Important Requirements and Deadlines

As part of the REU program, you will learn valuable communication techniques. In addition to actually 'doing' the research, communicating your findings effectively to a variety of audiences is one of the most important skills a scientist can have.

Blog Posts

To set up a blogging account:

  1. On, click "Sign Up" in the right column. Fill out your W&M username and (any) email address, and select "Just a username, please."
  2. On, click "Add Users" in the right column, and sign up with the password you have received by email.

We ask you to write one 300 word blog post about your progress every week (but you must write at least three posts over the summer). 300 words is slightly longer than the length of an email, and in a blog post you don't have to be more formal than in an email either (but keep your audience in mind). You can write it whenever you feel in the mood to write, but experts recommend starting the day with writing because you are not as distracted and can organize your thoughts better. 


'Elevator Pitch'

Imagine you step into the elevator and someone asks you "what are you working on?" You have 1 minute to explain what you are doing before the other person gets out of the elevator (or decides to ride it with you, to hear more about your work). Here are some pointers to start with (although googling 'elevator pitch' will give you a wealth of tips as well):

  • Think about the goal: what bigger question are you working on, and why is it interesting?
  • Explain what you do and how you do it: what techniques are you using?
  • Why is the approach in your group different than that in other labs?
  • Finally, practice your delivery (in front of a mirror or others in your lab).


  • Elevator pitch presentations on Friday June 3 at 4 pm


When applying to present your research results at a conference, you submit an abstract. Typically an abstract is a self-contained description of the motivation, methodology, and results in a single paragraph. The American Physical Society (see below) restricts abstracts to 1300 characters (including spaces), but we'll keep it easy and restrict abstract to 300 words.


  • Abstract for contributed talk by Monday July 4 at 5 pm
    • Indicate if you would like to be in the 'abstract sorting committee' that will determine the order of the talks
  • Abstract for invited talk/poster presentation by Monday August 1 at 5 pm
    • Indicate your preference for an invited talk or poster presentation
    • Indicate if you would like to be in the 'abstract sorting committee' that will determine the order of the talks, and in the case of an imbalance of talks/posters will reassign some contributions

'APS Contributed Talk'

A common venue for research presentations in physics are the American Physics Society or APS conferences. There are two types of presentations: short contributed talks and long invited talks. The short presentation format is also called '10+2' because you give a presentation for 10 minutes, followed by 2 minutes of questions and discussion. In these contributed talks you typically present work in progress. The time limits are to be observed strictly, and the chair of the session you are presenting in will cut you off if you go over.


  • APS contributed presentations by Wednesday July 6
  • Indicate if you would like to be a session chair (optional)

'APS Invited Talk'

The longer APS conference presentation format is the '25+5' or invited talk. In these invited talks you typically present a completed body of work.


  • APS invited talk by Friday August 5
  • Indicate if you would like to be a session chair

Poster Presentation

Another excellent way to present your research is to give a poster presentation. Typically, all conferences have one (or several) poster session during which you will be standing in front of your poster to explain what is on it, provide extra background and answer any questions. That is the setting for which you will layout the poster (typically 3' x 4'): use large images and diagrams, do not write everything you will say. Because printing takes up to 24 hours (and everyone will want to print at the same time), do not wait until the last minute!


  • Poster designed and printed by Friday August 5

Final Paper

Final papers are expected to be written in LaTeX, the high-quality typesetting language that is the standard in nearly all fields of physics. The final papers should be between 8 and 12 pages in the standard 'article' format.

When you write a paper for a scientific publication, the journal editor will select several 'peers' will review your submission and provide comments. After receiving the reviewer comments, the journal editor will send you these comments after redacting the name of the reviewer. You then have a limited amount of time to revise your paper and resubmit. For the REU program this process will take place in the three weeks after the end of the program. Everyone will receive two papers to review.


  • Final paper submitted Monday August 8 at 5 pm (requirement for the last pay check)
  • Peer review submitted Monday August 22 at 5 pm
  • Revised paper submitted Monday August 29 at 5 pm