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How to ask a professor about research?

  • Thread starter Magentacat
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  • #26
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Most departments will have a research information night, or some sort of event that will tell you how to go about applying for research. There will also be professors at these events and you can mingle with them during the tea break.

Also, some professors have webpages with information on how to apply.

I also know of several students who have been matched with a professor in the same/different university by their honours project supervisors. It is important to get a reference or a recommendation in many cases. Its not just about grades... it is also about your personality and determination and passion for the subject matter. Grades will open the door, but other factors will let you through the door.

It is a huge bonus in applying for postgrad study if your honours (or your main final year undergraduate project) is related to the field you want to continue working in. You might get a paper out of it or the work may give you a significant amount of knowledge in that area. If it doesnt, then the project sux and you will have wasted your time. You need something to separate you from other students who are applying.

What im saying, is that applying for research isnt just an ad-hoc process. Maybe youd find a few professors who occasionally operate this way. But really, just follow the process as presented by the department you want to go to.

All the best :-)
 
  • #27
AhmedEzz
In my university -and Egypt in general- there isn't much research going and therefore there are very limited spaces for grads, let alone undergrads. Therefore, I need to travel every year to have a research with a professor. Now, as you might guess, I have no contacts that I know in foreign universities. However, I am still deeply interested in conducting research in my field (electrical engineering). Now how do you suggest I go about asking professors (who I don't know) for such an opportunity?
 
  • #28
Choppy
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It is a huge bonus in applying for postgrad study if your honours (or your main final year undergraduate project) is related to the field you want to continue working in. You might get a paper out of it or the work may give you a significant amount of knowledge in that area. If it doesnt, then the project sux and you will have wasted your time. You need something to separate you from other students who are applying.
I strongly disagree with the point about the project being a waste of time (or suxing[?]) if it is not related to the field you want to pursue in graduate studies, or if it does not result in a publication.

Getting involved in research at the undergraduate level allows you to learn skills that will help you later on in your career. Even the experience of working as part of a research collaboration (even if the collaboration is just you and a supervisor) is valuable. Further, it allows you to explore a field that may be of potential interest, which has value even if you decide that you want nothing to do with that field (ie. it is much better to find out you don't like something over a summer rather than once you're two years into a PhD).

Admission committees recognise that not all undergraduate research will necessarily lead to publication. This is why they place weight on reference letters.
 
  • #29
Choppy
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In my university -and Egypt in general- there isn't much research going and therefore there are very limited spaces for grads, let alone undergrads. Therefore, I need to travel every year to have a research with a professor. Now, as you might guess, I have no contacts that I know in foreign universities. However, I am still deeply interested in conducting research in my field (electrical engineering). Now how do you suggest I go about asking professors (who I don't know) for such an opportunity?
It does become more difficult to network when you're looking outside of your undergraduate institution, but it's not impossible.

One thing you might try is attending conferences if that's an option. Poster sessions are great places to chat informally with researchers as well as find out about the cutting edge of research.

Again, polite email and phone calls can still be effective. However it's best to learn as much as you can about what researchers do before contacting them so you can have an intelligent conversation if they want to chat with you.
 

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