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Getting research experience after graduation?

  1. Oct 6, 2015 #1
    hi everyone,

    so i am an undergrad who is graduating with a physics degree in less than two months. i dropped the ball by not being more active in my department's colloquia / student society / etc. and have not been able to get any research experience outside of lab courses (which don't count, obvs). for the past couple weeks i've been looking into all the labs at my school and found an AMO lab whose recent work i'm really interested in, and i want to approach a grad student at this lab (or possibly the prof) about helping out there. however, i don't know if these labs generally take people who are literally about to graduate.

    i wanted to ask, how not-normal would it be to approach grad students or profs about their research + possibly helping out in their labs after graduation? would it be a "you should have better things to do by now" / "you should have approached me as an undergrad" situation or would it be okay to attempt this? is this something that people who have graduated with physics degrees do on a somewhat occasional basis?

    for what it's worth, i plan on committing at least 6-12 months if they will have me.

    any answers or insight would be appreciated!! thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 6, 2015 #2


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    Education Advisor

    As usual in this forum, "it depends". Firstly, I don't think it will hurt to ask. What's the worst they can say? No? You should probably ask a prof or a postdoc, rather than a grad student though. Grad students don't usually make these decisions.

    If the group has an appropriate project, you may be in luck! However, if you want to get paid to "help out", that might be a different issue. Most academics see giving undergraduates research experience as part of their jobs, but it's only rarely that undergraduates actually "help out in the lab" more than they actually require help. This isn't to put you off, but it's important to know. I think grad students only start to actually be useful after about a year, on average. It's good that you looked into their recent work, going into a meeting prepared is an excellent thing to do.
  4. Oct 7, 2015 #3


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    Research assistant is a polite term for indentured servant. Few undergrads actually get a chance to participate in significant research. So, I would not fret that much. Grad schools are always in the market for enthusiasm, a strong back and commitment to sleep deprivation.
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