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Advice regarding confronting professors about there research

  1. Nov 10, 2007 #1
    Advice regarding confronting professors about their research

    I am a first year physics student and very interested in being involved in research in some capacity (even if that means being a volunteer lab monkey), however most 'official' avenues of undergrad research involvement are through co-op or some sort of NSERC thing that I can't even think about until 2nd year. Can anyone give me tips on how to confront professors about possible volunteer opportunities?

    A large motivation of this is getting to know professors and their research which will set me up for my later years as an undergrad when I might actually be able to do something in a research capacity.
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2007
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 10, 2007 #2
    1) Read the stuff on their web page if they have one.

    2) Go up to them, say "I read the stuff you have on your web page. I want to know MOAR."

    They'll talk with you generally. If they tell you they won't accept you, then ask them what you need to do.

    It's pretty simple. Learn as much as you can before talking to them and then just talk to them.
  4. Nov 10, 2007 #3
    I don't think I am at the point where I can ask intelligent questions about their research :tongue2:
  5. Nov 10, 2007 #4
    You don't have to. They usually just have a blurb on their website about the project, at least my profs do. So you go up to them and ask them if they could tell you more and in a way you could understand, because you are interested in the subject.

    Being an undergrad, you won't be in any shape to understand their projects deeply. They know that.

    Let me give you an example:

    I am working on my prof's Axion project now. Did I know what one is when I asked him to give me something to do? Nope. I even told him that. He just told me to learn it. So I did, and still am, because the stuff involved is beyond me at this point, but I'm trying.

    Nobody is going to expect you to get them the Nobel Prize. If they can find something for you to do, then they'll probably be happy to let you do it.

    I mean really, to give you a very blunt example of what I would do:

    Find a topic I am interested in. "Gravity." Cool. Read what it's about. Understood about half of it. Go to professor, say "Hey I like gravity. Is there anything I could do for you?" and it will either end there or you two can talk it out.
  6. Nov 11, 2007 #5
    I'm a 2nd year undergrad now (so I have a slight advantage in that respect) but I e-mailed my tutor asking if he had any suggestions for what someone at my level could submit to apply for an undergrad research bursary from the Nuffield foundation in the UK- expecting some very broad, general advice- and this is the response I got:
    "Put down sorting out our galaxy redshift surveys of the southern sky. How about that? If interested come in and see me later this week." :biggrin:
    Just tell them that you're keen, and that you accept that you know nothing. Have a go!
  7. Nov 11, 2007 #6
    All of the advice in this thread is very good. I think many professors are just happy to see a student that wants to get involved outside of the classroom. A lot of people just go through the motions and fulfill the minimum requirements. Simply being motivated enough to want to do research, especially as a first year student, will place you above others in your class.
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