1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Applying for grad school What to do about a not-so-good research experience?

  1. Dec 26, 2012 #1

    I worked for a professor as a visiting student at XYZ university this spring on a research project. He delegated the supervision to one of his assistants who didn't really seem to care about the project. I should have worked with more focus instead of simply doing what he wanted me to. Regardless of whose fault it was, it went pretty poorly and although I managed to get a few results before the end, it wasn't very impressive at all. This professor is a pretty big shot and to be honest, I did learn quite a few things from it and this is my only foray into experimental work. The professor and I didn't interact much so his opinion of me is based entirely on his assistant's appraisal and that isn't great news for me. It was for credit and I ended up with a B+ and I left it at that.

    Now, I want to apply to grad schools next year so what should I do about this? I am applying to a bunch of a schools including XYZ university. Should I mention what happened or just not say anything about it? And should I even bother with an LOR from him or will it hurt more than help? I have two other undergrad research experiences and those went well. I blew a good opportunity, I know that. But it's too late to change it so what can I do now?

    Thank you, and Merry Christams!
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 26, 2012 #2
    One of my professors told me that when they are looking for research experience, it's more a matter of checking a box ("applicant x did research, check") than a matter of close examination. No research is a red flag. Publications aren't necessarily highly regarded, the notion is that generally a student just got swept along for the ride and their name ended up buried in the author list.

    So I feel like with your two opportunities you can get that box checked, and that's what counts, no need for the third guy. But I'm a bit of an amateur so we'll see what more experienced folks have to say...
  4. Dec 26, 2012 #3
    What would you say? Would you say what you said in your thread here? In that case, I think it would be better not to say anything at all. People may see you as somebody who is making up excuses and who likes to blame other people (regardless of what you are saying is true). This is not the impression you will want to give.

    If you don't think you'll get a good letter of recommendation of the professor, then don't ask one of him.
  5. Dec 27, 2012 #4
    Thank you both for the replies.

    Micromass, I was wondering whether it's worth mentioning that I tried my hand at research and it didn't go well. I'll word it well and won't let it come across as if I'm blaming someone else.

    The question is, is it better to come clean and admit that I had one poor experience and I learned from my mistakes and moved on or if I should just not talk about it at all? It will show up on my transcript as an Independent Study course so will it not raise a red flag if I don't mention it at all?
  6. Dec 27, 2012 #5
    I am a little confused. From your comments, I count 3 undergrad research experiences. That's great. Surely one of those will supply a good LOR. You will then briefly describe the other 2 in the research sections of your statement and resume. So I don't see the problem.

    I would say only briefly describe what research you did and the results you obtained (stick to the science), but avoid any negativity. Don't go into how busy you were that semester or how that type of research didn't capture your interests (these should now become your real reasons, btw). You're moving to the next level where even more obfuscation is required. Good luck!
  7. Dec 28, 2012 #6
    Thank you for your advice!

    I was just worried that not doing so well in a research project (the grade is a B+ which is low for these courses) might count against me. I wasn't sure whether putting it in my statement and drawing attention to it was a good idea or not.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook