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Building relationships

  1. Nov 5, 2011 #1
    When exactly is one supposed to begin building relationships with their professors, and how? Thus far, I have not needed to interact with my professors beyond them merely lecturing me. I go, learn the material, write their tests, and that's the end of that.
    I understand that this is something that needs to be done, especially if I want to proceed with education post undergraduate. Professors are exceptionally busy, and I don't see when this "relationship building" is supposed to occur given I have nothing to really talk to my professors about.
    I suspect that my grades will not be an issue, it's merely the letters of recommendation that worry me.
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2011
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 6, 2011 #2
    If you can do a reading course with someone, that's always good.
  4. Nov 6, 2011 #3
    YOU have to initiate it so, "I don't see when this "relationship building" is supposed to occur.." it occurs when YOU start it. The best thing would be to push to become a TA for one of these professors this will build closeness, you'll be helping them out so they can comment on your skills, good work (hopefully).

    Start by sending e-mails to the profs or going to office hours to get your face out there. Then ask about available TA positions.
  5. Nov 6, 2011 #4
    TA positions are provided to graduate students, not undergraduate. There are plenty of graduate students at my school, so I highly doubt they would ever resort to using an undergraduate student.

    Also, what exactly do you mean by a reading course? And how exactly would that build ties within the Electrical Engineering or Physics department?
  6. Nov 6, 2011 #5
    Even if you don't need help or anything, just come up with any old questions and go to office hours or ask them after class. There's a lot of stuff to ask about, not just classwork. Ask them about what grad school is like, what research do they do, etc.
  7. Nov 6, 2011 #6
    A reading course is like a one on one thing where you read about some advanced special topic. At least in math, people do it all the time. If your grades are good enough not to be an issue, then they may be willing to take you on.
  8. Nov 6, 2011 #7
    I've got to know a lot of PhD students and academic staff by doing summer research placements.
  9. Nov 7, 2011 #8
    Guess that's how your school works. Your loss on that one, bud. Sorry
  10. Nov 7, 2011 #9
    Honestly I think that if you can't think of anything you could ask your professor in your spare time, you're not thinking hard enough. xD Unless of course you've single-handedly mastered your entire field and put every researcher out of work.. in which case.. wow. Good for you. On the off chance that this is NOT the case, I'd say this: you're in school to learn, which implies that there is a great deal you don't know. The instructor is more likely than most to be able to answer any questions you might have. Think of some, ask him.

    This is what I've been doing with my Chemistry instructor, although primarily because he is rather impersonable (and thus less effective when it comes to teaching) in class but opens up a bit if you're talk to him one-on-one.. which isn't saying much. He still stares at the floor and refuses to maintain eye contact for more than 5 or so seconds out of the average minute. Brilliant guy though.

    If you're in a lab, see if you can assist in some way; if they already have paid positions which you think are filled, make it clear that you want to do it for experience and knowledge. Most instructors are more than willing to take advantage of free labor. This will give you face time with the lecture and lab instructors, plus like-minded undergrads and knowledgeable graduate students. I've already had an offer to work in the Chem supply room next semester, which is allegedly where you learn the most because you're actually preparing labs instead of just doing them.

    Keep abreast of the latest developments in the field, and ask the instructor about them outside of class. I say OUTSIDE because if you ask about it in class, you'll just be another annoying student who is derailing the lecture. Ask outside, and you become an interested and engaged student who is seeking out information 'above and beyond' that which is expected. Ask about his research, if he has anything going.

    Ask if he knows about any summer internships, local companies seeking undergrads for cheap labor, or even if he knows any place you might go outside of class to learn more about the subject at hand. My brother asked where he might go to find the coolest rocks (or something.) and got some excellent suggestions from his Geology instructor. Incidentally his timing couldn't have been better and he ended up joining a "faculty-only" trip intended to find new locations for field trips. The fact that he knew something about erosion and water quality in the area (thank to a DEQ internship a few months previous) all but ensures that he'll have a glowing recommendation if he goes through with his plan to study in New Zealand.

    Just be creative. ;) Lots of possibilities out there.
  11. Nov 7, 2011 #10


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    Education Advisor

    Much like dating, it's best not to try too hard at establishing a relationship.

    Instead just be active within your department. Join your undergraduate physics society and try to get elected to an executive position. Attend departmental colloquia and seminars. Volunteer for high school outreach programs, or to represent your program during university open houses.

    Once you get on into your 3rd or 4th year you will likely have a thesis project and/or a reading course and/or a senior lab and/or few very small classes where a professor will act as a mentor. These are usually the ones that you will later approach for reference letters, not the first or second year lecturer whose office hours you went to religiously.
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