Mathematics - REU Q&As

1. What exactly is the REU program?

math_reu_blackboardThe REU is an 8-week summer program that provides active and original research opportunities for math and computer science undergrads. REU programs take place at a select number of educational institutions around the country, and are funded at least in part by the National Science Foundation. It's an immersive and very rewarding experience for the participants - the chance for students to participate in advanced research that goes beyond the standard undergraduate curriculum. When you take part in the REU, you do real work on new math problems that have yet to be solved!

2. Who can apply for REU?

If you will be an undergraduate during the program, then you can apply. The typical REU participant will have just completed his or her sophomore or, more usually, junior year. However, because we are funded through the National Science Foundation, only U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible to receive funding that would cover housing costs, travel, and stipends.

3. Why should I take part in an REU program?

Any math or computer science student who is considering graduate school in any field should consider applying for an REU (since the program is offered by many schools nationwide, you don't have to limit your application to Fairfield). Because the program is designed to provide the experience of intensive and focused research, it has the potential to help shape your ideas about your future and what you want to do with your life, both personally and professionally. Even if you aren't planning on going to graduate school, rest assured that there is nothing more impressive to a potential employer than a job applicant who devoted 8 summer weeks collaborating with a small group of fellow students on some challenging and rewarding work! And you will be paid - we pay our participants a stipend of approximately $3,300 for the summer, in addition to housing and travel expenses.

4. Who will I work with?

Students in the program work in small groups of 3 or 4. Your work will be based on the expertise of your Fairfield faculty mentor, who will lead your group for the summer. In 2011, we have 3 faculty mentors, which makes 3 research groups. Even though you will work closely only with your group, all of the students in the program are housed together, and the REU schedule is packed with activities (math talks, sporting events, social gatherings), in order to allow you to get to know everyone in the program well. You'll also have the opportunity to meet, share research experiences, and socialize with the many students who do summer research work in the other sciences at Fairfield.

5. What will I work on?

Most of your summer work will involve conducting research with your group. Toward the end of the program, the groups will also spend time giving talks on their research topics in various venues, including at the annual national meeting of the Mathematical Association of America. The 2011 research group topics are:

  • "One-dimensional Combinatorial Dynamics" (with faculty mentor Chris Bernhardt)
  • "Three-dimensional Hyperbolic Geometry" (with faculty mentor Shawn Rafalski)
  • "Nielsen Theory for Generic Maps on Surfaces" (with faculty mentor Chris Staecker)

6. When and how long is the program? Where will I live?

Our Summer 2011 program runs from June 13 through August 5. We cover most, if not all, of your travel costs to get here, and all the REU students are housed at no charge on the Fairfield University campus.

7. Where can I learn more about the program?

Our website has everything you need to know about the Fairfield REU, including how to apply. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail Shawn Rafalski at

8. How do I apply?

Apply online. You will need to fill out an application and provide a transcript of grades, a personal statement of interest, and a letter from a faculty member who can speak to your ability and interest in mathematics.