Montana State University

What former REU students say about our program

At Montana State University, I had the gift of working with a remarkable group of mentors and learning from world renounced solar physicists. I was constantly challenged by the information presented, my research project, the nuances of a new programming language, and living far from home with people I had never met. The mentors took interest in us and our education beyond what I had imagined; we were invited to dinner at the home of a St. Andrews professor, and we discussed everything from our futures in science to Scottish slang.

The Solar Physics REU program was an astounding summer experience, but it was also much more than that. After the summer, I stayed in touch with my kindhearted and brilliant mentor and was able to co-author a research paper about the Yohkoh Soft X-ray Telescope that was just published in The Astrophysical Journal! I had many questions answered for me, like what the impact of space weather is and how magnetic reconnection works. However, I left with even more inquiries about our sun, and I aim to explore these throughout my education. After the program, I took an Environmental Physics course that addressed physical processes of the sun and their effects on our atmosphere.

In addition to learning about the corona, different career paths, and graduate school options, I also learned a great deal about the wonderous outdoors Montana has to offer. When I wasn't studying the sun, I was outside enjoying it on REU-led excursions including Yellowstone trips, whitewater rafting, cave exploring, hiking, and more! The campus is beautiful and every day I was able to bike ride, explore the nearby running path, check out arts festivals, or hang out with other REU students on Main Street and sip bubble tea. I couldn't recommend this program highly enough for anyone who wants to further their knowledge in physics and create life-long relationships."

Nicole Albanese , 2018 Participant
Applied Physics, Tufts University

I would highly recommend the Solar Physics REU program. The program gives you a real insight into what research is really like, and sets you up as a great candidate for a PhD. My supervisor was fantastic and was there to help whenever I needed her. Besides the great research you'll do, you also get a chance to explore Bozeman and Yellowstone national park; an experience I'll never forget!

Zoe Sturrock , 2012 Participant
Mathematics and Theoretic Physics major, University of St. Andrews

When I first told people I'd be spending the summer in Bozeman, the main response I got was "Where?", but I have to say it was one of the best experiences of my life. The program was extremely well organized, and I'm still surprised at the depth of knowledge I gained about the Sun - something I had never been exposed to previously. Most importantly though, the people at MSU really showed me what a dynamic and active field solar physics is. The energy they bring to their work is catching, and I would go to work every day excited to get things done. How many other internships can you say that about? Besides the work and the lectures, there was so much to do in Bozeman. There were organized camping trips, mountain biking trips, hiking, rafting, Shakespearean plays, stargazing, the list goes on and on. I was even lucky enough to train at an Isshin-ryu Karate school ten minutes away from my dorm. The science, the scenery, and the people were all inspiring. I just could not recommend this program enough.

Ryan Payne , 2011 Participant
Physics Major, Lafayette College

The summer I spent at Montana State University was truly one of the most fulfilling and exciting times of my life. Arriving for the summer, you are welcomed from the first day and made to feel that you belong to part of the solar group. It is an amazing feeling to be working with some of the best people in their fields yet they still have time to sit and explain things to you and answer any questions. The sense of community at Montana State is incredible and the easy interaction with graduate students and professors really gives you an insight into what graduate school would be like. If the summer work doesn't sound exciting enough the amazing scenery and beautiful setting of Bozeman really makes the summer. The REU is also impeccably organized, as well as arranged lectures by local and visiting experts, the faculty and solar group are eager to help you discover all the outdoor recreational activities the area has to offer. (After months of snow they appreciate the need to venture out of doors!) With trips to Yellowstone, camping, stargazing, white water rafting and of course Science, the summer was an experience I will never forget.

Jennifer O'Hara , 2011 Participant
Mathematics and Theoretical Physics Major, University of St. Andrews
Current position: solar physicist, Space Weather Coordination Centre, ESA, Belgium

If you are thinking of applying to the MSU Solar Physics REU program, then I would say a resounding "Go for it!" 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. The Solar Group at MSU is incredibly welcoming, friendly and relaxed, which made the research that much more enjoyable - you were soon made to feel as though you were a member of the group. Through meeting various visitors to the department, and being able to sit in on the HXT conference I really got an impression of what the solar physics community is like. My supervisor was fantastic, giving me the independence to do my research, and also the support that I needed along the way. Through working with her I feel that I not only learned a lot about solar physics, but also how to undertake astronomical research, and the research process in general, which were invaluable lessons for anyone considering a career in science. Bozeman is a great little city to spend the summer in. Doing my research in a place of amazing natural beauty was a welcome added bonus - as were the trips to Yellowstone & Glacier National Parks. I could ramble on and on about my experiences at MSU, so will finish up simply by saying: "Go to MSU, learn about Solar Physics, and climb a mountain or three".

Graham Kerr, 2010 Participant
Physics and Astronomy, University of Glasgow
Current position: postdoctoral researcher, Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA, Washington DC

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! I learned a great deal about solar physics research and learned many important skills that will be applicable no matter what I end up pursuing in graduate school. The people in the department are amazing! Both research advisors and staff were incredibly helpful, willing to answer any questions I had. Lastly, Montana is an awesome place to spend the summer, with fun activities and outdoor adventures to be had!

Joanna Bridge, 2010 Participant
Engineering Physics, 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, with a real sense of adventure, all rolled into one Summer, but this is what the MSU REU program delivered. I can't recommend it highly enough."  

William Simpson, 2009 Participant
Mathematics and Theoretical Physics major, University of St. Andrews

"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. At MSU, our mentors want us to learn and understand the research methods thoroughly, and they are very approachable, willing to answer any question. Because of my mentor Angela DesJardins, not only do I now have a real understanding of solar flares, but I also have the confidence to ask all kinds of questions. I now appreciate those moments when I may not have the answers, seeing them as opportunities to learn. As an added bonus, Montana's natural beauty provides an inspiring backdrop for hanging out and discussing research with fellow student colleagues, while offering adventures like rock climbing, hiking, and white water rafting. Overall, this program gave me a vast awareness of the various opportunities in solar physics and other fields that branch from it. At MSU I became more than a student, I became a scientist that is giving knowledge back to the community through research."

Theresa Carranza, 2009 Participant
Physics and Earth and Atmospheric Science, 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 about our research topic, and with the help of my mentors, the solar physics lectures and the IDL tutorial, I learned so much about the sun and solar physics and gained experience in computer programming. Being surrounded by other students working on their own solar physics research made it a truly immersive research experience. When I was preparing for my research presentation at the end of the program, it was clear to me how much I had learned! On top of all this, we had many opportunities to experience nature around Bozeman, with frequent hikes, trips to Yellowstone and Glacier National Park, and a rafting excursion. It was an amazing summer!"  

Eric Wolf, 2008 Participant
Chemical Physics and Math major, 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 classes conducted on topics in solar physics were exceptional. The research was interesting, fun and cutting-edge, which is something no aspiring physicist can value too highly. The mentors were competent, helpful and patient as they offered us insight and guidance on our projects. Even outside the classroom, Montana proved to be one of the most beautiful and scenic places I've ever been. We were encouraged to get outdoors and enjoy the various national parks and museums which were within a few hours' drive of the Bozeman campus, even spending a few weekends in Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. The views were incredible, and the memories were unforgettable. I didn't realize that doing science could be so much fun. This summer helped to confirm for me that I can't imagine doing anything other than research with the rest of my career. Thanks, MSU, for the wonderful summer!"  

Christopher Plumberg, 2008 Participant
Astronomy and Astrophysics major, Eastern University
Current position: postdoctoral researcher in theoretical particle physics, Lund University, Sweden

"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 solar physics lectures expanded this knowledge to cover pretty much the entire sun! The most incredible part was being a part of the scientific process. No longer was I just studying material out of a book that had been proven a thousand times over. I was now applying this knowledge to the real world! The research was incredible, and so was Montana. The mountains were a bit sharper than the hills we have here in Georgia, and climbing them was the experience of a lifetime. In fact, I ended up staying for a week after the program to roam around Montana for a while. I would highly recommend this program to anyone who enjoys staring at the sun!"  

Chris Lowder, 2007 Participant
Physics major, Georgia Institute of Technology
Current position: research scientist, Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, CO

"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, which has less to do with all the equations memorized from textbooks and more about trying with our little minds to understand nature in spite of its apparent desire to be utterly incomprehensible. The mentors were great and helped bring us into this world of current research. Trips to Yellowstone and Glacier National parks provided great weekend outings. Overall it was a great experience where I got to work really hard in something that was both challenging and rewarding, and in my free time I was allowed to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Montana. Anyone with any interest in understanding the mysteries of nature, and particularly the sun, would be lucky to take part in this program. "  

Nicholas Hill, 2007 Participant
Physics major, 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 with various lectures and seminars. I learned so much in the course of only ten weeks. Not just about Solar Physics, but also new computer skills, learning to present my research, and even information about applying to grad school and being a graduate student. I also really enjoyed living in Bozeman for the summer. We took trips to Yellowstone, Glacier and the Beartooths along with other activities every weekend. I made some great friends in the program and was so pleased with my experience that it was hard to leave at the end of the summer."  

Emily McLinden, 2006 Participant
Physics major, Loyola University Chicago
Current position: data scientist, San Francisco

"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. At play, I made a lot of friends from the Solar and other REU programs. Then there was Star Party, Glacier National Park, hiking, floating, climbing, soccer, Lost, bars, movies, kickball, Shakespeare, pizza, ice-cream..".  

Alexander Russell, 2006 Participant
Mathematics and Theoretic Physics major, University of St. Andrews
Current position: Lecturer in Applied Mathematics, University of Dundee