University of Hawaii Instutute for Astronomy

Frequently asked questions about the IfA REU program

How do I contact the REU program for further information?

The director of the REU program at the IfA is Paul Coleman.
You can send email to

or send correspondence to:

Dr. Paul Coleman
REU Program
Institute for Astronomy
2680 Woodlawn Drive
Honolulu HI 96822

Please do not ask to check if your application is received. We receive over 600 envelopes or emails related to the applications and do not have the resources to answer individual requests about completeness. Once we begin reviewing the applications in February, we may contact you or your letter writers if there is important missing information.

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Who is eligible to apply to the REU program?

All applicants must be US citizens or permanent residents, enrolled in a bachelor degree program at the time of the REU. Seniors, who will graduate before the end of the summer when the program is held, are not eligible.

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What kind of academic background is required for the REU program?

A strong science background is obviously beneficial. Many, but not all, previous participants had GPAs greater than 3.5. An astronomy major or minor is not required, however. You will learn a lot of astronomy through the exposure that this program offers, in the research program, the observing, and the seminar series.

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What other skills would be useful for my application?

Computer programming skills are a plus since much of modern astronomical research (image analysis, data processing, solving equations, etc.) is computationally intensive. Good verbal and written communication skills are useful because of the interactive nature of the program and because REU participants are expected to write up their research and give a presentation to the Institute at the end of the summer. Previous research experience, however, is not a requirement.

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How many applicants apply to the program each year?

The program is competitive: there are typically around 300 applicants for the 9-12 positions offered each year.

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How are students matched with a faculty member and research plan?

Faculty members propose an REU project in a particular field. The IfA research page has summaries of the various research programs at the Institute. Applicants indicate which research area they are interested in working on in the application form. The faculty mentors then review the applications in their relevant field and choose a student based on their academic record, accomplishments, personal statement, and letters of recommendation.

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What is the deadline for applications?

The online application and at least two letters of recommendation must be received at the IfA by February 1. You are responsible for having your reference letter writers send their letters to us on time. Letters of recommendation may be sent via email as ascii, postscript, or PDF. Please do not fax material.

Note that if you are accepted into the program, we may request an official transcript as verification.

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When will I know if my application is successful?

We expect to begin contacting successful applicants on March 1 – by agreement with all the other astronomy REU programs -  but it may be several weeks before our list of REU participants is finalized. Please note that we do not have the resources to check an application for completeness before the deadline (that is your responsibility), but we will email every applicant of our decision after all positions are filled, typically by the end of March.

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I am not a US citizen or permanent resident. Can I still apply?

No we’re sorry… We used to be able to offer one position for a foreign student (either in the US or abroad) to take part in the REU program, but that funding source has dried up.

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