1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

I have an idea, but it's more towards biophysics/biochemistry

  1. Mar 20, 2014 #1
    So, I came up with a research idea. I'm in my fourth year and next year I'm doing my master's. I have a research idea that involves a lot of biology and biochemistry. I've taken a few extra classes in biology, but I'm lacking in knowledge. My master's thesis will have nothing to do with this, but I need to work somewhere this summer. I can probably have a job in physics, but I'm much more motivated to do this project.

    So, my question is, should I go see a biochemistry professor about this and ask them if they want to work with me on this project (or maybe it's too late for that)? Or should I try to stay in more physics oriented work (making thin-films)?

    To me, it seems to make sense that I should expand, but I'm wondering what others think. I don't feel like the physics work I'd be doing this summer will make me that much of a better physicist. But I do feel like working on the idea I have will make me more knowledgeable in other subjects.

    If I do go see a professor with my idea, I think I will tell him specifically that he HAS to hire me for this summer at least if he wants to use it. Just as a safety. Maybe he won't like it, but I think my idea has potential (a biology professor told me it did, too).

    Thanks! :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 20, 2014 #2

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2017 Award

    If someone came into my office and said "I have a research idea, but I am not an expert in this field. I'll tell you what it is but you HAVE to hire me for the summer", I would send them away.

    I have plenty of my own ideas.
    I don't want someone on my team who thinks he can tell me what to do.

    I suggest you find a different approach. The one you propose does not look promising to me.
  4. Mar 20, 2014 #3
    Fair enough. But the reason I'm suggesting that is to protect my idea. I wouldn't want it to be stolen or not be given any credit. I'm saying that IF you uses my idea, he'll have to at the very least hire me. Otherwise, that would be completely unfair for me. That being said, I wouldn't be completely useless. It does include photonics, which is my specialty.

    Of course he has plenty of ideas, too, but it would be up to him to decide wether his are more important or not.

    But still, out of curiosity, why would you turn away a student with an idea? Or are you just not into the idea of someone taking charge (for your benefit, too)? I'm asking genuinely, I'm not saying you're wrong! :)
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2014
  5. Mar 20, 2014 #4


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    I think you need a bit of a reality check here on how things are done. You appear to not understand or are aware of two important factors: administrative and scientific value.


    Where do you think this professor will get the money from to pay you? Out of his own pocket?

    When someone has a research money, it is typically out of either an award or a research grant. That person has put in a proposal of what he/she wants to do, submit a budget which includes all the salary of all persons involved in the proposal, how long it will take, what he/she hopes to accomplish, and most importantly, the scientific merit of the proposal. Only then will that proposal be considered. Not everyone who submits such a proposal will get accepted.

    So when something is accepted, only then will that person has the money to pay someone to do the research that had been described in the proposal. That person simply has no leeway to simply pay someone like you to come in and do whatever it is what you wish to do. This professor, even he has the research funds, simply can't divert that funds to you.

    So where do you propose this money should come from?

    Note that you are going to need this person's help, use his resources, etc. And yet, here you are, demanding that he pays you. Do you also tell your friends when they invite you to their homes for dinner that you will only grace them with your presence only if they serve you your favorite food? Don't you see how bad this looks?

    Scientific Value

    What exactly is the merit of your idea? Is it important in solving something, in fulfilling a particular broad call? You simply can't propose to do something just because it is "interesting". It also must be shown to be important. As with the proposal for research funds, one must show the scientific merit of a proposal.

    But that's not all! When one submits a research proposal, one must also show that (i) one has the expertise in that area (ii) one has the skill and ability to accomplish the proposed work (iii) and that one knows the state of knowledge in that area. Can you make such claim? Have you done sufficient literature search to know that what you want to do hasn't been done already? Have you looked at what kind of science it will produce? And are you capable of doing it?

    A lot of these nuts-and-bolts surrounding getting funds to do one's research is what something one learns over years and years of working in this field. There is NEVER, or seldom, money coming out of a spigot that one can simply tap to pay for one's pet project! Any money being paid through a school incurs overhead from the department/school that has to be paid. It is never that easy!

    I'm with Vanadium. If you come into my office with that kind of attitude, I would kick you out. I have enough on my plate to do rather than deal with something like this.

    Last edited: Mar 20, 2014
  6. Mar 20, 2014 #5
    You're completely right. I do understand everything you just said and I did consider this. The reason I thought it would work is because we have a cancer research institute here and my idea could possibly be used as cancer treatment. The professor I'm thinking about has a research chair related to cancer research. My hope was that he had reserve money and would be willing to work on my idea. Maybe I just don't understand.

    If so, should I just keep this idea on hold and wait till I can get money myself by applying for research grants?

    I agree with you, actually. And I completely understand that in order to get research grants, you need to show expertise, etc... (I read my actual professor's research proposal).

    Anyways, like I said, my idea is related to treatments for diseases (ex: cancer). I have read three articles somewhat related to this subject, but that's only because it doesn't seem like there's been much research on it. Maybe there has been research on it, but I haven't found anything yet.

    I'm not saying I've found the "cure for cancer" or some extremely optimistic thought. All I'm saying is I sincerely think my idea should be investigated.

    EDIT: I did also talk for an hour to molecular biologist about this earlier today. And he said the idea seems promising.

    ALSO, Vanadium and ZapperZ, thank you very much for helping me, it is very much appreciated. I understand that I am naive and I lack years and years of experience. You guys are very kind for trying to guide me on the right path.
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2014
  7. Mar 20, 2014 #6


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    The way to approach this might be to go and talk to this professor and tell him about your idea. Your university may have summer scholarships that you can apply for (although it's a little late in the year for this if you're in north America) and if you're really interested in pursuing it, ask if (a) he might be willing to mentor you and (b) if he can help you apply for such scholarships.

    That was how I got my first job.

    What's likely to happen is that someone else is already working on your idea or has already worked on it - that's if it has any merit at all. It's very rare to have a truly unique idea. But that doesn't mean that it isn't worth you investigating it - particularly as a student.

    Don't worry about anyone stealing your idea. This only makes you come across as a crackpot. And issuing an ultimatum is a phenomenally bad idea. Instead look to your professors as mentors and guides with the potential to enable you.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Similar Discussions: I have an idea, but it's more towards biophysics/biochemistry