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Approaching a professor about research as an undergrad

  1. Dec 4, 2015 #1

    I'm a first year physics student (just about done with my first semester). I've heard it is possible for undergrads to get involved with a professor's research, and I'm wondering how one should approach a professor about this. Is it just a matter of striking up a conversation about it during office hours? Setting up an appointment? It would seem weird to ask them about it out of the blue...
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 4, 2015 #2
    Look at your department's website to learn about what kind of research each professor does. Email a few whose research sounds interesting and ask if they allow undergraduate students to join their research groups. Ask if you can set up an appointment with them to discuss it further. Do some homework on their research and go to the appointments showing interest (because you should be interested in it). If you decide not to join one of the groups after meeting with the professor, email the professor (or stop by in person), thank them for their time, and let them know you've decided to do research in a different group. I can almost guarantee you'd find at least one professor who would be willing to let you join their group.

    Many professors are glad to get their students involved with research (and it doesn't hurt to have a little extra help around the lab).

    Forewarning: sometimes, professors just won't answer your email. It's nothing personal; it just means they a) saw your email but forgot to respond, or b) don't have room for you (or any undergrad) in their research group. I'd let those professors go and keep trying with other professors.
  4. Dec 4, 2015 #3
    I agree with the above, and I'd like to add - if they don't answer your email, it really isn't personal. Most professors I know get an insane amount of emails - during a 2 hour class, one professor had over 30 emails pile up in his box. And this is normal.

    This is also why professors often will give very terse replies. They just don't have the time!
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