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Asking professors to do research

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

I want to ask a professor or two about possibly doing research for them. I'm only a sophomore and my major is Astronomy and Astrophysics. His field of research is loop quantum gravity, string theory, cosmic matter-anti matter asymmetry, singularity resolution, electroweak symmetry breaking and more cool stuff like that.

Of course I don't have a formal education in that kind of thing. The most I know about it is stuff I read in popular books like the elegant universe, stuff I see on the history channel and so forth. I can go pick up books at the physics library and stare at them, but the mathematics is far too complex for me.

I do have a decent understanding of a lot of physics concepts. This includes calculus, vectors, mechanics, E&M, Astrophysical subjects, statistical mechanics and so forth. But not the level of theoretical physics that he studies. I suspect that if he were to employ me, it'd be with really simple stuff like fixing code in computers or whatever. But I'll still get the experience and resume stuff.

How do I go about asking the professor? I do get a little nervous about these things. No idea why. Any pointers?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
cristo
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
8,107
72
Just ask him if he is looking for any undergraduate reserach assistants and, if so, what sort of projects he has in mind.
 
  • #3
It can never hurt to ask. If anything, they'd appreciate any sort of help if they could use it, especially since it will probably free help.
 
  • #4
887
2
ASK! I was in a similar situation way back when. I did exactly what you are thinking of doing and it lead to my last 8 years or so of research collaboration, including grad school, and a postdoc.

You will begin with simple things, but all of it builds on itself and you will soon be doing very interesting work.

First thing to do is find out what area each professor is doing work in. Then as cristo stated, ask the ones who are doing research you are interested in if they would like to have an undergraduate research assistant and what projects are available.

Good luck!
 
  • #5
turbo
Gold Member
3,077
45
Every person doing research has some level of "grunt" work that they would like to have done. If you don't mind doing really tedious, repetitive, tasks in support of a research project, volunteer. You'll be able to make yourself of value to the prof, and get to associate with graduate students involved with his/her projects. Work hard and cheerfully, and this will open more doors for you.
 

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