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How to search for research students?

  1. Aug 20, 2017 #1
    Hi everyone! I'm not sure if it's a good place to post it, but I'd like to ask for your advice on good ways to search for research students (interns, summer scholars, PhDs etc) other than from within my teaching classes or through research collaborators? Established academics often get emails from undergrads asking to do a research project, but it doesn't appear to be the case for junior academics. Are there any decent ways to search outside one's own network?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 21, 2017 #2
    It depends on your goals and constraints. I mentor a lot of undergraduate and high school student research. But I am flexible in that I am willing to mentor research in ANY field of the student's interest, not just my specialty. I am also flexible in that I can work with students without them relocating to be able to work in my lab.

    I sort of recruit in some home schooling forums, but mostly I just keep my eyes open. One student, I met here on PF. He as asking some detailed questions about a science project, and we struck up a conversation by PM. His math project won 1st place last year in his regional science fair. I also attended a state science fair last year and gave some students my email address which has resulted in some collaborations.

    A few other high school and college students have reached out to me via email looking for a mentor for senior research projects or just looking for help. Once I realize they have talent and are willing to work hard, I extend an offer of mentorship. I've reached out to one local high school to mentor some student science projects. They seemed interested at first, but then kinda went silent.

    Some high school students I've worked with have moved on to college and are actively seeking faculty for research opportunities. One found a great opportunity because they were a FAFSA work study student, and a lot of campus research jobs post in the work study program. If your school has a work study program, you definitely want to post there. Many schools also have an undergraduate research office which works to connect faculty with interested students. If your school has a Society for Physics Students, I bet the faculty adviser can put you in touch with some promising students.

    But I should caution that most high school and undergraduate students are more of a time sink than a time saver. By the time they come up to speed and are actually capable of saving you time and energy on projects, they will soon be off to the next phase of their lives. So I tend to end up putting more into most students than I ever get out of them. I look at it as investing in the next generation of scientists rather than reducing my labor. I get them trained up and capable, and then they move on to reduce someone else's labor. I'm OK with that.
  4. Aug 21, 2017 #3
    Would LinkedIn work? Some dedicated students with high expectations and plans may be there. But I'm not sure. I haven't tried it myself.
  5. Aug 21, 2017 #4
    Thanks Dr Courtney, that's useful advice.

    Any particular places on LinkedIn? My contacts are filled with PhD students and PhD holders, not really the target audience if I'm looking for a new research student (PhD or otherwise).
  6. Aug 21, 2017 #5
    I haven't used LinkedIn much, but there must be a way to search (other than just looking at people's profiles etc. ...), given certain criteria etc., or have somehow others get in touch with you, if they are interested etc. . But I am not sure yet to give you a definite answer. I just had that LinkedIn idea. Researching it wouldn't hurt (for both of us).

    Also within PF is not a bad idea either.
  7. Aug 21, 2017 #6


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    Let the internet do it for you .

    Put up a website . State your requirements comprehensively and wait .

    If you get it set up properly then students random searching for placements will find your website .
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2017
  8. Aug 21, 2017 #7

    Andy Resnick

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    It's hard to make suggestions without knowing any details- what research tools do you use (theoretical, computational, experimental)? What (if anything) do you need your trainees to already know? What kind of institution are you currently located at? How much are you willing/able to pay (hourly, stipend, etc)? Do you already have suitable projects, or do you need to create some?
  9. Aug 23, 2017 #8
    Andy, it's a bit of everything. I am at a PhD granting university (not a well-known one), and I offer stipends that are standard in this uni (and competitive nationally) for a few well-defined projects ranging from short-term undergraduate research to PhD (both experimental and numerical). I don't expect much (or even any) research experience from the applicants, but they do need to have decent English, basic physics knowledge appropriate for the level they are applying for and enthusiasm.
  10. Aug 23, 2017 #9
    When I was on the faculty of the Air Force Academy, the departments let faculty pitch research opportunities to juniors late in their junior year as they were approaching the need to choose their required senior research projects. At smaller institutions or those without required senior research projects, faculty in the US tend to take a more haphazard approach: waiting for students to contact them or extending offers to the better students that happen to be in courses they teach.

    But I hear plenty of reports from students at various US schools that profs often don't make it easy for students to find research opportunities. Info at faculty web pages is limited, faculty are slow to respond to emails indicating student interest, faculty don't have money, etc. Is the fact that you are actively looking for students posted prominently on your laboratory web page for students to see? Are your office hours posted with an invitation to stop by and speak to you about research opportunities? Do you even have office hours where students know they can find you?

    In my years at the Air Force Academy, I did more research with students than any other faculty member there by a wide margin. I was well known among students and faculty as a student research guru, and the students all knew exactly where to find me for at least 12 hours each week, and I had an open door policy.
  11. Aug 23, 2017 #10

    Andy Resnick

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    I am in a similar situation. One thing I don't recommend is to post a 'help wanted' type ad with career services (or whomever is the clearinghouse for student employment at your institution). While I must post an ad to comply with regulations, I have learned not to bother with the flood of resumes/inquiries that result (for a variety of reasons). I have gotten much better results by giving talks at student seminars- not just in Physics, but other science and engineering departments- and also identifying promising students in my classroom and approaching them directly. To be sure, during a good year I will only have 1 or 2 undergrads and 1 or 2 grads in my lab- give careful thought to how many students you can effectively mentor.

    The good news is that you are likely to have at least 1 student per year who really exceeds expectations and inspires *you* with their enthusiasm and willingness to try crazy things.

    If you feel you must go outside your University, you may run into problems with various policies that are in place- I can't have randoms working on campus, for example.
  12. Aug 23, 2017 #11


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    Should the department posting or publishing of faculty research interests be a normal standard practice at your school or university? Most of the students there who have their wits working will soon enough find the listing, and read it. Undergraduates students looking for research at your school (their school too) are looking in order to (1) gain experience, and (2) earn official academic credit.
  13. Aug 24, 2017 #12
    Try contacting schools about how you can advertise your needs for research students! If your contact people are beyond qualified to what you're looking for, then the only way is talk to your preferred schools in your area. Or check their website if they can post your need to their directories.
  14. Aug 28, 2017 #13
    Thanks a lot for useful advice everyone! Do you know any online boards where ads for research opportunities (undergrad-to-PhD) are typically placed?
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