Research Experience for Undergraduates

Boulder Solar Alliance REU Program

Frequently Asked Questions

About the program

What is the financial support of the program?
Yes, you will receive $600 per week, your housing will be fully covered, and you will receive a fixed travel stipend to get to and from Boulder.

Where will I be living if I am accepted into the program? Will I have roommates?
We provide and pay for a shared room at the Bear Creek apartments – a CU Boulder apartment complex. You will share an apartment with up to three others. Each person gets a private bedroom, but shares a bathroom with one other person and shares a kitchen and living space with the others. Some of the apartments are two-person, some are four. There are B-cycle bicycles, the University buses, and public buses that serve the Bear Creek area.

Do I have to live at Bear Creek with the other REU students?
We are happy to work with you to find the best solution for you for your summer. We want you to be successful and to remove as many obstacles as we can. If you have a family and need larger accommodations, or live a commutable distance away, we can give you the value of the Bear Creek apartment towards your living expenses.

What happens if I already have a commitment during the program?
If you have a tour of a college campus, or other educational or professional engagement, then you can work with your advisor to take some time off for that. However, we don’t encourage vacation planning or other optional time off during the program. Ten weeks is a very short amount of time to accomplish a research project so we expect you to be present from 9am-5pm every day unless circumstances are exceptional.

I have a full-time job nearby. Can I do both?
This program will be a full-time job. You will be expected to be at your lab from approximately 9am – 5pm Monday to Friday (times are flexible under agreement with your advisor). We do our best to give you the financial support to make participating possible. However, part-time work after hours or on the weekend is possible if necessary.

I love astronomy and cosmology. Can I study that in your program?
This program has a focus on research inside our solar system – the Sun and the planets. Occasionally we will have extra-solar projects but, more than likely, they will still have a planetary science focus. Studying galaxy formation or stellar evolution is not likely something you’ll be able to do here. Instead, you’ll be focusing on solar eruptions, space weather effects, the dynamics of the ionosphere, the Earth’s magnetosphere, sunspot evolution, what drives the solar dynamo, and many many other super cool projects!

I am transgender/gender non-conforming. What would my housing situation look like?
There is flexibility in the housing arrangements, and we will find a situation that you are comfortable with.

If I am accepted, how do I make travel arrangements to get to Boulder? When should I travel?
After you are accepted, we will send you a travel stipend that you can use to make travel arrangements that suit your needs. Some students drive to Boulder, others use it for airfare. We can help make travel arrangements if you are uncomfortable making them yourself.

My school doesn’t finish until after the program begins. Can I still participate?
Yes, students on the quarter system typically are not out by the end of May. We will accommodate your schedule.

About the application

I don’t know anything about space physics. Should I apply?

If you don’t know about space physics but think it sounds really cool, then we suggest you do a little investigating into the partners on this program and see if you think their work sounds interesting. You don’t have to have any experience or detailed knowledge about space science to participate, but you should know that its a topic that interests you. Your personal statement is the place to tell us about why it interests you, or why you think it could interest you. Also, check out this youtube video where alumni discuss how they felt before starting the program.

I don’t know which broad science areas to pick

That’s OK! The great thing is, this is a good opportunity to do a little research into what these broad science areas are and if any of them sound particularly interesting to you. You don’t have to have studied them before, or know much about them. We ask this question to help match you with mentors and projects. If you don’t have any preference, or would be happy to study “all the things”, then you can always select “no preference”.

What criteria are applications reviewed on?

Each application is reviewed on a range of criteria that include personal motivation and determination, your interest in research and space science, and how much this program might impact your future career. We are looking to recruit hard-working, motivated students who will be strongly impacted by this program. Prior experience is not required. One of the goals of the program is to provide an opportunity to gain experience.

The criteria used to review applications include (but are not limited to):

  • Impact the program will have on the applicant in their career and education
  • What the applicant will contribute to the cohort
  • Level of applicant’s interest in the research area

Additionally, perseverance and innovation are shown to be good indicators of successful researchers. Having the perseverance to stick with a problem, even in the face of adversity or challenges, is a skill that many researchers possess. Make sure to explain how you have demonstrated innovation and perseverance in the past.

My references did not complete their surveys by the application deadline. Will I be disqualified?

References help the review committee get an external view of your educational experience. We will evaluate your application based on as many references that we receive. Once you apply, we will send a separate email to each referee that you listed with their own deadline for submitting their reference survey. Please contact your referees to check on their timeliness. Contact us if unique circumstances prevent a reference survey from being submitted on time.

About the review process

What does the selection process and timeline for offers look like?

The application deadline is January 15th, 2024. A committee of reviewers will go through all applications and create a shortlist of the top 100-or-so applications. Each mentor is then sent between 5 and 10 of the shortlisted applications that best suit their project needs. The mentors identify their top applicants from their 5-10 shortlisted candidates and offer letters are sent out. If applicants are selected by more than one mentor, the applicant is given the choice of project. If the mentor’s first pick of applicant rejects the offer, the next choice is then offered the project and so on until all projects are filled. The first round of offers will be made around the beginning of March.

Do I get to choose the institute, mentor or project?

We use the information on your application to match you with a project/mentor that you might be interested in. The mentors will select their preferred applicants from a shortlist of 5-10 students. If you are selected by more than one mentor then you may be asked to choose between them. If you are selected by one mentor then that would be the project/mentor/institution you’d be working on/with/at for the summer. So if you have strong preferences about your topic or institute, it is best to make that really clear in your application.

How many students do you accept?

We recruit between 18 and 25 students each year, depending on funding.

I am not a US Citizen or greencard holder. Can I apply?

Unfortunately, due to restrictions in our funding, the program can only recruit US citizens and permanent residents holders at this time.

Application Questions

Below are all the questions asked during the application process. For information on the essay questions, please see the “Essay questions and information” tab.

Your name:
 First name(s), Last name(s)
Contact information: School email address, Personal email address, Phone number (cell phone preferred)
Home address (where we can contact you after the spring semester ends): Address, City, State, Postcode
Currently this program can only accept US Citizens and Permanent Residents. Are you a US Citizen, National or Green Card holder?

  • Yes
  • No (Unfortunately this program can only accept US Citizens and Permanent Residents/Greencard holders. If you have chosen “no” in response to this question, you are ineligible to apply.)

What college or university are you currently attending? Name, City, State, Postal code

What type of institution is your current school? (Check all that apply)

  • Community college or junior college
  • Historically Black College or University
  • Minority Serving Institute
  • Tribal College
  • Small/liberal arts college
  • Large/Research University
  • For-profit University
  • Other (please explain on the following page)

Please select one:

  • My school has research opportunities for undergraduates in astronomy
  • My school has research opportunities for undergraduates in solar science
  • My school has many research opportunities for undergraduates in STEM
  • My school has few research opportunities for undergraduates in STEM
  • My school has no research opportunities for undergraduates in STEM

If any, please briefly expand on the research opportunities at your school (1-2 sentences, max 100 characters)

If you are at a 2 year institute, do you plan to transfer to a 4 year institute to complete your Bachelor’s degree? If so, when do you expect to transfer?

Will you have earned a Bachelor’s degree in a science, technology, engineering or math field before August 2024?

  • Yes (Currently this program can only accept students who will be enrolled at an undergraduate institution in Fall 2024. If you will have received your undergraduate degree by then, you are ineligible for this program.)
  • No

What year do you expect to graduate from your current program?

What degree do you expect to achieve at that time?

  • Bachelors
  • Associates
  • Other

What are your current major and/or minor(s) fields of study (or what you are considering for your major/minor if undeclared)?

Have you attended other colleges? E.g. community college. If so, please list them

This program focuses on solar and space physics in partnership with eight institutes around Boulder ( Do you have an interest in working on a particular topic or at a specific partner institute?

  • No, I’m just excited to do research!
  • Yes

You selected “Yes” to having a specific topic and/or institute you are interested in. Please provide a brief (1-2 sentence) explanation of your preferences (max 100 characters). Note, you can provide more details in your Personal Statement essay if needed.

Do you have a preferred type of project that you’d like to do? We’ll do our best to match you with a project that you’re interested in (Check all that apply)

  • Data analysis/observations
  • Theoretical
  • Instrumentation/engineering
  • Computational modeling
  • Science Communication, Education and Outreach
  • No preference, I’ll work on anything
  • Other (please explain on the following page)

You selected “other” for your preferred type of project or broad science area.  Please provide a brief (1-2 sentence) explanation of your research project preferences (max 100 characters). Note, the following section provides space to detail your research interests.

Do you have previous research experience? Check all that apply

  • I have never done any kind of research before
  • I have done a research project for class
  • I have done research with a professor at my school
  • I have done an internship program outside of my school
  • I am listed on a published journal paper
  • I have participated in another REU program in astronomy/solar/space physics before
  • I have created a research poster and presented at a professional research conference
  • Other

Please elaborate on any previous research experience that you have (1500 characters max)

Please list all pertinent upper level college courses you have taken. Include math, physics, computer science, engineering, chemistry etc. classes

Please tell us about your computer programming experience. How long have you had experience in each coding language? For simplicity, 1 semester = 0.5 years

  • IDL, Python, MATLAB, C/C++,  Fortran

Please detail your programming experience, if any (1000 characters max)

This program is funded through the National Science Foundation and they have asked us to collect some demographic information. This information will not be used when selecting participants in our program. Your personal demographic data will never be made public. Please tell us a little about your demographics and other identities to the level you are comfortable.

What is your gender identity?

What is your preferred name, if different from above?

What pronouns do you use?

Are you a veteran or active duty military?

  • Yes
  • No

What race and ethnicity do you identify with (choose all that apply)

  • Choose not to answer
  • Indigenous, American Indian, Native American or Alaska Native
  • Asian
  • Black or African American
  • Pacific Islander
  • White
  • Hispanic or Latinx
  • Self identify:

Please upload an official or unofficial transcript  as an unencrypted PDF. Please name the file firstname_lastname_transcript.pdf

Please provide contact information for at least two work and/or school referencesThe REU committee will contact your references directly. Each reference will receive a short survey, and will not need to provide a formal letter. Reference surveys must be submitted by Janurary 19th, 2024. Please inform your references accordingly.

  • Reference Name
  • Email Address
  • How do you know this person?

Is there any other information you’d like to share with the REU selection committee?

How did you hear about this program?

  • NSF website
  • My professor told me about it
  • Friend or colleague
  • Word of mouth
  • I saw a poster
  • Online
  • Other

Essay questions and Information

We ask three essay style questions, each between 250-1500 characters. The questions are broken out as they are to help us identify who would benefit most from the program. Remember that this is your chance to make your case for the program. It is important to set yourself aside from your peers in responding to these questions. Specific responses are more effective than generalizations or wistful reminiscing. Tell us how this program might change your life.

  • Personal Statement. Please tell us why you are applying to this program in particular. Please discuss your interest in solar and space physics, and any broad science areas or project types you may have selected on the previous page (250-1500 characters).
    • This is a general overview of you, your interest in the Boulder Solar REU program specifically, and why you decided to apply for the program. What are your interests in solar and/or space physics and in Boulder. This is a good chance to help us understand who you are and what you hope to get out of the summer experience.
  • Please tell us how this opportunity will specifically benefit your educational and/or career goals. Please tell us what, if any, opportunities this program would provide that you cannot get at your current school. (250-1500 characters).
    • REU programs are well known to boost applications for graduate school programs, and giving students the chance to test out a research career. Please explain your specific circumstances, and how this program will help you achieve your educational and career goals, or help you to identify what your goals might be.
  • Perseverance and innovation are strong qualities and indicators of successful researchers. Tell us about a time when you have shown perseverance and innovation to overcome adversity and succeed in your goals (250-1500 characters).
    • Research can be very challenging and sometimes even demoralizing. One of the most effective skills in successful researchers is that of perseverance and innovation. Research frequently means exploring the unknown, trying many routes to an answer, and failing frequently but persisting anyway. Tell us about your perseverance and a time when you have succeeded against the odds, or at least tried to.

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