REU Workshop

This week was a hands on meeting meant to help students on their journey to applying for REUs(Research Experiences for Undergraduates). The task of writing an application and sending it off for someone else to review can feel extremely daunting. So frightening in fact that some students put off the process of applying until its too late. For the number of students who applied for REUs there are many more who did not apply because of this.

Follow along with the exercises in this week’s meeting to make the first step in applying. If, after completing the exercise you still could use some help, contact us for more resources. We’re here to help our fellow physicists succeed.

Sample Recommendation Emails

Good morning [Prof. Smith],

My name is [Sammy Slug]; I took your [Thermodynamics] class in [Winter 2021]. Currently, I am working on applying for REUs at [UC Santa Cruz] in their [Astrophysics] program. I’m emailing you to ask if you would be willing to write a letter of recommendation for my application. I believe you can speak regarding [the quality of work] submitted while in your class and my [interest in the area].

Should you accept, I would be more than happy to meet and discuss my intentions behind applying for the program. I’m free on [Wednesdays], [Thursdays], and [Fridays].

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sammy Slug

What’s an REU?

It can be extremely intimidating to get started in research at the undergraduate level. Know that you’re not alone in your feelings of inadequacy while daring to think about research, The truth is that anyone can do research and the fears we have about joining a group are always more detrimental than real.

Professor Raja talks shares his own experiences feeling the very same way described. We also get to see other students share their feelings about the fears of being in a group and believing their out of place. By the end of the meeting students talked about how inspired they were to have heard a professor having the same fears and feelings as students.


16:40:00 From Ava Webber : Sounds great!
16:40:48 From Katie Dalton : how does research work with distance learning?
16:46:32 From Katie Dalton : yes!
17:08:13 From Lauren : Do you think undergraduates from Cabrillo or other colleges/universities take part in UCSC or hisn research programs.
17:08:26 From Lauren : *his own
17:08:30 From Shashank Dharanibalan : Starting and getting in is very scary
17:09:05 From Annette (she/her) : I want to clarify something mentioned earlier, did you say that emailing a faculty member is the least effective way to get into research?
17:10:24 From Annette (she/her) : Oh I understand now, thank you
17:10:28 From Shashank Dharanibalan : I am most concerned about my technical level, and my knowledge of faculty’s work and the variety in their conduct and running of their research
17:10:32 From Ava Webber : And when he said “cold” emails, I think he means emailing people that you don’t know personally. If you know them then it’s more effective 🙂
17:11:24 From Eva Schmidt : I’m most concerned with balancing my time during the quarter with research
17:11:34 From Annette (she/her) : I see, thank you for adding that @ Ava
17:12:25 From Alberto Baez : I’ll ask him the unseen questions in just a moment. Thank you for your questions!
17:16:33 From Julia Stewart : I have to go to ACE for my physics class now, but this was a really informative event so far, thank you for hosting it!
17:17:16 From Eva Schmidt : “Imposter Complex” and everyone has it
17:18:19 From Shashank Dharanibalan : Schwarzschild from Schwarzschild radius?
17:18:24 From Ava Webber : Yes!
17:21:15 From Amishi Sanghi : that’s so cool omg
17:21:32 From Fiza Rahman : I know right! ^
17:21:33 From Shashank Dharanibalan : The connectedness between people is so fascinating
17:21:38 From Amishi Sanghi : ^^
17:22:39 From Fiza Rahman : Really inspired
17:22:41 From Shashank Dharanibalan : More confident than before
17:22:44 From Lauren : feeling better
17:22:45 From Amishi Sanghi : raja is so lovely
17:22:49 From Fiza Rahman : ^
17:22:54 From Alexis P : ^
17:23:21 From Ava Webber : He is! I love when professors are down to earth
17:23:40 From Fiza Rahman : Hi!!
17:26:53 From Anna Lewicki to Alberto Baez(Privately) : Hi Alberto, I’m a bit conflicted on requesting research positions from professors because I’m planning on studying abroad in the fall (if covid allows). Should I just wait to ask around until a bit before I come back or should I still ask around and apply to programs?
17:27:38 From Alberto Baez to Anna Lewicki(Privately) : Thank you for your question, let me present
17:28:19 From Benjamin Zhu : I just want to ask, do professors get annoyed by us constantly emailing them about the basics of their researches. I know they are very busy.
17:29:30 From Alberto Baez to Anna Lewicki(Privately) : Great question Benjamin, i’ll ask it next
17:29:36 From Alberto Baez to Anna Lewicki(Privately) : oops sorry
17:29:47 From Verenise Martinez : Wow thank you so much for speaking about your journey through research. It was really nice to listen to you experience as well, makes me feel more motivated to continue in research. I have to go but this was an amazing event!
17:29:49 From Alberto Baez to Benjamin Zhu(Privately) : Great question Benjamin, i’ll ask it next

17:35:12 From Eva Schmidt : Also, sharing your face in class/meetings makes a much stronger connection and makes you more memorable
17:38:04 From Ava Webber : I sent an email as well lol
17:38:19 From Alberto Baez :
17:38:25 From Siuling (she) Pau-Sanchez : thank you Ava!
17:38:34 From Ava Webber : Sure! 🙂
17:38:53 From Ash : I’m here from Cabrillo WiSE! thanks for forwarding us the email, this has been great!
17:38:58 From Benjamin Zhu : thank you for hosting this
17:39:04 From Lauren : Cabrillo Wise too!
17:39:12 From Nico P : Cabrillo too
17:39:12 From Jeremiah Ockenfuss : thanks! this was cool
17:39:14 From Annette (she/her) : Thank you so much! This was very insightful
17:39:16 From Alberto Baez : Thank you for coming!
17:39:19 From Nico P : thank you!
17:39:19 From Shashank Dharanibalan : Thank you Prof Raja, your experience and words were enlightening!
17:39:21 From Siuling (she) Pau-Sanchez : thanks to Lillian for contacting Cabrillo students!
17:39:27 From Lauren : ^
17:39:29 From Srujan Dandu : Yes thank you, this was very helpful!
17:39:36 From Ava Webber : Thank you SPS for setting this up and thanks so much Raja!
17:39:44 From Anna Lewicki : Thank you this was great!
17:39:46 From Fiza Rahman : Thank You prof Raja!! This was very inspiring. !!
17:39:48 From Alexis P : Thank you for your words of wisdom! This was very inspirational!
17:40:00 From Jeremiah Ockenfuss : ay im in santa rosa
17:40:06 From Raja GuhaThakurta : Thank you all for your kind words!
17:40:53 From Ash to Alberto Baez(Privately) : Thank you Alberto! Could I also get a follow up email as well.
17:41:06 From Ash to Alberto Baez(Privately) : my email is
17:41:14 From Andrew Seat : thanks
17:41:23 From Tony Zhou : thank you

Study Session

Everyone knows they should study, but it gets lost in time. Come study with us as long as you want with free coffee and tea provided. And if you’re lucky there just might be some free Yerba Mates for those who need a kick while studying.

The following classes will also have a small review planned by students: Physics 112, Physics 5A, Physics 5D

Event Details
Date – March 13th
Time – 4pm
Location – Center for Adaptive Optics

Interstellar Movie Night

This Friday, March 6th, we’ll be having a completely free movie night. We’ll be turning Thimman 003, yes a lecture hall, into our very own private theater.

So come one come all and enjoy some good snacks as we all watch Interstellar together. Famously, the one movie that is sure to bring even the hardest of core physicists to tears.

Event Details
Movie – Interstellar
Date – March 6th
Show Time – 6pm
Location – Thimman 003

Talking About What it Takes to Become a Researcher

This week was all about what it takes to be a researcher in the an academic setting. From sub-atomic particles to galactic bodies, research is constantly undergoing and evolving.


After everyone had their fair share of delicious Costco pizza and snack we all took our sits for the discussion to come.

One of our very own UCSC staff, Professor Raja Guha Thakurta, came in to talk about the process of diving in. He shared his very own experience coming into research for the very first time during his graduate level education, while pursuing his PhD.

He reminded us that no one comes into the field knowing exactly what it is we want to do and who exactly we want to be. During our conversation with him, students chimed in with their own experiences of struggle

It can be daunting to come into a research group and feeling as though everything being discussed goes over our heads. Nevertheless, we learn as time goes on that the most important part is sticking to it and growing our own understanding of these complex topics._DSC4767

We are extremely grateful to have him as our guest speaker for the night and hope to have him back very soon.

Keep an eye out for more information about more upcoming events, just like this one.


Catapult Fun with SUM

IMG_3652This week, SPS and SUM hosted a joint meeting where members competed in a building competition. Attendees were given simple household items (popsicle sticks, rubber bands, spoons) and tasked with making a catapult strong enough to launch a mighty pebble.

IMG_5487Five teams of six gathered both wit and supplies as tensions grew between groups. In the end team five won with an enormous distance of over *2,000 ft!

IMG_6484We are extremely thankful to everyone who showed up to the joint meeting and can’t wait to have another meeting together with SUM.


*the measurement was a placeholder and may not be correctly scaled.

Stargazing Night 2019

On Friday, April 12th 2019 a few brave students stood upon a very cold field to enjoy a beauty night sky.

As physicists we all, at one time or another, wondered what lied above the clouds. Despite the cold sea breeze and less than ideal light conditions, members where able to enjoy the sights along side peers.

Students face the camera for a photo while carrying large tube like bags for telescopes and backpacks. They are students after all.

It was stellar fun from around 7pm when volunteers carried telescopes to the field to about 2am in the following morning wrap-up. Members were treated to sights of star clusters, clouds of high energy gas and of course…the moon.


A few members from the Santa Cruz Astronomy Club joined in on the fun too, bringing three more telescopes for people to look through.

Quotes from Attendees

“I loved it, we should have these more often!”

“I always liked stars and this was a fun way to feel like a kid again”

Mentorship Program

In science it is always better to work together than against one another. Pair up with experienced students and get a helping hand from those who have been where you are now. Sounds great right! We think so too.

In collaboration with the Women in Physics and Astrophysics group, we pair up newer students with students who have more experience navigating academic and social life at UCSC.