Undergrad Research Suggestions

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Narius
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Undergrad Research Suggestions

Postby Narius » Thu Jan 21, 2010 2:58 am UTC

I'm a physics major at my university, having just switched over from Mechanical Engineering. No ground lost, b/c i'm just a freshman. However, I came to this school with knowledge of its engineering program and now that I'm in physics, I'm finding out that they don't really have any research areas that are relevant to my interests (which are as of right now nuclear/particle physics; ofcourse subject to change).
I hear everywhere that the most important thing to do for a physics student is research, and I agree. However, if my school isn't actively researching in areas that I'm planning on going to grad school for, what would ya'll recommend me do? Is it better to just do some research there in a different field just so I can have research experience? Or should I look outside my uni and try to find professors in my field?

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Omegaton
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Re: Undergrad Research Suggestions

Postby Omegaton » Thu Jan 21, 2010 7:50 pm UTC

You can research whatever the heck you want. My interest in grad school is fish evolution and ecology, but my undergrad research was in insect community ecology (though I did a bit of work in a fish ecology lab for a semester). Sure, relevance is good, but you can branch out some from what you actually want to do specifically in grad school. If you have no other choice, I would do research just to get the experience and to be able to put that on your CV/resume. However, if you can swing it, trying to communicate with other professors outside of your school sounds like a good idea, however it may be difficult to actually do research as you don't have direct contact, but I don't think it hurts to try. But if you can do that, your own school might even recognize that as research credit or whatever. Plus, it'd boost your chances to join whatever lab you were working with in the future.

Birk
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Re: Undergrad Research Suggestions

Postby Birk » Thu Jan 21, 2010 8:52 pm UTC

I would stick to what you school has to offer in order to get experience both in research but also with other fields. You might find you like something more than you realize.

Then if you are really intent on this field you've already chosen look into NSF REU programs and see if you can get a summer research position at another school.

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Jorpho
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Re: Undergrad Research Suggestions

Postby Jorpho » Sat Jan 23, 2010 7:08 am UTC

Narius wrote:I'm finding out that they don't really have any research areas that are relevant to my interests (which are as of right now nuclear/particle physics; ofcourse subject to change).
That is a crazy expensive field to be interested in. Might I inquire as to how much you really know about nuclear/particle physics? I'll admit that it might seem most alluring, but once you get into it it's really just a whackload of nasty, tedious math the likes of which you haven't seen.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that since you're new to this, you poke around a little in other research areas rather than focus on this to the exclusion of all else.

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Filigree
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Re: Undergrad Research Suggestions

Postby Filigree » Sat Jan 23, 2010 7:12 pm UTC

I'm not a physics dude (biochemistry here), but I have been doing the looking-for-research thing as well. Like everyone else has suggested, my advisor told me that it's better just to get some research experience in than to worry too much about whether you're researching exactly what you want to spend the rest of your life working on. Whatever you're doing, you'll end up learning research techniques that will help you in the long run.
But really, if you want more options than just what's at your school, apply for REUs, by all means.

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xMango
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Re: Undergrad Research Suggestions

Postby xMango » Mon Jan 25, 2010 4:18 pm UTC

As I learned from my time in undergrad, and as you have already pointed out, you will more than likely not be doing what you are doing now, in 4 years. Also when you get to grad school you will possibly take a completely different course because it is not what you are interested in, but what employers want you to be interested in (Sad as it is to say that). You may consider taking one of their offered research areas (because they are not stupid and know what people like) and if not find a professor who will offer a individualized research schedule. That is the main problem, but it can be done.
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
-Edmund Burke

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Narius
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Re: Undergrad Research Suggestions

Postby Narius » Tue Jan 26, 2010 11:28 pm UTC

Thanks all for the responses!
I talked to a professor on campus yesterday about doing research in low temperature nanomagnetism. Sounds cool. Hopefully it works out!

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RockoTDF
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Re: Undergrad Research Suggestions

Postby RockoTDF » Wed Feb 24, 2010 6:37 am UTC

I'll add to the list of "do whatever you can"

I now do a smattering of things in cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience. My undergraduate research was first in social/educational psychology, and the last two years were working in animal behavior, specializing in fish and some neuroendocrinology work.
Just because it is not physics doesn't mean it is not science.
http://www.iomalfunction.blogspot.com <---- A collection of humorous one liners and science jokes.

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mercuryseven
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Re: Undergrad Research Suggestions

Postby mercuryseven » Tue Mar 02, 2010 1:56 am UTC

Looks like my experience was a bit different from everyone else here.

I have stuck to the same research field since undergrad all the way to grad school. I felt that it was advantageous to me since I spent that much more years learning and picking up the various skills for the field. It probably gave me a slight edge in grad school.

Anyway, good luck in your low temperature nanomagnetism project!


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