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Programs How does a summer at the University of Arizona sound?

  1. Dec 4, 2017 #1
    So I have the opportunity to work at the University of Arizona this upcoming summer in High Energy Physics. This is an amazing opportunity since I get to spend a summer doing research at a university different than my own (although it will be unpaid). But I am wondering, how good will it be when I apply for graduate school if I spend this summer at the University of Arizona? I am obviously continuing to explore other programs, but if nothing happens, I'll go here.
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  3. Dec 4, 2017 #2


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    It sounds hot! But seriously, Arizona is a good school. I think it would look good on your grad school application.
  4. Dec 4, 2017 #3

    Vanadium 50

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    Going back to the last time you asked about research elsewhere...

    You might want to read Dr. Courtney's comment on selfishness. Do you really want your letters of recommendation to say "Academically a good student, but is selfish and ungrateful. He has received a full scholarship to UTA, but nevertheless has shown no gratitude and has spent his entire college career making it clear that he feels UTA is beneath him and that he is uninterested in pursuing any opportunities with us. Despite having our own HEP program which welcomed him as a student, he elected to spend his summer taking an unpaid position with another university he felt was better. Expect him to treat your university the same way."

    You might also reflect on the fact that you have posted your real name here, so all interested graduate schools can see how UTA has treated you and how you have treated them.
  5. Dec 4, 2017 #4
    1) Dr. Courtney's comment says that I should do research for at least a year (which I have) before looking for opportunities elsewhere.

    2) If you read Dishsoap's comment, it says the following:
    Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

    I came from a small school such as yours. It's a very simple trend that has been true for several years. Those who did research at other universities got into graduate school, and those who didn't, didn't.
    3) Even when I am away, I plan to work on my professor's stuff remotely too .

    4) Just because I want to have better career opportunities for myself does not mean I am ungrateful or selfish.

    5) I do not think that UTA is beneath me. I've read, almost everywhere, that whatever the school you go to for undergraduate should not be the school where you go for your graduate studies when you want to get into academia, that is looked down upon. Even if I was at MIT right now, I would actively try to see if I can do some research in a different university since I wanna make sure that I get into a graduate school ("Those who did research at other universities got into graduate school, and those who didn't, didn't.").

    P.S. All the stuff I hear about academics is not something that I am making out of thin air. It is not my opinion. It is what I have heard from people who are senior to me.
  6. Dec 5, 2017 #5

    Vanadium 50

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    It sounds like your mind is made up. So you never really wanted our advice - just validation.
  7. Dec 7, 2017 #6
    Yes, I think that's true. That's why I wrote the problem and the solution in the same question (look for opportunities and if nothing works out, go to U of A).

    But I really want to make clear I do not feel that UTA is beneath me, had it been the case, I would've tried to transfer right after the first year I got here. So far, I've enjoyed it here (academics and research). I have the opportunity to work with and be around professors who are some of the best in their fields (Professors who are building a TPC here to study baryon asymmetry, working in Fermilab and 10 different projects, searching for neutrinoless double beta decay, studying supernova remnants and dark energy, working on the 4 body problem, searching for exomoons etc.). I LOVE working for my professors and would continue to do so for the rest of my life, if I could, they are that nice and I look up to them (not just because they excel in their research, but because they are some of the best human beings I've ever known)!

    However, the sole reasons for my trying to pursue research elsewhere are: 1) I want to do some research in a field that is not offered at UTA to see what I really want to work on in the long run (I have not found that question yet) 2) I've heard time and again of people whose research experience comes entirely from their university who did not end up going to a grad school

    I work over time (no overtime pay) with one professor, and completely voluntary research with another, I am an officer of the SPS and I volunteer in the Physics Clinic to help out students. If it were just about me, I don't think I would spend my time trying to help other people out with their exams, without getting anything in return. If it were the case that doing research elsewhere for the summer was not important or that I had already found out what I wanted to work on for my PhD, I probably would not have pursued it. If it were the case that doing your PhD in your undergraduate institution was not looked down upon, I would've happily continued to work with my current professors.

    While it may seem as if I am selfish, I think it's a lot more of paranoia about not getting into a good grad school than it is about selfishness (there is a little bit of the latter, but I'm working it).
  8. Dec 7, 2017 #7
    I think the main issue is that I need to come to terms with the fact that I don't have to be in the topmost school in order to go great Physics. And it is also true that admission to a top PhD program does not guarantee that I will stay in a top university for the rest of my life. I feel like it was an idea that I instilled in my mind since the beginning of high school and that's why it's a bit difficult to just discard, but I'm trying to discard it for good. Having surrounded by professors who are doing tremendous research not at MIT or Caltech helps a lot in pushing me towards that realization.
  9. Dec 7, 2017 #8


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    Lots of people get into amazing graduate schools with research experience limited to their undergraduate institutions. In fact I would say that this is the case for the majority of graduate students admitted anywhere - at least in my experience.
    What really matters is the quality of the research experience - what skills you pick up and what you accomplish in it. A student who spends his or her summer playing solitaire and doesn't produce anything more than a regurgitation of the professor's project proposal is likely to struggle with graduate admissions. A student who authors a paper that gets accepted in Nature is going to have a much high chance of getting in at his or her choice of schools. Both regardless of where they do the work.

    This is a popular misconception. No one seriously looks down on a PhD graduate who did a bachelor's degree at the same institution. I've been on several hiring committees over the years and this has yet to come up as an issue.

    The misconception comes from the idea that are advantages to doing your PhD at a different school: you get exposed to different styles of teaching, different professors will focus on different things which will strengthen your own understanding of specific topics, you broaden your academic network, you get to live in a different city, etc. But there are also advantages to staying at the same school. You know they system and the local environment. You can continue on with a research project that you started as an undergrad, thus having less of a learning curve to climb and can produce results faster, you know which professors you work well with and which ones you don't, etc.

    As a general guiding rule for questions like this (what to spend your summer doing), it's generally best to focus most on:
    - What skills are you likely to develop? Or what knowledge are you likely to gain?
    - How interesting is the project to you?
    - How much are you going to be paid?
    - What connections are you likely to make?
    - Are you likely to enjoy yourself in that particular environment?
    - What are the end goals of the project? Do you understand how to get to them?

    When factors like this are all otherwise on par, then you can get into questions of academic pedigree to act as tie breakers.
  10. Dec 7, 2017 #9
    It's worth noting that when I gave my advice about working at other universities, I was talking about small schools with very limited research opportunities, like my own undergrad university.
  11. Dec 7, 2017 #10
    I believe this misconception is attributed to Feynmans, "Surely your Joking."?
  12. Dec 7, 2017 #11
    I don't think so, but I could be wrong. In it, Feynman asks to go to MIT again for grad school reason being that it's the best university in the country, but his advisor tells him that he should explore and see what the rest of the world is like.
  13. Dec 7, 2017 #12
    So when you said that you came from a small school like mine, you meant even smaller?
  14. Dec 8, 2017 #13
    Yes, and I apologize that I wasn't so familiar with UTA to know about research opportunities there. My undergrad university only has one research group which has published in the past few years, and no experimental physics groups, which is why I pursued elsewhere.

    Nonetheless, I have to admit I'm not sure why people think it is selfish of you to pursue research elsewhere. I will forever praise REU experiences because I think they are so valuable for undergrads.
  15. Dec 8, 2017 #14
    I think the reason why they're saying it is because I seem to be ungrateful for what this university has given me, which they infer from all the questions that I asked earlier about searching for opportunities outside the university, which is understandable. But that was before I was here and actually learned about the research being conducted here and the great professors. Only a few months ago did I find out about the particle Physics experiments going on here and how interesting that is. In addition, I also have looked and pursued research at my university and have devoted plenty of hours into it and will continue to do so. I would not have done any of those had I not thought them to be worth my time.

    I wanted to pursue research elsewhere for the summer to find out what I truly enjoy doing and it'd have been a nice experience knowing what the research culture is like in other universities. And of course because I thought that you need to have experience from a different school to get into a good grad school.

    Also, I'm slowly beginning to ditch the idea of a top graduate school, not because I think I am incapable of making to a top school, but because I see professors who went to "top" grad schools, but are not professors there and not all professors at top schools are from there. I also look at professors at my school who are doing world-class research regardless of whether they are from a top-ranked graduate school or not. I think what matters more is what you learn and how passionate you are about the topic that you are working on instead of what rank your school is at. Having the idea of rankings in mind may blur the idea of what I truly enjoy about and that's why I wanna get rid of it.

    P.S. It is my fault that I did not properly look into all that was going on at UTA before coming here, I should've done a better job of researching the shcool.
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