Montana State University

MSU Physics Department Solar Physics / Astronomy & Space Physics REU Program

More Information on REU

REU Students' Journal Publications

REU Students' Conference Presentations

REU Students' Research Reports

What former REU students say about our program

"I would highly recommend the Solar Physics REU program. The program gives you a real insight into what research is really like ... " more  

Zoe Sturrock, 2012 Participant
University St. Andrews

" ... The science, the scenery, and the people were all inspiring. I just could not recommend this program enough. " more  

Ryan Payne, 2011 Participant
Lafayette College

"The summer I spent at Montana State University was truly one of the most fulfilling and exciting times of my life ......." more  

Jennifer O'Hara, 2011 Participant
University of St. Andrews

"The summer I spent in Montana was one of the best I have had, and it was certainly the most rewarding and fun science experience I have had......." more  

Graham Kerr, 2010 Participant
University of Glasgow, Scotland

"The solar physics REU program at Montana State University is an excellent program, and I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in astrophysics! ......" more  

Joanna Bridge, 2010 Participant
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

"The ten weeks I spent in Montana were, quite possibly, ten of the best weeks of my life. It must be a rare thing to experience exciting research in a lively physics department, the extravagant beauty of a wild, mountainous countryside, and the companionship of energetic and congenial colleagues ......" more  

William Simpson, 2009 Participant
University of St. Andrews, Scotland

"Spending ten weeks doing a Solar Physics REU at Montana State University gave me one of the most amazing science experiences of my undergraduate career. The solar physics department offers a supportive environment from where I have come away with the newest concepts in solar flare spectroscopy and the tools necessary to build my foundation in this field ...... " more  

Theresa Carranza, 2009 Participant
The City College of New York

"My Solar Physics REU experience at Montana State University was simply wonderful. It was a chance to apply everything I had learned in class to actual research, and to participate in science rather than just learn about science. Working closely with my mentors gave me new opportunities every day to discover something new ......" more  

Eric Wolf, 2008 Participant
Michigan State University

"I cannot imagine many ways in which I would rather have spent my summer months than as a participant in MSU's REU 2008 Solar Physics program. Virtually every aspect of the program was better than I had expected it to be. The research was interesting, fun and cutting-edge, which is something no aspiring physicist can value too highly......" more  

Christopher Plumberg, 2008 Participant
Eastern University

"The Montana State University solar physics REU was an absolutely incredible experience. It really opened my eyes to the world of solar physics. My research area alone exposed me to a whole new vault of knowledge about the sun and it's magnetic field. The most incredible part was being a part of the scientific process......" more  

Chris Lowder, 2007 Participant
Georgia Institute of Technology

"During my summer stay in the Solar REU program, I learned voluminous amounts. I picked up another programming language and learned about the biggest problems with our understanding of the sun. I feel like I even got a glimpse of what physics is all about......" more  

Nicholas Hill, 2007 Participant
Grinnell College

"My Solar REU experience at MSU was an incredible opportunity. The mentors in the program were so supportive and encouraging and at the same time I was given a great deal of independence in my work. We were taught the tools we needed to be successful in our research and we continued to learn throughout the summer......" more  

Emily McLinden, 2006 Participant
Loyola University Chicago

"Go to Montana, work hard and have fun. My experience of the Solar REU was positive throughout. At work, we learnt rapidly and were soon given charge of our own research projects. I was fortunate to have a mentor who gave me both the independence I desired and the support I needed. He was also a good friend and our work was very rewarding....". more  

Alexander Russell, 2006 Participant
University of St. Andrews, Scotland


We will not run the summer program in 2019. Please come back in 2019 fall.

  • Provide high-quality state-of-the-art research experience.
  • Develop independence, creativity, and interest in physics and astronomy graduate study.
  • Demonstrate how academic knowledge acquired in classes relates to real-world research problems.
  • Develop and strengthen practical research skills.
  • Encourage participation by women and minorities in research.


Most projects involve analysis of data from space missions such as Yohkoh, SOHO, TRACE, RHESSI, Hinode, SDO , and IRIS , and ground-based observatories. Experience has shown that data analysis projects are suitable for most undergraduates at the sophomore or junior level.  Additionally, each year there are a few opportunities in the solar-stellar connection, solar magneto-hydrodynamics, and space hardware development.


The summer months in Montana offer outstanding opportunities for outdoor recreation and other activities associated with the university and the community. Surrounded by spectacular mountains and rivers, Bozeman is within easy driving distance of Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.


Our program gives participants an opportunity to develop skills for contemporary research under the guidance of internationally known physicists. These REU experiences help students make informed decisions about graduate school and careers in academia or research.

Training and Education

The first week of our program includes training in the unix/linux/Solaris computing environment and IDL as tools for numerical modeling and data analysis.  Lectures by MSU faculty and visiting professors cover a variety of subjects related to the research program. Participants are offered an opportunity to give public talks and lead star parties during two weekends in Yellowstone National Park. The last week of our program includes participant presentations of research results. The most successful projects lead to presentations at conferences and publications in journals. For a more detailed look at the program, see the calendars for 2017 and 2016.


Participants must be full-time undergraduates, typically finishing their sophomore or junior years. Applications from underrepresented groups are particularly welcomed. Application is restricted to US citizens or permanent residents.

Practical Details

The summer 2018 program will run from June 4 through August 10. Time-critical first and last week activities and summer housing limitations preclude other start and end dates. Stipends will be $6600 plus a $440 food allowance for the ten week program. Domestic travel costs to and from Bozeman (up to coach air fare) from home or campus are covered and university residence hall lodging (single room dorm) is provided.


REU Sample Project:

"Spatial Relationship between Twist in Active Region Magnetic Fields and Solar Flares"

Authors:    Michael Hahn, REU 2003 and 2004 participant (Physics major, Carnegie Mellon University) and Stacy Gaard, REU 2004 partipant (Meteorology major, Valparaiso University)  

Abstract:  Twisted magnetic field lines in solar active regions constitute stressed flux systems, the reconnection of which can release the stored (excess) magnetic energy in the form of solar flares. Using co-registered photospheric vector magnetograms and chromospheric H-alpha images for 29 flares, we explore the spatial relationship between these flares and the magnetic topology of the active regions in which they occur. We find two dominant trends. First, flares are preferentially initiated in subregions that have a high gradient in twist. Second, flare initiation occurs close to chirality inversion lines (which separate regions with twist of opposite handedness). Our results demonstrate that magnetic helicity, as manifested in the twist parameter, plays an important role in magnetic reconnection and solar flaring activity.

Mentors:   Dibyendu Nandi & Richard Canfield

This work is published in Astrophysical Journal.