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Advice for Research as a First Year

  1. Sep 18, 2011 #1
    I'm currently attending the University of Calgary in the Double Honours program in Astrophysics and Applied Mathematics. I attended the ISSYP summer program at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in the summer and wrote a collaborative paper that derived a gauge theory describing the dynamics of particles in n-dimensions, (if you are interested I can e-mail you the paper! :D)

    I was under the impression that it is normally impossible to get a research position during the summer at a university (working under a professor either paid or unpaid) after the first year of school because of how little you know; is this true? I would love to work on some sort of research and hopefully write a second paper this summer!

    So, if anyone has any advice or any tips for how to get a research opportunity after only completing one year of an undergraduate that would be great. I'm not sure if I should just e-mail a professor and ask or if that is rude/uncalled for. If anyone knows the academic politics for how this works that would be great!

    -Sam Reid

    P.S. If anyone knows how to do partial differentiation with respect to Einstein notation and can point me in the right direction for how to do it, that would be great... I don't understand what delta functions are when you take the partial derivative of a vector with respect to a different index. EDIT: I made a topic asking this here: https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?p=3508356#post3508356 if you can help answer that don't answer in this topic.
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2011
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 18, 2011 #2
    I can't speak for all universities obviously, but the UCF Graduate School of Optics and Photonics has paid summer research positions for freshmen-senior every year. It's one of the best photonics labs in the country, and the program is in cooperation with the National Science Foundation. They accept non-UCF students as well. The other two big universities in my state do the same from what I gather. I don't know if they accept Canadian students however, but I would think there are similar opportunities out there.
  4. Sep 18, 2011 #3


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    You should try talking to your professors. See if they are looking for a student, or if they know someone who is. It's not uncommon to get an internship after your first year, but you'll have to ask around and maybe do some convincing - that's how I got one.
  5. Sep 18, 2011 #4
    Hi there,
    Thanks for the responses! So, when should I e-mail a professor about asking if they would be interested in taking on a summer student, earlier in this fall semester like now or wait until near summer time? Should I send them the paper I wrote and say that I am fluent in LaTeX?
  6. Sep 18, 2011 #5


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    Sooner rather than later is always good. They may not actually be looking for anyone right now, but may at least be able to tell you when they will be looking.

    Put a CV together and attach it to your email.
  7. Sep 18, 2011 #6


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    Talk to them soon (the longer you wait, the more likely someone else will talk to them first) and bring a resume and the paper you wrote for the other project. Talk to them in person (go to their office hours).
  8. Sep 18, 2011 #7
    I would say just go to your department, and just walk into a few professors' offices and start talking to them if they have time. This would be highly preferred over e-mailing. You are almost certain to find someone willing to take you on for some project, especially since you have previous experience as well.
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