• Support PF! Buy your school textbooks, materials and every day products via PF Here!

How to get into undergrad research

  • Thread starter StatusX
  • Start date
30
0
StatusX said:
Obviously I don't mean cutting edge research. I'm asking what kind of research the people who know they want to go into theoretical physics do when they're undergrads.
"Research" that isn't cutting edge, i.e. something new, doesn't deserve the name. You may be confusing research with, say, doing a project on some topic, maybe reading some journal papers, then writing a synopsis and/or giving a survey talk. Though from you've told us so far, you're not at the stage where you can do this. You don't have to believe me: take the bull by the horns, and go and communicate your enthusiasm and determination to an active faculty member, i.e. one who is pursuing a his/her research program, and is publishing. See if you have any luck; I may be wrong.

mewmew said:
I am an undergrad in freshman honor physics and am doing some theoretical research I guess you could call it. I was searching the Internet and found out my professor has doing a summer research project on teaching and using general relativity to calculate orbits around stuff like black holes and white dwarfs and what not. I still have another month of school and am already reading up on math and background for it and it will be pretty rigorous.
Excuse me if I'm perplexed: reading up on math is "doing research?" Are you at a level where you can do tensorial calculations with ease? Do you already have a rigorous background in modern differential geometry and GR, say at the level of Misner, Thorne, and Wheeler's Gravitation, or Hawking and Ellis' The large-scale Structure of Spacetime? Do you have an unsolved problem you're tackling, or a conjecture you're trying to settle? Why are you debasing the word "research?"
 
114
0
bombadillo said:
Excuse me if I'm perplexed: reading up on math is "doing research?" Are you at a level where you can do tensorial calculations with ease? Do you already have a rigorous background in modern differential geometry and GR, say at the level of Misner, Thorne, and Wheeler's Gravitation, or Hawking and Ellis' The large-scale Structure of Spacetime? Do you have an unsolved problem you're tackling, or a conjecture you're trying to settle? Why are you debasing the word "research?"
"re·search *(r-sûrch, rsûrch)
n.
1. Scholarly or scientific investigation or inquiry. See Synonyms at inquiry.

2. Close, careful study."

Why do you have such a bad temperament about this thread, you are so negative and condescending to people trying to learn. And no, reading up on math isn't my research, as I said I am reading up on it before the research starts, and tensor analysis is part of my reading. This is just reading to get me up to the level of being able to learn and somewhat understanding the material we are going to cover. I think you are the one that is debasing the word research as you don't grasp the basic concept of the term.
 
1,349
2
Zapperz: not experimental work...but lab work. ie some professors have a computer lab in which students are performing simulations...that is lab work in theoretical science. Not all labs are experimental. Guess you've never seen a non experimental lab.
 

ZapperZ

Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
Insights Author
2018 Award
35,119
3,926
neurocomp2003 said:
Zapperz: not experimental work...but lab work. ie some professors have a computer lab in which students are performing simulations...that is lab work in theoretical science. Not all labs are experimental. Guess you've never seen a non experimental lab.
OK... just to make sure we are clear in this and to prevent misunderstanding in the future, we call what you described as "simulations", not "lab work". You just HAPPEN to do your simulation in a "computer lab" (a misnomer if you ask me). There's nothing that says you can't do it on a laptop while having coffee at a Starbucks (I certainly have done that). On the other hand, you can't do many physics experimental work at your local neighborhood Starbucks.

I'm not insisting that I have a monopoly on what is defined as "lab work". However, I think even you can see how such a thing can be very misleading when applied to how you are using it. Numerical computation, which can be a vital part of both theoretical and experimental physics, are never considered to be "lab work".

Zz.
 
1,349
2
its called lab work because its assigned by a professor for their lab...whether your performing an experiment, collecting data, analyzing data, researching papers or doing simulations. This just isn't a term for physics it goes across all sciences. And from what i remember Numerical Computations are considered labwork, but it might depend on the size of your simulations...ie VR is labwork and so is astrophysics simulations(the doors that say do not enter simulations in progress)
I don't know the size of simulations that you've programmed but some simulations cannot be done on laptops.

As for going to starbucks to code yes you can,but only for snippets of code...when you truly wanna run your simulation you will need a network or powerful computer setup like sharcnet(from cdn). Sorry the term eludes me cuz my brain is shutting down.
However you can also do the same thing for experimental work, not the actually implementation but the thought process and analysis. There are very few professors that i knew who wouldn't go for coffee and talk about an experiment.

Also note that some experimental labs also have programmers doing simulations in them...Ie Psych labs where there is VR and Cogsci research..as well as astrophysics labs. Maybe its a countrys terminology but in canada we just call them labs.

Oh yeah and the term should not be confusing because the term is associated with doing work for a professor.

btw What would you call a computer science/sftware eng professors lab?
 
Last edited:

ZapperZ

Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
Insights Author
2018 Award
35,119
3,926
neurocomp2003 said:
its called lab work because its assigned by a professor for their lab...whether your performing an experiment, collecting data, analyzing data, researching papers or doing simulations. This just isn't a term for physics it goes across all sciences. And from what i remember Numerical Computations are considered labwork, but it might depend on the size of your simulations...ie VR is labwork and so is astrophysics simulations(the doors that say do not enter simulations in progress)
I don't know the size of simulations that you've programmed but some simulations cannot be done on laptops.
I've written a 20-page quantum monte carlo code in C to find the band structure and calculate the activation energy of a catalyst surface used in the petroleum refining industry. It required 1 500 MHz stand-alone computer 2 1/2 days to finish a complete job. Would this be "large" enough for your consideration?

.. and I didn't have a laptop then, but I could have easily run it on my current laptop from a starbucks - I may have to LIVE there and wait for a complete run to end, but that isn't the point, is it?

As for going to starbucks to code yes you can,but only for snippets of code...when you truly wanna run your simulation you will need a network or powerful computer setup like sharcnet(from cdn). Sorry the term eludes me cuz my brain is shutting down.
However you can also do the same thing for experimental work, not the actually implementation but the thought process and analysis. There are very few professors that i knew who wouldn't go for coffee and talk about an experiment.
I'm sure you know that "talking" about an experiment is nowhere near being the same as doing the experiment. Any experimentalist can tell you that (and one is trying to do just that right now).

Also note that some experimental labs also have programmers doing simulations in them...Ie Psych labs where there is VR and Cogsci research..as well as astrophysics labs. Maybe its a countrys terminology but in canada we just call them labs.

Oh yeah and the term should not be confusing because the term is associated with doing work for a professor.

btw What would you call a computer science/sftware eng professors lab?
I don't really think it makes any difference in calling a physical location a "lab". However, if you equate that as doing an "experimental work", which is the term you used, then I would ask you to show where in the practice of physics such a term is widely used? If you look in either conferences, or even professional journals, that you wish to submit your work, they certainly do not consider "computer simulation" as "experimental work". If no such categories exists (in Particle Accelerator Conference, computer simulation is a category all by itself), then more often than not, computer simulation gets lumped into "theoretical" rather than "experimental" category. I should know, I've run a couple of such conferences where that was done.

If you wish to use that term, that's fine, and I'm not stopping you. I will caution you that your usage of it will create confusion and misunderstanding. If this is not something you care about, then you are more than welcome to ignore my suggestion.

Zz.
 
Last edited:
1,349
2
20 page code, thats what 32-40 lines of code? 800 lines ....no thats not alot though you mentioned that the time required to run teh simulation was. A good size project is about 5000-10000 lines of code. But you can see where i'm going...for example take a good factorization code...it can take a good 2wks to run...this is only suitable in a lab setting.

Also I never said that experimental work and computer simulations were equivalent...what i'm trying to say is that your equating the term "lab" with "experimental work" is not true.

I am equating the term "lab" with the professors research, his group and his students and the labwork that they do whether it be experiments, simulations, researching papers...etc.
 
8
0
Reply to Original Question

While undergraduates in just about any field do not know everything there is to know about any particular area, there is a long ways to go before you know enough to really publish Doctoral-level research (and that is the way it should be, otherwise everyone would get a Ph.D.), I do believe a reasonable amount of research can be conducted by undergraduates.

Research is new information, or possibly old information rehashed, for the researcher it is new and that is what makes it research - I believe. Book reports are not research and neither are surveys of literature, unless I guess you are studying history and some sort of comparative study was being done on existing literature.

I took a Linear Algebra class at another institution that I can completely bored in, I had already taken Modern Algebra and I tutor mathematics, so the material they covered wasn't new to me. BUT, I went to class anyways, and I did miss a lot. Final grade: 99/100 in the course. Some students can do that, not go to class and understand the material. But I'm also getting ready to apply to graduate school and, after doing summer research at other institutions, realize and understand the importance of letters of recommendation and impressing professors.

Somewhere down the line you need people to speak about how dependable you are and how smart you are. If you answer questions in class right all the time, a professor that really cares might recommend for you to go to XYZ summer program or program on campus and become your research mentor, as was my case.

I could have blown off Calculus 2 or 3, Differential Equations, Modern Algebra, or any other course I've taken within the past 3 years. But, and I have classes of less than 10 students, professors really do pay attention to that and take that into consideration when writing letters of recommendation and when you ask them to do research with you.

New professors might be the best bet for you, it might be the way you might want to go. But the way professors see it, if you don't show up to class now, and seeing as past behavior is a good prediction of future behavior, will you show up to research meetings or, later on, your graduate classes?

In math, you have to work hard to find new proofs, or even to prove things that have already been proven to show you have some proofing ability. But, put yourself in your professors shoes, if that new professor asks one of your current professors how you are in class, what do you think the answer will be?

- Vanes.
 

Related Threads for: How to get into undergrad research

  • Posted
Replies
6
Views
2K
Replies
13
Views
3K
Replies
5
Views
2K
Replies
17
Views
4K
Replies
2
Views
437
Replies
2
Views
2K
Replies
1
Views
1K

Physics Forums Values

We Value Quality
• Topics based on mainstream science
• Proper English grammar and spelling
We Value Civility
• Positive and compassionate attitudes
• Patience while debating
We Value Productivity
• Disciplined to remain on-topic
• Recognition of own weaknesses
• Solo and co-op problem solving
Top