Introductory Questions

Who participates in the Summer REU Program?

Every summer, over 30 undergrads work on research projects in the CSE department as part of the REU program. Their demographics are approximately: juniors (50%), sophomores (25%), and freshmen (25%) / 60% male, 40% female,  40% from Washington University, 60% from other institutions.

What is an average day in the life of an REU student?

Many REU students treat their work as a 9-5 job. If you effectively utilize these hours, you will be very productive. That said, research is notoriously bursty (i.e., you work in bursts). Depending on the group and the nature of the work, you may find yourself sometimes waiting for others or data or your own experiments to finish. If you have a big deadline coming up, you may have some long days or weekends. An 11-week project is likely to be somewhat shielded from these bursts, but as with all new undertakings, you may find the days a little long in the beginning and way too short by the end.

What projects might I work on?

The 2021 Summer REU projects can be found here. The list is not finalized but it’s getting close! The kinds of projects that students work on is constantly evolving, but this list is representative of the types of projects students have worked on in recent years.

St. Louis?   Yes! St. Louis!

St. Louis is a thriving city with much to offer. There are many reasons to consider living here for a summer:

• Work a short walk from the Loop. Washington University also has easy access to public transportation.

 The City Museum (Hint: it’s not a museum. Think grown-up indoor playground.)

 The Muny’s Summer 2021 season of musicals in Forest Park. Free seating!

 Free Wednesday summer concerts at the Missouri Botanical Gardens 

 Shakespeare Festival St Louis

 4th of July in St. Louis

 Explore St. Louis

 Washington University Community Guide to the City

Application Questions

Is the Summer REU Program open to masters students?

No, you must be currently enrolled as an undergraduate in order to be eligible for the REU stipend. This also means that if you graduate in Spring 2021, you are not eligible.

Is the Summer REU Program open to international students?

Yes, as long as you are enrolled as a full-time undergraduate student in a US institution. If you are an international student enrolled in an international institution, please consider applying to Engineering School’s international summer research program.

I am willing to work for free. Will this affect my chances of being accepted?

We appreciate this offer, but we do not offer unpaid positions.

Does my letter of recommendation have to be from a computer science faculty member?

You are welcome to submit a letter of recommendation from anyone, it does not have to be a CS faculty member. However, the letters of recommendation from non-technical folks tend to be more about your personality (“She’s easy to get along with / very reliable / very motivated”) and less about your technical abilities (“She is a great programmer /  really understands CS theory / has a real knack for solving problems out of the box”), and the latter are much more useful than the former when it comes to assessing whether you are a good fit for a particular research project.

It may be that you don’t have a relationship with any CS faculty yet and that the best they can say is “She got an A in my class” which frankly isn’t particularly helpful. In this case, a mentor from a non-CS context may be in a better position to write you a letter. Still, if you have had the chance to impress a CS faculty member, that is probably more valuable than someone who can’t really assess your technical acumen but happens to think you’re a great employee in a non-technical context.

Is my letter of recommendation due on the same day as the application?

We would like the letter to be in by the application deadline, but we know that you have less control over other people than you might like. We will try—as best we can—to hold off on making any final decisions until we get your letter.

Are there prerequisite course requirements for the Summer REU Program?

Each project is different as far as the required skills are concerned. Some require quite a bit of specialization, some require a strong programming background, and others are more suited for beginners. Please look over the Projects Page and determine if you have the required background for the projects that interest you. If your transcript does not attest to your preparation, you should address this matter in your application.

Summer Program Questions

During what period is the participant supposed to be present at WUSTL? 

You must be on campus for at least 10 weeks for the REU program. We recommend the time period May 30 – August 6 in order to participate in both the Boot Camp and the Research Symposium, but this is not strictly required. If you are admitted to the program, you can find any 10-11 week period that works between you and the professor with whom you are working. It will have to be during the summer, however (May-August).

My school is on quarters/trimesters so I cannot be there until early June. Is this a problem? 

This is really a matter left between you and the professor you’re working with. Please indicate on your application your need for a different timeline. If a professor here can accommodate this need, there is no reason why it could not work out. There are drawbacks of course—you’ll miss some initial events and you might not be far enough along to fully participate in the Research Symposium—but the most important part of your experience is your work with the professor, so it would still be fine.

Will the university find me housing?

We will send you details about on-campus housing. If you would like on-campus housing, we will help coordinate that for you. You will have to sign up for/commit to on-campus housing early May (the actual deadline will be announced over email). If you are interested in off-campus housing, we can give you some pointers, but it will be your responsibility to coordinate the rental.

How much does on-campus housing cost?

While it could be less, we recommend budgeting $3000 for on campus housing.

Will the university pay for my housing?

There is a housing allowance that will cover most (if not all) of the housing costs. For students live in on-campus housing, the housing allowance will be paid directly to residential life. For students in off-campus housing, you will receive the housing allowance with the stipend. 

Is a travel stipend included in the program?

Yes. You may reimburse up to $600 of expenses that you incur traveling to and from St. Louis if you are not from St. Louis, though these travel reimbursements must follow the polices set forth by the NSF and Washington University.

Where is on-campus housing?

For Summer 2021, the on-campus housing is in the Lofts.

What are the availability dates for on-campus housing?

For the Summer 2021, the on-campus housing will be available from Sunday, May 30th to Friday, August 6th. Special arrangements can be made on a case by case basis if you require housing outside of that time.

How do I travel from the airport to campus/my housing?

If you take a ride share, it will cost around $30-35. Alternatively, you can take the Metrolink for about $4. You will get on the Red Line at the airport (there is only the Red Line, so you can’t mess that up), then you typically transfer to the Blue Line at Forest Park and travel west to the appropriate station. Washington University campus sits on the Blue Line between the Skinker and U City/Big Bend Stations, as shown on this map. Here is a station map. Here is a Google map.

Will I be issued an ID card?

After you arrive and complete your initial paperwork, you can apply for a Washington University ID card. Much more information about the ID card and the facilities it gives you access to can be found here.

Will I have access to the Washington University athletic facilities?

Yes! First, get a Washington University ID card.. With this card, you can get access to the Athletic Complex.

(By default, your card will probably NOT give you access by swiping.  You will likely have to purchase a summer pass for $20 and they will put a sticker on your card which you can flash to the folks when you go in instead of swiping your card.)

What is a wustlkey and how can I get one?

A wustlkey is an electronic ID that will give you access to many campus services. It’s basically a username and password. After you arrive, you have to wait until you are “in the system” and HR will send you an employee ID (which is also a username). Once you get this employee ID, you can apply for a wustlkey by going to, then go to How To and then How to Create a wustlkey.

Will I have access to the Washington University library facilities?

Yes! The library staff tells us that once you have an ID card and a wustlkey you should be automatically granted access to the library.

Where can I park?

Once you have a wustlkey, you can also order a parking permit online.

The page also tells you where you can go in person if you choose.

For the first few days before you get your parking permit, you can buy one-day scratch permits at the bookstore.

Is food included in the program?

Yes. There is a $600 allowance to cover meals.

What stipend will I receive for the summer?

The stipend for 2021 will be $5000. It is typically paid in two equal installments at the end of June and July. We would love to give you your first payment at the end of May, but for several administrative reasons, that is not possible.