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Looking for a potential ugrad research mentor for this summer

  1. Oct 7, 2006 #1
    I want to do some ugrad research. I am a senior (but with 2 years left before I graduate) electrical engineering/physics dual major. I am looking for profs at UM ann arbor and Wayne State U to do research for (I do not attend one of these universities.) I am interested in electromagnetics, photonics/optics, and solid state electronics/physics. However, I don't have any idea of a specific area in these fields I want to get into (should I have an idea???) All I know is I really enjoyed electromagnetics (possibly my favorite class I have taken yet), and I an in optoelectronics right now and really enjoy it. Next semester I am taking solid state physics and a solid state technology course along with optics/lasers/microscopy (and hopefully another semester of electromagnetics or an antennas and radiation theory class). So, after the spring I will have some relevant coursework under my belt.

    I am looking through all of the professors at UM ann arbor in the areas that are of interest to me and the list is daunting. What should I look for in a mentor? Are there hints I should pick out to determine if the person is right for me and I'm right for them? I certainly can't read the papers of all the professors.

    So, any hints on how to pick out a research mentor for a summer REU??? Do I need to have a research topic in mind ahead of time? Do I need prior coursework or extensive background in the area I am interested in doing research in?
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2006
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 10, 2006 #2
    wow...no thoughts?
  4. Oct 11, 2006 #3

    REUs are different than a general research advisor. First of all, not every single professor is going to be accepting REUs for every summer. You should contact the REU program administrator at these schools and find out who is going to be accepting REUs. You should also ask them to see a list previous years projects.

    The REU program is fairly short. So the projects you are going to get must fit into the timeframe of the program.

    When I did my REU, I had a special situation. I knew my advisor before hand through previous collaboration. He is now my Ph.D. advisor. The best way to get a lot out of an REU program is to have discussed your project with your advisor beforehand and to come into the program having done your reading and background work already.

    In all reality, I don't think you truly will be able to figure out if they are a good advisor from their websites. The only way is to meet them and do a little work with them.

    I hope I have helped a little.
  5. Oct 18, 2006 #4
    In many REU's (at least in my day -- REU over ten years ago -- yikes), you applied first to the program... in the application, you stated your interests, and the program administators paired you with a mentor for the summer if they accepted you. When you arrived at the university, the mentor offered you a few options of different projects in their laboratory, you took a day or two to read up on the different options, then got to hard work on one getting a lot done in a short time. This is common at larger universities... where as you say "the list is daunting."

    Of course, contacting a professor might hedge your bets with regards to getting accepted (just like it might in grad school.. though not always, as I know by being on selection committees). In general, I'd say you should prep a CV/resume and a cover letter relating your experience/expertise/coursework to particular projects in their lab, informing them that you are applying to the REU program on their campus and are interested in research opportunities in their lab. If you get no response, move on to the next professor of interest.

    A plus about contacting someone is that they might hire you with funds outside the REU programs. As an aside, REU applications are usually due in February, sometimes even January... depends on the program.

    U of M is of course the larger university and is therefore more likely to be impersonable, but you never know, good folks are everywhere. I have had friends who got degrees or had research opportunities at both places, and I have high opinions of each (although the friends who dealt with Wayne State were more in the field of forensics -- ala Mary Roach's "Stiff"). There is also Eastern Michigan State... if you are limited to the locale, you might look into what they are doing.
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2006
  6. Oct 22, 2006 #5
    Well, I toured Wayne State's Smart Sensors and Integrated Microsystems lab and I also toured the condensed matter and high energy particle physics labs. They are doing world class research. I was very impressed and the experience really got me excited about grad school....hopefully I can do an REU there this summer. I will be working very hard to secure something for this summer.

    I am just afraid my GPA (3.34) will hold me back. It is steadily increasing, and will likely be a 3.5 by the time I graduate, but when I apply for REUs they will see a 3.34, which isn't too good, and I have no previous research experience, so I fear I will not be competitive....
  7. Oct 22, 2006 #6
    This isn't realted to the topic, but when you apply to grad school are you supposed to use a cover letter? In the McNair workshop I had last week on writing CVs they specifically said not to include a cover letter. Since the program is all social sciences, I get nervous about their advice.
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