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How to find research that interests you

  1. Jul 24, 2014 #1
    Hello, all.

    Recently, I've been looking into grad school and trying to find research areas that interest me. Unfortunately, this seems to be quite tedious, and I may miss things I'm interested in. Does anyone have a good strategy for finding interesting research groups, especially for someone who doesn't know a lot of what's available?

    As background, I would either be going into an undecided field of physics or a mechanics-related field of mechanical engineering for PhD research. Also, my current methodology requires some knowledge of which school you would go to. Being from the state of Illinois, I find schools in that region to be more appealing, and Illinois, Northwestern, and UChicago would be of particular interest (that's not to say they're the only choices).

  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 24, 2014 #2


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    If you're still in undergraduate then talking to professors who do research and/or teach in an area that you find of interest and possibly working with the professor's group is a great way to get a feel for what the day-to-day research might be like in a certain discipline.

    One thing that I do is go to the department websites of schools I would consider for graduate school and either browse through the departments main research areas or go through the faculty profiles to see what kind of research everyone does until something catches my eye. If I find something then I do a google search on it and read descriptions and published articles and watch videos of talks and lectures on youtube.

    I think you also get a lot of counseling from your advisors once you enter a graduate school about possible research topics. I'm just an undergrad so I do the above two methods.
  4. Jul 24, 2014 #3

    Vanadium 50

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    Why do you want a PhD? Usually people make this decision the other way - they decide what they want to study and then pick a program that meshes with this.
  5. Jul 24, 2014 #4
    I suppose a little more background is appropriate. I'm entering my senior year and I've been doing research in mechanical engineering. I tend to be more drawn to fundamental science, thus physics is appealing to me, but I don't know a lot about areas of research and what they involve. Also, I don't know a lot of the fields in mechanical engineering either. I enjoy the research I do now, but I want to see other options so I don't paint myself into a corner.
  6. Jul 24, 2014 #5


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    UIUC and Chicago are each excellent and competitive physics programs. UIUC has a fantastic Condensed matter program.
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