless, strapless, backless, or otherwise revealing.
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 600,000 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. Funding through other sources is limited but might be possible. Please send us an email explaining your situation.
I'd rather drive to Provo instead of fly so I can have a car available. Is that okay?
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.
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.
What is an “ecclesiastical endorsement” and how do I get one?
An ecclesiastical endorsement is only needed AFTER you have been accepted to the program. It involves an ecclesiastical interview with one or more church leaders. LDS students meet with their local bishop and stake president. Non-LDS students meet with either their local religious leader or a local LDS bishop in their area, and then have a final interview via phone or email with the BYU Chaplain. Once you are accepted into the program and decide you want to participate, you can go here to begin the process: https://prd.endorse.byu.edu/.