Advice wanted for self-directed aerospace research as a sophomore

In summary: I did not have the appropriate recommendation letters from my summer employer.In summary, this person suggests that the best way to learn something is to do it, and that working during the summer can be a good way to learn the basics of a trade. He also suggests that finding a mentor during the summer is important, and that not being self-sufficient can lead to problems in the fall.
  • #1
et12
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Hi all, I'm a sophomore in aerospace engineering, and I haven’t been able to find any internships this summer. Instead, I'm looking to do some self-directed research, specifically in aerodynamics and propulsion, which I am both equally interested in. I have had experience with CAD software like Solidworks and Siemens NX, along with some exposure to CFD simulations. Given that I haven't been able to find any mentors from my university to provide guidance, would it still be a good idea to proceed with my project independently? Secondly, in terms of my project idea, should I prioritize focusing on one specific area or try to incorporate both areas in my research? Lastly, can you provide recommendations for additional resources to help with the research project? Thanks in advance for the advice.
 
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  • #2
Why no internship? How many did you apply to? You need to have guidance working on some specific project for the summer. That will be far, far more useful than "studying some stuff". Talk to everyone you know and somehow become indentured for the summer.
Otherwise go to Aruba and have a blast.
 
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  • #3
This sounds to me like a bad idea.

If your position was "I am interested in X and so will look into it over the summer" it might - might - work out. But that's not your position: you want to do Research, and need help with a topic. That means you're looking for some kind of credentialing, and without an advisor, you're unlikely to get it.
 
  • #4
Vanadium 50 said:
This sounds to me like a bad idea.

If your position was "I am interested in X and so will look into it over the summer" it might - might - work out. But that's not your position: you want to do Research, and need help with a topic. That means you're looking for some kind of credentialing, and without an advisor, you're unlikely to get it.
What would you suggest he do instead?
 
  • #5
Muu9 said:
What would you suggest he do instead?
See post #2, become indentured to an advisor or go on vacation for the summer.
 
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  • #6
Take a summer school class in Python or something else that you will use your entire school and professional care.
 
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  • #7
Muu9 said:
What would you suggest he do instead?
The end of May is a heck of a time to be planning one's summer. I think the advice in #2 is about the best that can be done. Bot research box-checking? That ship has probably sailed.
 
  • #8
marcusl said:
Take a summer school class in Python or something else that you will use your entire school and professional care.
This is not a bad idea.

I spent one summer working in a restaurant. I think everyone should do that once. The rest of my summers I did unskilled construction work. Digging holes, filling them in, moving piles of scrap into dump trucks, running a jackhammer (that's fun for about ten minutes). Hard work, but outdoors in the sun. It is good to get to know people you never meet in college.
 
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  • #9
I really like gmax137's advice. However, I might suggest to forego the resturant work (aside from the motivation to return to school to graduate). I suggest you consider working as a lacky in some custom machine shop, construction, or some type of trade as summer help. You will get to learn the fundamentals of some critical fabrication techniques (Tools) that will serve you well in your future. You will also see and meet people who really do "Work" for a living! (Not to disparage people who get the privilage of "Thinking for a Living."
Because there are far to many people who "Think for a Living" with an empty tool box!
 
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  • #10
Any advice you get from mentors at your university is likely to be more relevant than you can get from the physics forums. I know you state you are having a hard time finding them, by mentor, I expect you mean "advisor" and not necessary a person supplying monetary support like and internship. I expect if you are just looking for an advisor, you may have had one assigned to you when you entered university. You can start there. If you do not like the one assigned, talk to your friends who their mentor/advisor is, and whether he or she is easy to talk to. Maybe they will agree to be your mentor/advisor.

I believe it is important not to be within yourself for self study for example, unless it literally is a last resort. Eventually, you may need contacts to fill out recommendations, whether it be for graduate study or employment.

In my case, I did not cultivate contacts during summer and preferred self study. Looking back this was a mistake. I examined my coursework the previous year and shored up deficiencies. This was very good as far as it goes. However, if I cultivated a mentor advisor as a faculty member, how much better a recommendation they could write (Two cases)

1. He obtained poor marks in quantum mechanics, but developed an interest in the subject late in the semester and continued studying the subject throughout the summer. My review of the problems he came in with, indicate he resolved his difficiencies in large measure.

rather than

2. He obtained poor marks,but he wants to do graduate study. Why not give him a chance.

No person is an island. You are going to need people. I learned late, you can learn early.

If your grades are good and you are confident, you can study for courses you take as a junior. Still you are better off letting a faculty member know, perhaps they can help, or may even agree to take you on for a summer session, at later.

I know one summer I kept my eyes open and a few of us got together, and asked a professor to give a summer course. He did

Good Luck in your studies.
 
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1. What resources are available for self-directed aerospace research?

There are a variety of resources available for self-directed aerospace research as a sophomore. Some options include online databases such as NASA Technical Reports Server, academic journals, textbooks, and open-source software. Your university library may also have access to additional resources and databases.

2. How can I stay organized and focused while conducting self-directed research?

One way to stay organized and focused is to create a research plan or schedule. This can help you set goals, allocate time for different tasks, and track your progress. Additionally, it can be helpful to regularly communicate with a mentor or advisor to receive guidance and feedback on your research.

3. What skills are important to have for self-directed aerospace research?

Some important skills for self-directed aerospace research include critical thinking, problem-solving, and the ability to work independently. It can also be beneficial to have a strong understanding of mathematics, physics, and computer programming, as well as good communication and time management skills.

4. How can I find a mentor for self-directed aerospace research?

There are a few ways to find a mentor for self-directed aerospace research. You can reach out to professors or professionals in the aerospace field and ask if they would be willing to mentor you. You can also join online communities or attend conferences and networking events to connect with potential mentors.

5. How can I make the most of my self-directed research experience as a sophomore?

To make the most of your self-directed research experience, it is important to set clear goals, stay organized, and be proactive in seeking guidance and feedback from mentors or advisors. Additionally, try to challenge yourself and explore new ideas and techniques, and don't be afraid to ask for help when needed. Remember to also document your progress and accomplishments to showcase your research experience to potential future opportunities.

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