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Brian Dorney | USLHC | USA

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Research Experiences for Undergraduates

So this post goes out to all undergraduate students interested in pursuing research opportunities or graduate studies in the fields of astro-particle physics, particle physics and/or high energy physics.  The reason for this is that it’s the time of the year to start thinking about what you’re doing this summer; because various Research Experiences for Undergraduates (aka REU’s) are now accepting applications.

For those of you who may not know, REU’s are summer programs held by national laboratories and universities across the country (sometimes even around the world!).  Selected students have the opportunity to go to these institutions for 9-15 weeks (depending on the program) and work with expert researchers in the field.  They allow an undergraduate to get first hand experience of what it’s like to be a scientist, and develop valuable networking opportunities.  Most REU’s also provide room & board for accepted students, and some occasionally provide a stipend as well.

If you are considering pursuing graduate study, a career in scientific research, or just want to know what it’s like to be a physicist then I would definitely suggest applying to an REU program that interests you; and in that spirit I took the time to compile a list of REU’s in High Energy Physics (and related fields) that are now accepting applications for the summer of 2012!


The University of Michigan REU at CERN

Why save the best for last?  Because this, as they say, is the real deal.

Through an agreement between University of Michigan and CERN, undergraduate juniors and seniors studying physics (and related disciplines) have the opportunity to spend the summer in CERN!  This is where the all the action in particle physics is going to be this summer; because next year the LHC plans to collide our proton beams at either 7 or maybe even 8 TeV!  The ATLAS and CMS experiments each plan on recording ~7-13 inverse femtobarns of data (or 700-1300 trillion proton-proton collisions)!

If a major discovery is made, would you rather hear about it on your Quantum Diaries RSS feed (all the cool kids have one) or be part of the discovery at CERN!?

You must be a US Citizen or permanent resident to be eligible, for more details see:


The deadline is December 20th!

And just in case you think this program is impossible to get into, I’m good friends with one undergraduate student who was accepted to the program in the summer of 2010!  So apply, you have nothing to lose and so much to gain!


Summer Internships at Fermilab

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) has three summer programs for high school students and teachers, and five summer programs for undergraduate students!  These programs allow selected applicants to work on projects ranging from QuarkNet to LHC experiments.

Aside from the physics, Fermilab is a beautiful place in Batavia, IL; also very close to Chicago.  I first visited Fermilab for the First Beam Pajama Party in 2008, and it was there that I decided to pursue a life in high energy physics.  Needless to say, Fermilab, is a truly awe inspiring place, and I definitely encourage you to apply.  I mean they even have live buffalo on site!

Information on the programs I mentioned above can be found here:


With deadlines ranging from January to April for each:


I know another student who was accepted to this program also, their summer work at Fermilab has turned into several poster presentations, a peer-review publication, and a senior research project (for which they received actual college credits for!).  So definitely do apply, it can be so beneficial for your future career (wherever that may take you)!


Summer Student Programs at SLAC

The SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (known as SLAC for short) has two summer programs for undergraduate students.  The first of which is the SLAC Summer Student Program.  The second of which is the SLAC Youth Opportunity Program.

The SLAC Summer Student Program is slightly different from the other REU’s I’ve listed.  They accept applications from high schoolers, undergraduates and graduate students.  But you must apply to a specific summer student job opportunity (rather than applying to the program and then be assigned to a research group once  you arrive).  However, this gives you the advantage of knowing what you’re doing before you arrive.  Not to mention it allows you some degree of choice on what you become involved in if accepted.

The SLAC Youth Opportunity Program targets students of low income families.  Positions within this program are full-time paid positions designed to give real world work experience to students ages 18-22.

More information on these two programs, and were to apply can be found below:


While I’ve never been to SLAC, I do know it is located in sunny California and operated by Stanford University.  So if you ever had dreams for attending Stanford, being a summer student at SLAC would give you some really great networking opportunities you might be able to exploit on your application to Stanford’s Graduate Program.


Science Summer Undergraduate Internship at BNL

Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) in New York also has a fantastic summer program for undergraduate students.  However this program, unlike most of the above programs, allows students to become involved in numerous research fields.  The REU available at BNL for selected students are chemistry, high energy physics, biology, engineering, and related disciplines.

This program is for all undergraduate students, and is now accepting applications until January.  More details on this opportunity, and how to apply, can be found here:



Search for an REU Site

In case none of the above opportunities appeal to you, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has this great resource for finding REU programs by field.


So spend an afternoon this week or weekend and find an REU program that would best fit your interests!

I really encourage any undergraduate students reading this to apply to one, if not all, of the above opportunities.  They are truly fantastic opportunities, they give you an idea of what a scientist actually does on a day to day basis; and might help you pick out a future career path.  The networking connections you can gain from these opportunities can really help you out later in life (i.e. recommendation letters).  I cannot put into words just how fantastic these opportunities are.

But hopefully you’ll have found this post helpful.  Good luck to all, I hope you are accepted!


Until next time,