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Dual degree or research experience?

  1. Nov 15, 2008 #1
    With supplemental summer coursework, I can finish a degree in physics and engineering in four years. If i decide to finish with this route, I will surely have little to no research experience as an undergrad. My academic goal is a phd. I know how important research experience is for phd applications, but I love physics and engineering and really want to complete the two degrees.

    Does anyone have any idea how an applicant with a degree in physics/engineering and little to no research experience would hold up againsts other applicants with alot of experience but one degree? Would it be detrimental to my applications to go this route? Has anyone else taken a similar route? Did anyone manage to find time to do research even with their entire adademic schedule dedicated to courses?

    As always, any input from the community would be greatly appreciated!
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 16, 2008 #2
    I got two minors (math and chem) with my primary degree (physics) and still did research (one summer in my undergrad chemistry department, one summer REU, and two years in my undergrad physics department. I arranged my schedule to have some free afternoons, and I also did some research work on weekends (once I was trained enough to be considered responsible with the equipment).

    I also think, based on my experience as a graduate admissions committee member, that committees will rate research experience over a dual major and no research.

    Two majors will say you can do coursework just fine, but it says nothing about the primary reason to be in graduate school and attain a Ph.D.... which is to do research.
  4. Nov 16, 2008 #3


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    I'm going through the graduate school application process right now. By what I have heard from professors and former undergrads turned grads is that research experience is VERY important. Here is a quote from a physics professor of mine:

    I suggest to focus on getting research experience, especially if you are serious about going into a PhD program.

    As physics girl phd said, research is what you are going to do in grad school. It's what you'll be paid to do as a PhD candidate and after you graduate. Looking at things this way, two degrees will not make up for having no research experience.
  5. Nov 16, 2008 #4
    Thanks for the replies.
  6. Nov 17, 2008 #5
    What counts as research?

    Research units? Self-directed study units? Honours thesis units? Design units (engineering)? Summer semester research?
  7. Nov 17, 2008 #6
    Typically research would consist of "cutting edge" work with a research group (faculty-led or at a national lab, etc.) that could lead to publishable results. When graduate school look at research experience, it's a big plus if you've been on a publication (or a few!). Of your list above, I'd say research units or thesis units (which are generally schedule filler to keep an upper-level student full time during the term(s) when research is conducted) and summer semester research, generally in a program like REU, although it can also be done at your own university.

    What the graduate admissions committees really look for is: publications, conference presentations (national meetings would be better than regional), for your personal statement to describe your role in your research experiences, and for your letters of recommendations to back up your personal statement by stating your drive and hopefully critical roles in your research experiences.

    While some students write about self-directed study or projects in design courses (and have faculty recommendations to back those up, those experiences aren't as critical... and are rather second tier. Worth mentioning if you have no first tier experiences... but still not as good.
  8. Nov 17, 2008 #7
    I would like to get started on research early; however, im currently at a community college so I have no opportunities within the school. Would it be wise to put this off untill my junior year after I transfer? Do you have any advice on where to find research opportunities outside of school? There is a pharmaceutical development business near my house, would working as something such as a lab assistant be considered research experience? Even if I wouldnt be doing the research myself?
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