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Is it possible to work on a summer undergraduate project without funding?

  1. Apr 15, 2012 #1
    So, I am an undergraduate physics student, and unfortunately I was not able to obtain a national physics internship for this summer. However, I was wondering if it is still possible to work on a project with a professor, without the funding. If this is possible, how would I go about to approach a professor about this? thanks
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 15, 2012 #2


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    As long as you can afford to stay at or near the university, then yes, you don't need funding to do a research project. However, the funding isn't just for you, it's also usually for the professor, to compensate them for their time. So now you're asking them to supervise you for free. They might be willing to do it, but don't get your hopes up too far.
  4. Apr 15, 2012 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    The answers depend on which nation, and (in some nations) on which university you are dealing with. People from all over the world post here. It's dangerous to ask for advice without giving some indication of where you are, and it's dangerous to give advice without having some idea of where the questioner is.
  5. Apr 15, 2012 #4
    The internship I was referring to would be in Canada (and more specifically Queen's university).
  6. Apr 15, 2012 #5
    Yes, you can. A few things to keep in mind (my background is experimental stuff, this might not apply if you're looking to do pure math or whatever):

    - Ask around a lot. Expect no reply or a "sorry, not interested" from most profs. But keep asking.
    - You are more likely to be taken in if you express an interest in starting in summer, and carrying on through the upcoming year as a volunteer or with a research project course. Otherwise you aren't much use to them.
    - Go outside the obvious choices. I don't know what it's like in Kingston but in some towns there's lots of affiliated institutes full of profs that you didn't know even existed. Sometimes they aren't even remotely related to your field. Do you know how to code? If so you might want to ask some people in biology, neuroscience, etc. They seem to always need a "math guy" to do some matlab stuff for them.

    I'm assuming you have no research experience, so this is going to be a numbers game. When I was trying to get some experience it came down to sending off emails and meeting just about everyone. Then I was fortunate enough to get a guy who overestimated my ability, had just started and needed whatever manpower he could get, and was rolling in cash. So I got paid to do research with him despite having something like a 2.9 GPA and absolutely no familiarity with what his lab did.
  7. Apr 15, 2012 #6
    Thanks for all the help. I was wondering if this would be a good email to send to potential profs:

    Dr. ??,
    Sorry to bother you. I have been looking for a undergraduate physics summer position, and was still wondering if there are any independent research projects (ones which doesn’t involve funding, and only a minimal amount of supervision) in your department that could be done by a physics student? Either way, thank you.

    Name (School)
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2012
  8. Apr 15, 2012 #7


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    Education Advisor

    I'm from Canada as well; just to be clear, when you talk about the national physics internship, are you referring to the NSERC Undergraduate Research Award?
  9. Apr 15, 2012 #8
    Yes, I believe that's the only national physical science research grant institutional in Canada.
  10. Apr 15, 2012 #9


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    Education Advisor

    I think to answer your question in short, I would suggest you speak to the physics department and ask if there are any additional internship opportunities available outside of NSERC (I believe that there are internship opportunities available within individual departments in different Canadian universities, and Queen's University shouldn't be an exception).

    I also see nothing wrong with asking around with different physics professors about whether any of them are willing to take you on as an intern (either paid or unpaid).
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