Summer Opportunities

From Physics
Jump to: navigation, search
Keep in mind that your summers an undergraduate will be the last time for the rest of your life where you may not be expected to be working full-time, so enjoy it while you can and have fun before its too late!

This page constitutes an overview of different opportunities for physics undergraduates.


Many students do not want to, or can't afford the luxury of doing research over the summer. It is important to remember that unspecialized job experience can still be valuable and absolutely does not preclude the possibility of Graduate School. Furthermore you will be guaranteed steady income. There are many campus resources if you seek this kind of work. Some of the most common websites include Handshake, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, etc.

General Research

Email a professor at any professor (politely) asking to work for them! They may even pay you! Generally its wise to send along your resume/CV and if you would be willing to work full time etc. This technique doesn't lend itself to being part of a program so there aren't very many more restrictions or constraints beyond this. Most students get summer research this way.


Similar to general research but formalized into a program. There are many kinds of REU's and their descriptions can be found on their website. See link for list of available physics REU's.


Link to Surf website: Surf

The SURF Program is made up of five different fellowships:

  • SURF L&S
  • SURF Rose Hills Experience
  • SURF Rose Hills Independent
  • SURF Math Team Fellowship

Each fellowship has particular eligibility requirements, and each fellowship has certain obligations that fellows agree to if they receive the award.

The SURF L&S fellowship allows UC Berkeley undergraduates in the College of Letters and Science to spend the summer doing concentrated research in preparation for a senior thesis. Fellows receive $5000. These fellowships are generously supported by a number of private donors.

The SURF Rose Hills Experience fellowship allows UC Berkeley sophomores and juniors from Southern California in certain math, science, and engineering majors (L&S, CNR, COE, C. Chem) to immerse themselves in full-time summer research supporting a research project that is designed and directed by a faculty member. Fellows receive $5000. This program is generously supported by the Rose Hills Foundation.

The SURF Rose Hills Independent fellowship is for UC Berkeley juniors in the summer before their senior year who are intending to do research projects of their own design as part of a senior thesis for a major. Students must have permanent residence in Southern California and be part of certain STEM majors. Graduating seniors are also eligible. Fellows receive $5000. This program is generously supported by the Rose Hills Foundation.

The SURF Math Team Fellowship is for a team of four UC Berkeley math majors of any year to propose a summer research project under the mentorship of a UC Berkeley math professor. Each team member will receive a $5000 fellowship, and the faculty mentor will receive $2500 in research funds.

The SURF-SMART (Student Mentoring and Research Teams) is a program that enables doctoral students to create mentored research opportunities for undergraduate students at UC Berkeley. The program provides summer funding for both graduate and undergraduate participants and opportunities to share research results on campus and at national conferences. Each SURF-SMART undergraduate fellow will receive a $5000 fellowship, and the graduate student Mentors receive a stipend from the Graduate Division.

Benefits of these fellowships:

In addition to receiving funding, summer fellows from all five programs will be assigned to a research cluster, which will meet regularly throughout the summer. In the cluster you will find a community of undergraduate researchers with similar interests and problems. Each cluster is led by a SURF Graduate Student Advisor - an experienced researcher to help guide your efforts. Primary guidance in research will come from individual faculty/graduate student mentors, but most students have found it very valuable to meet with other students who are grappling with related research issues. SURF fellows also have the opportunity to present their research or present a poster at the SURF Conference in August 2020. Conference attendance is required for all fellows.


Introduction and Eligibility

SULI is an internship program run by the US Department of Energy (DoE) that gives undergraduates the opportunity to work at a DoE national lab under a scientist in that lab who serves as a mentor. Eligibility is limited to sophomores, juniors, seniors, and those who graduated at most 2 years before the start date of their internship. Additional requirements include a minimum GPA of 3.0, US citizenship or permanent residence status, Also, you can only apply to it for a maximum of 3 times and participate in it for a maximum of 2 times, and you cannot take any classes while participating. Information about the program and the application is available here.


There are 3 available terms for an internship: Fall (16 weeks), Spring (16 weeks), and Summer (10 weeks). Typically, the application opens in the middle of the term that's 2 terms before the one you're applying for (mid-October for Summer) and is due around the end of that term (early January for Summer). Offers typically go out starting a week or two after the deadline (late January for Summer) and ending about 2 months later (very early April for Summer). Requirements from the application include essays about your experience, research interests, and professional goals, your year, your major, your GPA, and a list of all of your classes, lab experience, and computational experience. Additionally, 2 letters of recommendation are required (you can submit up to 3 but only the first two will be taken). Tips on letters of recommendation can be found here.

Finally, you will need to select a first and second choice lab. This is important because different labs do different things (for instance Fermilab is highly specialized in particle physics, Argonne National Lab specializes in condensed matter and materials science, while Berkeley Lab (which is just up the hill from UC Berkeley) is split between nuclear/particle physics, green technology, materials science, and high-performance computing). Within each lab, you select your top 3 choices of field.

Description of the program

The program lasts for 10 weeks and is basically a full-time 40-hour per week job. However, exact hours depend on the nature of the work (for instance, if your work requires use of a synchrotron light source, your hours are basically whenever your group has beam time). You get paid $600/week and on top of that get housing accommodations taken care of by either an additional housing stipend or lodging in a lab-run dorm. Plus, if you live at least 50 miles from your choice of lab, your travel to and from the lab gets paid for.

Besides doing work assigned by your supervisor and trainings required by your work, there are also a bunch of seminars, colloquia, and events that include lectures on topics researched by other scientists within your department, 'brown bag' seminars on topics as diverse as climate change and CRISPR, lab tours, and writing skills workshops. Outside of work hours there are often events such as science outreach volunteer opportunities and social events.

At the end of the program, you are required to submit a written deliverable and a poster which you present at a poster session. The program gives you guidelines and intermediate deadlines for the deliverables which help you to pace your work.

Concluding remarks

All-in-all, if you want to get into the work that occurs at national labs (which ranges across most fields of physics and other sciences), SULI is a great way to get experience, either during the summer, or after graduation. The one drawback is that you don't select the advisor, rather the advisor selects you. If you want to work with a specific person at a national lab, a better bet would be a program run individually by one of the labs which is mentor-initiated. One example which is very similar to SULI except for the fact that the arrangement is made ahead of time between the mentor and the student include Berkeley Lab's BLUR program. Programs like these also offer a way around the fact that you can only do SULI a limited number of times. You should probably ask whoever you want to work with for more details.

Space Sciences Lab


McNair Scholars Program


UC LEADS stands for Leadership UC Excellence Through Advanced DegreeS. Link to their website [1].

This program is part of the UC Office of the President's efforts to increase the number of diversity students pursuing graduate degrees in STEM. UC LEADS provides two summers of sponsored research opportunities to the cohort of each year.


Applicants must be UC citizens, permanent residents, or DREAMERs. Also, this program is only eligible for current UC Berkeley students with an accumulative GPA higher than 3.0 by the time of the application. It is strongly desired that the applicant can commit full time for the research during the summer. Finally, it is preferred that the applicant is a sophomore or junior interested in going to grad school.

Fellowship Setup

Applicants should plan to have two summers to join this program. During the first summer, students will do research with a current UC Berkeley faculty, with a 4000-dollar stipend. In the second summer, students will do research in other UCs and receive a 4500-dollar stipend.

During the semester, there are also many grad school prep workshops such as GRE prep and interview prep. They also invite people over for lunches every week and present possible opportunities.

After the second summer, students will be invited to the annual poster session and present their research.


The online application asks about various questions such as major, grade, and needed career-related services (such as resume building). Then they will arrange phone interviews with applicants and ask eligibility questions and applicants' plans during the summer.