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How does one pick an undergrad thesis and phd subject?

by Lavabug
Tags: pick, subject, thesis, undergrad
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Lavabug
#1
Feb26-12, 07:31 AM
P: 881
How do people generally go about choosing a subject to do thesis on in one's last undergraduate year (ie: year long thesis project)?

Should one be picking the desired field for a phd subject as an undergrad or is it okay to "make a mistake" and apply for something different at grad school?

What criteria should people have when choosing a subject, things like future prospects/availability of funding for post-doc work or transferability of skills to non-academic environments (ie: programming/numerical methods)?

Next year I'll be doing my final year of undergrad at a UK institution as an exchange student, and I need to pick an undergrad project/thesis subject. I have something in mind but I'm afraid of biting off more than I can chew for just an undergrad project. Should I contact potential advisers before going to get some sort of recommended reading list for the summer? Or should I wait til arriving in order to meet the advisers first and make the decision then (to avoid an unsavory relationship if I pick one that isn't to my liking)?

My interests, if it helps any: theory/computation in astrophysics, something along the lines of fluid dynamics and/or solar physics. My programming skills are very elementary as of now but I'm making good progress in my numerical methods course this year (scilab/matlab-based).
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mal4mac
#2
Feb26-12, 08:57 AM
P: 1,054
Quote Quote by Lavabug View Post
Should one be picking the desired field for a phd subject as an undergrad or is it okay to "make a mistake" and apply for something different at grad school?
If you already have something in mind for a PhD I would try to go with that area, but it doesn't matter too much - if you have a good reason for going for something else...

Quote Quote by Lavabug View Post
What criteria should people have when choosing a subject, things like future prospects/availability of funding for post-doc work or transferability of skills to non-academic environments (ie: programming/numerical methods)?
Yes.

Quote Quote by Lavabug View Post
Next year I'll be doing my final year of undergrad at a UK institution as an exchange student, and I need to pick an undergrad project/thesis subject. I have something in mind but I'm afraid of biting off more than I can chew for just an undergrad project.
It's common to provide lists of final year projects in the UK, e.g:

http://www.ph.surrey.ac.uk/intranet/...egree=&course=

If at all possible, I think you should do a set project rather than dream something up for yourself, because (a) the lecturer should have made it 'bite size' (b) the lecturer will be really interested in a project he sets (c) you avoid making a 'really big mistake' - like choosing a zany topic through inexperience... you can do that when you have experience and tenure :)

If it's not on the web site, ask for such a list from the secretary of the department (Don't email the lecturers for one! You don't want a reputation for bothering them with trivia...)

Quote Quote by Lavabug View Post
Should I contact potential advisers before going to get some sort of recommended reading list for the summer? Or should I wait til arriving in order to meet the advisers first and make the decision then (to avoid an unsavory relationship if I pick one that isn't to my liking)?
If you are *seriously* interested in a project, or two, after reading the list, you might send out a short email enquiry.
Lavabug
#3
Feb26-12, 01:13 PM
P: 881
Quote Quote by mal4mac View Post


Yes.
How does one figure out if a field or subfield is better funded than another?


Quote Quote by mal4mac View Post
It's common to provide lists of final year projects in the UK, e.g:

http://www.ph.surrey.ac.uk/intranet/...egree=&course=

If at all possible, I think you should do a set project rather than dream something up for yourself, because (a) the lecturer should have made it 'bite size' (b) the lecturer will be really interested in a project he sets (c) you avoid making a 'really big mistake' - like choosing a zany topic through inexperience... you can do that when you have experience and tenure :)

If it's not on the web site, ask for such a list from the secretary of the department (Don't email the lecturers for one! You don't want a reputation for bothering them with trivia...)

If you are *seriously* interested in a project, or two, after reading the list, you might send out a short email enquiry.
My exchange university doesn't have a complete or up-to-date list of the subjects available, only HEP subjects which I would feel inclined for, but don't think would be a good idea as I won't be able to take a course in HEP as an undergrad.

Many thanks for the advice, I'll have to ask my uni secretary for a list, I wouldn't have thought asking lecturers directly was a bad idea!


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