Participating in a research experience for undergraduates (REU) program can help shape your academic journey. These programs are offered through some of the most prestigious universities in Canada, and the best Ivy League colleges in the US. But there are also many research experience for undergraduate programs available at the top non-Ivy League schools. This article will present a curated list of the most reputable REU programs in both the United States and Canada, which will also include admissions details, program lengths, things to remember when looking for a program and tips for how to get in. 

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Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Programs in the US Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Programs in Canada What is Research Experience for Undergraduate Programs (REU)? How to Get into Research Experience for Undergraduate Programs Conclusion FAQs

Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Programs in the US

1. Stanford University - Data Science REU Program

Requirements: Strong background in computer science, academic achievements, letters of recommendation, knowledge of at least one programming language

Duration: 8 weeks

Stipend: $6,500

Cost: Fully funded

Highlights: Data-driven research, workshops on programming languages, real-world applications.

The Data Science for Good program at Stanford University helps undergraduates apply their data science knowledge and skills to help local non-profits and organizations solve operational, logistical or data-analysis problems. You must be a Standford undergraduate to enter the program and be proficient in at least one programming language (Python or R). You must also submit at least one college recommendation letter and interview for the program if you are short-listed.

2. University of California, Berkeley - Biochemistry REU

Requirements: Biology/Chemistry background, research proposal, academic achievements

Duration: 10 weeks

Stipend: $6,000

Cost: Fully funded

Highlights: Lab-intensive research, seminars by renowned scientists, exposure to cutting-edge techniques.

The Biochemistry Research Experience for Undergraduates at UC Berkeley is a prestigious program located in one of the most state-of-the-art laboratories for the study of biological sciences. The program covers several core subjects within biology and you’ll learn from graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and distinguished faculty. You must submit a research interest statement, two letters of recommendation and your most recent transcripts, and you do not need to have any previous research experience.

3. Caltech LIGO SURF

Requirements: Astronomy/Physics background, strong academic record, letters of recommendation

Duration: 10 weeks

Cost: Fully funded

Highlights: Observational astronomy projects, telescope training, collaboration with professional astronomers.

This Caltech REU is technically a summer undergraduate research fellowship, but it is funded through the National Science Foundation’s Research for Undergraduate Experience. This program gives anyone interested in astronomy, physics or engineering a direct line to some of the most prestigious astrophysics labs in the US such as the LIDO laboratory. This program requires a completed application form, and is geared toward all undergraduate students, although international students are not eligible (most NSF-funded programs are for American citizens only, but there are exceptions).

Why is undergrad research important? Check out our video:

4. University of Chicago Summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program in Physics

Requirements: Physics or engineering background, research interests' alignment, faculty endorsement

Duration: 10 weeks

Stipend: $6,000

Cost: Fully funded

Highlights: Fieldwork opportunities, workshops on qualitative research methods, presentations at conferences.

This research experience for undergraduates at the University of Chicago offers an in-depth introduction to particle physics for those interested in pursuing graduate-level scholarly work in the fields of physics or engineering. You must be an undergraduate student at any university in the US but in an appropriate background in either physics or engineering.

5. University of Michigan - Optics in the City of Light REU

Requirements: Optics, ultrafast lasers, faculty recommendation, research proposal

Duration: 10 weeks

Cost: Fully funded

Highlights: Optical Science research, international travel, access to advanced labs, mentorship by renowned vision scientists.

This research experience for undergraduates will take you to Paris to study under Nobel-Prize winning scientists for two weeks, while the other half of the program will be done at the University of Michigan. The program is open to all US undergraduates, but you must have a valid passport and be willing to immerse yourself in a new culture, as you will live, study and work in Paris.

6. University of California, Santa Barbara - Materials Research Laboratory REU

Requirements: Materials science/engineering background, academic achievements, professor recommendation

Duration: 10 weeks

Stipend: $600/week

Cost: Fully funded

Highlights: Materials synthesis projects, characterization techniques, collaboration with industry experts.

This REU at UC Santa Barbara has few academic requirements, as you only have to submit a 300–500-word personal statement, not unlike a college essay, and at least two letters of recommendation. You must also have at least completed a year of study in introductory physics and have an interest in attending a graduate-level program.

7. University of Texas at Austin - The Freshman Research Initiative (FRI) Program

Requirements: Natural sciences background, cell and molecular biology research, research interests alignment, academic accomplishments

Duration: 9 weeks

Cost: Fully funded

Highlights: Engage in real-world research experience with UT faculty laboratories, various research streams

The University of Texas at Austin hosts a Freshman Research Initiative for undergrads either at UT or from other universities in the US. You can apply as a UT undergraduate, but the FRI is also a program highlight of any natural science bachelor’s degree program. You will be mentored by UT physicists and researchers, as well as have access to state-of-the art labs.

8. University of Wisconsin-Madison - REU in Chemical Upcycling of Waste Plastics

Requirements: Physics background, strong academic record, research proposal

Duration: 10 weeks

Stipend: $6,000

Cost: Fully funded

Highlights: Experimental physics research, access to advanced equipment, collaboration with physicists.

This unique research experience for undergraduates at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is open to undergraduates currently enrolled in programs in physics, materials science, and chemistry. You must have at least a 3.0 GPA to apply and be a US citizen to apply.

9. University of Colorado Boulder - Environmental Science REU

Requirements: Environmental science background, faculty endorsement, research interests alignment

Duration: 10 weeks

Cost: Fully funded

Highlights: Climate change research, field expeditions, seminars by environmental scientists.

This REU has few admissions requirements, as it has no minimum GPA requirements, and requires only a few application materials, such as answers to questions about your research interests and future career goals. You don’t even need to submit letters of recommendation. However, you must provide unofficial transcripts, or official transcripts if the program asks for them.

10. Georgia Institute of Technology - Engineering Research Center for Cell Manufacturing Technologies REU

Requirements: Electrical engineering background, academic achievements, letters of recommendation

Duration: 9 weeks

Stiped: $6,000

Cost: Fully funded

Highlights: Electronic circuit design projects, hands-on experiments, industry networking events.

The Georgia Institute of Technology is only one site of this coordinated REU program, as you can also choose to work at the University of Georgia or the University of Puerto Rico. This program is only open to US citizens. Women and minority students are preferred, but anyone who meets the eligibility criteria can apply. You must have a background in engineering, although not a specific sub-specialty of engineering.

Looking to apply to research positions? Check this out:

Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Programs in Canada

1. University of Toronto - Computer Science REU

Requirements: Computer science background, research interests alignment, letters of recommendation

Duration: 12 weeks

Cost: Fully funded

Highlights: Algorithmic research, software development projects, exposure to industry applications.

The University of Toronto offers several different research opportunities program (ROP), similar to research experience undergraduates, but this program focuses on computer science research for undergraduates at U of T or elsewhere from Canada. As U of T is one of the best universities in Canada for computer science getting in is competitive. You must have at least a B+ average to apply.

2. McGill University - Chemistry SURA: Science Undergraduate Research Awards

Requirements: Chemistry background, academic achievements, faculty endorsement

Duration: 10 weeks

Stipend: $7,000

Cost: Fully funded

Highlights: Chemical synthesis projects, lab experiments, seminars by renowned chemists.

The Science Undergraduate Research Awards are similar to the research experience for undergraduates in the US, as they are competitive, and come with myriad of benefits. Their competitiveness only underlines how importan. The Department of Chemistry at McGill University holds a competition for qualified undergraduates to win funding and a research assistant position with an on-going research project run by a McGill faculty member every year. You must be an undergraduate student at McGill and not have won any other Canadian scholarships.

3. University of British Columbia - Physics REU

Requirements: Physics background, strong academic record, research proposal

Duration: 8 weeks

Cost: Fully funded

Highlights: Experimental physics research, access to advanced equipment, collaboration with physicists.

As all Canadian universities, the University of British Columbia holds annual awards competitions for entry into research experience for undergraduates. These awards are multi-faceted and include not only a stiped to participate in research with an established physics researcher at UBC, but also gives you the funding to follow your own research projects. To apply, you must have at least a B+ average, and submit a CV, personal statement that answers common research assistant interview questions, official transcripts and at least one letter of recommendation.

4. University of Alberta Faculty of Engineering

Requirements: Engineering background, professor recommendation, research interests alignment

Duration: 10 weeks

Cost: Fully funded

Highlights: Engineering design projects, industry mentorship, workshops on project management.

The University of Alberta also holds a competition to see which undergraduate engineering students are eligible for research awards and funding. You can apply only in your second year of study, and you must include your CV, a research resume, and two letters of recommendation. Although not required, you should have at least a 3.2 GPA to be considered

5. University of Calgary - Program for Undergraduate Research Experience (PURE)

Requirements: Minimum GPA, Canadian citizen, undergraduate at University of Calgary, academic accomplishments

Duration: 16 weeks

Stipend: $7,500

Cost: Fully funded

Highlights: several research awards, collaboration with faculty and mentors.

You must be an undergraduate at the University of Calgary and have a minimum GPA of 2.0 to have a chance to win a PURE award. This award, like all the other undergraduate research experience award at Canadian universities, gives you a one-time stipend and a chance to work under a selected professor or faculty member research project. You do not have to be involved in any particular subject or program, as the award gives you freedom and autonomy to develop your own research project in your program of study.

What is Research Experience for Undergraduate Programs (REU)?

Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) are intensive academic research programs sponsored by universities and private partners throughout the US and Canada. They are intended to give undergraduate students hands-on research opportunities under the guidance of experienced faculty mentors. These programs, primarily offered in the United States and Canada, are useful to you if you have any desire to enter any MD-PhD programs, or science and research-heavy industries, particularly in STEM fields.

In the US, the National Science Foundation is the government body that sponsors and funds several different types of REUs in the US. On the NSF website you can find a comprehensive listing of all the active REU programs offered in the US spanning all types of disciplines from biological sciences, the social sciences and the humanities. Similar to summer undergraduate research fellowships, REUs are offer you a chance to engage in meaningful, real-world research, and apply classroom knowledge to practical, cutting-edge projects.

You’ll work closely with experts, and hopefully gain invaluable insights into your chosen field whatever it may be. REUs are excellent preparation for how to get into medical school or any other science-based profession. Additionally, REUs often act as a springboard for future academic and professional endeavors. You’ll build an impressive graduate CV once you graduate from your program and have an easier time of getting a spot in a competitive graduate program.

What’s Involved in a REU?

REUs typically span 8 to 12 weeks. You’ll usually go through an orientation period at the beginning and then dive right in to laboratory or field work depending on your discipline. You’ll be part of a research team, and this is an important component of any REU – working and learning how to work with others toward a shared goal, which is harder to do at virtual research opportunities. However, you’ll also get the chance to learn from the mentorship of professors, visiting scholars, and guest speakers who are usually invited to speak to students involved in the REU.

You’ll also conduct experiments, analyze data, and collaborate with peers, which will hopefully foster a collaborative and mutually beneficial learning environment. The programs often culminate in presentations or publications, allowing you to showcase their contributions to the academic community. But it is not all work. As many of these programs are for undergraduate students, you’ll also have the chance to attend recreational and social events organized especially for students in REU programs.

What Do You need to Get into Research Experience Undergraduate Programs?

Specific requirements vary between programs, but you generally need a strong academic record, letters of recommendation, a compelling statement of purpose, and a genuine passion for research. Some programs have minimum GPA requirements, although they are not high GPA standards, but average (2.0-3.0). But some programs put a lot of weight into your college essays, and personal statements, so you have to address important questions such as tell me about yourself, what you plan on doing after the program, and what you would be a good fit for the REU.

What’s the Difference Between US and Canadian REUs?

In the United States, REUs are overseen and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and offered across diverse disciplines at prestigious institutions. The NSF is a department of the federal government, which is why American REUs are often restricted to US citizens, although there are exceptions. However, there is no centralized application service, so you apply directly to each program.

In Canada, the situation is not so formal. As a Canadian undergraduate, you will apply for the Undergraduate Student Research Awards, which is a scholarship program also funded by the Canadian government. This award is similar to the REUs in the US since you will receive a stipend, but also a position on a research team of your choosing; or you can also use that money to fund your own research project under the guidance of a mentor or senior faculty member who shares your research interests.

How to Get into Research Experience for Undergraduate Programs

1. Research the Program's Requirements and Mission

To get a spot in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, you should research each program thoroughly. You need to understand and find common ground with the program's requirements, mission, and focus areas. Many of these programs were started to increase diversity and promote inclusion, so they may restrict admission to people from underrepresented groups. These preferences are something you should know before you go to the trouble to create your application. You need to understand what sets this program apart and what about it aligns with your academic interests. By demonstrating a genuine understanding of the program's ethos in your application, you can show the selection committee that you're not just applying to any REU but to one that resonates with your passion and goals.

2. Contact Program Directors or Any Other Faculty

Remember that getting into an REU is similar to getting a job, so you shouldn’t be afraid to show initiative and initiate contact with program directors or faculty members. The latter can provide invaluable information about their programs, but also give you clarity on your own research goals and interests if you’re unsure of which path to take. Write a polite and concise email expressing your sincere interest in the program and talk about specific research projects these faculty members participated in or are currently running and why they intrigue you. Ask the right questions and show your genuine curiosity and eagerness to engage with ongoing research, which will reflect well on you, as it will signal your proactive approach, and make a good impression on these same faculty members.

3. Write Good Personal Statements and Essays

Your personal statement and essays are your voice in the application process. Use this opportunity to weave a compelling narrative about your academic journey, your passion for research, and how the REU aligns with your aspirations. Be authentic, share personal anecdotes, and clearly articulate why you're an ideal candidate. Showcase your unique perspective and the impact you hope to make through the program. Craft your words carefully; they should reflect not just your qualifications but your enthusiasm and dedication.

4. Get Good Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are testimonials to your abilities and character. Choose recommenders who know you well academically or professionally. Provide them with information about the REU, your achievements, and your goals. A strong letter not only discusses your qualifications but also emphasizes your suitability for the program. Stay connected with your recommenders, reminding them of deadlines, and express your gratitude for their support. A sincere and positive recommendation can significantly enhance your application's strength.


These research experience for undergraduate programs, recognized by the National Science Foundation in the US and the Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA) program in Canada offer opportunities for undergraduate and international students across various disciplines. Getting into any of these programs will give you hands-on engagement, and a profound understanding of the research process, contributing significantly to your scientific knowledge base.


1. What are research experiences for undergraduates (REU)?

REUs are formal research programs aimed at undergraduate students who want to gain valuable, real-world experience as junior researchers in several disciplines. 

2. Who is eligible for research experiences for undergraduates?

Any undergraduate student in their second year and beyond is eligible to participate in an REU. You must be in good academic standing and you should be a citizen of the country of where you want to study, but some REUs will accept international students on student visas. 

3. What do I need to get into a research experience for undergraduates?

Every REU has different application criteria. But, in general, you usually need to submit your transcripts (official or unofficial), a personal statement or letter of intent, a research CV or resume, research assistant cover letter, letters of recommendation and, sometimes, interview for the program. 

4. How do you apply for a research experience for undergraduates?

You apply directly to the program through an online portal. 

5. Which research experiences for undergraduate programs are the best?

The best REU is the one that works best for you and your academic or professional goals. You should research each REU carefully and understand what the program asks of you, as well as what you can get out of the program. 

6. What do I do in a research experience for undergraduates?

You’ll work alongside other students on various research projects, collect and analyze data or samples, explore your own research interests, present your own research findings and reports at end-of-program conferences, but there will also be time for recreational and social activities. 

7. Are research experiences for undergraduates paid?

Yes, in general, all many REUs come with a one-time stipend, or a weekly allowance. Some provide free housing and relocation costs if you’re coming from another part of the country. 

8. Why should I do a research experience for undergraduates' program?

Participating in a research experience for undergraduate program is an unofficial entry into your chosen field of study. It will be one of the first times you’ll be exposed to what it’s like to create, formulate and carry-through important research on your chosen topic. You’ll also learn how to work with others, gain valuable insight and advice from experienced researchers, and expand your knowledge to prepare you for a career in medicine, the sciences, engineering and mathematics. 

To your success,

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