Rereading Noah’s graduate school advice post, I realized I’d forgotten to stir up trouble at the time about his comments on REUs. In part, one should understand this post as an attempt to goad him into explaining.
First, a little personal history. I’m basically the poster-child for REUs; doing an REU in the year between my junior and senior years was the only organized math outside of school I participated in before grad school, and was the only experience with research I had before grad school, essentially. I had an excellent relationship with my advisor from the REU, met several people I liked a lot, did good enough research to turn it into a solo paper (admittedly, several years later), and generally had a really excellent experience. I’ve always recommended REUs to students, especially if they were considering grad school.
This has always seemed like a no brainer to me. If nothing else, since an REU is essentially the only real chance that an undergrad has to test drive grad school before committing years of their life to it. So, I’ll admit, I was a little surprised to find out that “REU-hater” is a category of person that exists. And now I’m curious; are there any more of you out there?