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Advanced Lab as a substitute for research?

  1. Sep 3, 2007 #1
    It seems that I've dropped the ball somewhat in preparing myself for a graduate degree in physics. This is my last year as an undergraduate and I have no research experience at all. I wasn't accepted to any of the summer REUs for which I applied (didn't apply to as many programs as I should have, had a weak personal statement).

    This semester I'm required to take an Advanced Lab course, which looks to be quite the intense experience. The lab consists of one eight hour session a week, and over the semester we are to carry out three experiments and produce a 10-12 page paper for each in journal style. In addition to this, we have to give a 25 minute oral presentation of one of the experiments. The experiments are assigned, but according to the syllabus we are not given a "cook book" of what to do. The syllabus even goes so far as to call the experience an "internship."

    I was originally planning to get myself a laboratory job this semester, but after seeing the Ad Lab syllabus I'm not sure I'll have the time or the energy, keeping in mind that I'm finishing minors in both mathematics and philosophy this semester. Will a good grade in Advanced Lab as well as a solid recommendation from the instructor be enough to substitute for my lack of research experience, or is it imperative that I get into a "real" lab as soon as possible, possibly at the expense of my math minor? I'm at a first tier research university with approximately a 3.8 GPA in physics (3.68 overall), and based on SATs and test prep I expect to do well on my GREs, so the rest of my application should be pretty respectable. I'm just concerned that my inexperience could torpedo the whole deal.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 3, 2007 #2
    Many people get in to graduate school without undergrad research experience. If thats the only worry, you're doing pretty well :)

    As for an advanced lab course, its not really a substitute for research since you'll be doing experiments that have already been done. However you will learn about the experimental processes of collecting data, interpreting that data, and producing results. Learning how to keep a good detailed lab book will also be beneficial.
  4. Sep 3, 2007 #3

    Dr Transport

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    Absoutely, the process of wotking in a lab under controlled circumstances is crucial to learning correct lab proceedures. The academic comunity needs to emphasize more lab work as a student and less research time to produce better more rounded graduates.

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