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Getting involved in physics research in 3rd year as a transfer?

  1. Dec 1, 2013 #1
    I will be finishing my AA this spring and transferring to a bigger college in fall to finish my BS. Since I will be new to that college, I am wondering what my chances are of being able to get involved in research? The people I spoke to at the two colleges I'm looking at for fall have been relatively vague on the topic so far, so I am hoping some people on here with personal experience can shed some light on the subject.

    Will I have a big disadvantage being a new student at the college? Will those who started at the college as freshman get priority or have an edge due to knowing the professors already? I am thinking of contacting some of the professors at the colleges directly soon, I just wanted to get confirmation of acceptance before I did (so they will take me seriously when contacting them).
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 2, 2013 #2
    I was a transfer to a big state school with lots of physics research going on, so I had lots of opportunity. I browsed research groups on the web page, emailed the professors who ran them, told them my grades, skills (programming, CAD/CAM, machining, mention anything like that), and my goals (get a PhD in physics). Some professors don't respond, others don't have a spot for you at that time, but some will respond. Some groups take on lots of undergrads, hunt for those first. Don't be afraid to contact theorists.

    Also, apply for REUs.
  4. Dec 2, 2013 #3
    Btw, contact them regardless, it doesn't hurt.

    And it's true that you will be at a disadvantage FOR GRAD SCHOOL ADMISSIONS compared to those who started as freshmen. The ones doing for years of research with the same prof are more likely to have publications under their belt.
  5. Dec 2, 2013 #4
    Thanks a lot for the information. As far as programming, was that something you learned on your own or did you take programming courses early on? Being at a 2yr, I found most of my courses taken up by pre-reqs for the major and electives, so I had no room for computer programming yet. The best I would have working for me is that I finished Chem I & II with a high A and will be doing the same this semester with Physics I.
  6. Dec 2, 2013 #5
    I will do so soon. Thank you again.

    As far as what you said about grad schools, I have to say I am a bit surprised. My concern was more so that the students who started as freshman are more likely to be selected by the professors to be involved in research since they already know the professors from previous courses (or were at least referred from other professors at the college).

    What threw me off with what you said is that from what I've heard, you typically don't start getting involved in research until your 3rd and 4th years because you need a solid foundation in calc and one full year in physics to really be of any use to a professor?

    To be honest, though I still have to take calc III and physics II next semester, with how much we still have to learn and how we have only touched the tip of the iceberg so far, I'm at a loss as to how we will really be useful contributors by this point anyway?
  7. Dec 2, 2013 #6


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    I'm in the same boat, actually. I'll be transferring to a 4-year next year hoping to get an undergraduate assistantship or something along those lines. Apparently the undergrad physics enrollment there is extremely low and they claim to have an abundance of undergraduate research opportunities. Somehow I'm a little skeptical though. Good luck, man!
  8. Dec 3, 2013 #7
    I learned programming mainly from courses. I am a handful of electives away from being a CSE double major as well.

    I don't know anybody who started research with a professor who taught a class but I may be wrong. And quite a few freshmen will have taken a year of calc and calc-based physics in high school. Showoffs. Either at their high school or at a local CC. Professors will always use cheap/free help, and a lot of these undergrads (given time) become as knowledgeable and capable in their labs as grad students. I knew at least one high schooler who was in the lab I was in. He was just hanging out, learning LabVIEW programming. I know another guy who was working under a theorist but learning complex analysis to solve some old problems.

    Professors who take on undergrads don't expect experts, just enthusiasm and willingless to learn.
  9. Dec 3, 2013 #8
  10. Dec 3, 2013 #9
    Thanks again for the info tom. As far as REUs, I was considering them, but it doesn't seem like it will happen this summer because I haven't taken Physics II yet. All of the ones I looked at so far seem to want a year of physics under your belt before they'll consider you. I held off physics because I wanted to get my electives out of the way first and save the things I'd really enjoy for last.
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