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Getting into undergrad research

  • Thread starter Null_
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I'm a freshman chemE major, and I want to begin researching as soon as possible. I am only in introductory chemistry and physics classes (quantitative and E&M), but I've heard that one can learn a lot in the lab regardless of what he or she is learning in the classroom.

What is the first step about getting into research? I have looked at my school's website, and there are a LOT of professors doing research. It would be not feasible to contact every one, and there is no indicator as to if they are looking for researchers or not. I understand that with my knowledge I would probably just be doing grunt work, but I'm fine with that as it will teach me the skills I need later in my career. What are the chances of someone like me getting any position?

Also, do most people do research on a semester basis? As in, is it too late this semester to try to find opportunities?
 

G01

Homework Helper
Gold Member
2,649
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Well. The summer is coming up. So, the timing is right if you're looking for some free time to focus on real lab experience.

Do you have an undergrad student group in your major? Perhaps they know of some professors with opportunities for undergrads. Or perhaps ask your academic adviser for some help? If nothing else, it can't hurt to send some emails to professors whose work you find interesting.
 
231
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Regarding summer research...I live an hour and a half away from school. Would it be unreasonable to suggest working only 1-2 days a week?

We do have an undergrad student group, but I can't join yet. It's for those who have matriculated, and I am not eligible until the end of this semester. My academic adviser is pretty busy and answers emails with a yes or no..
 

eri

1,034
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You could try asking your class professors if they are interested in taking on a student. Talk to some of the other students doing research; find out which professors are likely to take on more students (at your level, those with large labs are good) and find out if any of them get funding to work over the summer. Be upfront with any professor you talk to about needing funding to rent an apartment; a summer research student with no useful skills who can only work a few days a week isn't all that attractive to anyone. Keep in mind you probably won't be helping; most undergrads require far more training and supervision than any of the work you get out of them is worth.
 
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Do you have any "meet and greets", colloquia or other events where you could meet professors? If yes, then, apart from sending out e-mails or going to their office, this is a good way to talk to them a bit, and perhaps somehow "mention" you're looking for research or just ask them directly. I am actually in the same situation as you are right now, being a first year student looking for research over summer. While nothing is sure yet, I did meet a professor at one of such events, and we are now in talks for summer research. Unfortunately, I'm also an international student, so it's even harder to get funding, and this is what's currently causing trouble as far as certainty of me actually doing research is concerned. But if you are a domestic student (wherever you study), presumably there's more opportunities for grants or stipends, and you just need to present your interests well. They know that being a first year student you're only in the beginning stages of your studies, so they won't expect you to know upper year material, but I guess what they're looking for is just enthusiasm and willingness to explore new things.
 
266
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I was in the same situation as you last semester except I transferred in as a junior. The way I got in was meeting people in my major and finding out which professors are looking. Also I contacted my department head about research and he offered me a work study job as well. It helps to meet the professors in person or talk to them after class if possible.

And I would argue undergraduates usefulness is a lot more than perceived. I think it depends on the type of student and what the work is.
 
231
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Thanks a lot for everyone's help. I will try just asking around to see how others got into research. My physics professor is heavily into computational astrophysics, and while this fascinates me, I wouldn't be the least bit helpful..and my chemistry professor appears to be doing no research.

That's a good tip to look for a large lab...I haven't heard any rumors of any, but I'm sure we have a few.
 

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