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Planning the year in terms of Research

  1. Sep 18, 2011 #1
    So I'm a second year Physics and Math major with the long term goal of a PhD in Theoretical Physics or maybe Math. I asked around at the start of this semester whether there was anything available for me in terms of research in the Physics department. I found a professor willing to take me on and he gave me a book to study and told me to get back to him once I'm done. However classes have been keeping me really busy and whenever I'm done with homework and studying for them I'm usually tired and don't want to look at the book. So I've been planning out my year in terms of research and here's what I've been thinking:

    1. Start reading the book and whenever I'm done, start the research sometime in the middle or late in the semester. Continue with it full time during the winter break (or start during the winter break if I don't have time this semester), and then back to part-time during spring semester. After that take at least 2 months off from the summer.

    2. Focus on classes during the year, and do research full time, or an REU during the summer.

    My concerns with the first option is that firstly I may end up burdening myself too much with research on top of classes. Secondly, will taking 2 months off and doing nothing physics related look bad, or will the fact that I'd have done research during the year compensate for that?

    I really don't wanna do the second option because I'm an international student and I really would like to go home for at least 2 months of the 3-3.5 months of the summer (going home for the winter break is not an option). I did so this year, and it was extremely refreshing and I feel like I would need it even more as my courses are much more difficult this year. Not having a break would only be a recipe for burning out and being miserable my third year.

    So what do you guys suggest? Should I work my butt off during the year and take the summer off or is the second option better?
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2011
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 19, 2011 #2
  4. Sep 20, 2011 #3


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    Hey there ahsanxr.

    With regards to your coursework commitments, don't let them slip through your fingers. You need to maintain some standard in your coursework for most people to take you seriously and offer you opportunities such as research.

    Since you are an international student, I would probably recommend you see your family. Your family will probably be delighted to see you and that kind of quality time is something that is really valuable in life.

    In saying that though, I don't see why you couldn't do some investigation while you are at home.

    Maybe one strategy that you could pursue, is to meet with your professor and get a recommendation from him or her to get some specific goals. Basically you want to get enough specific information that allows you to go home, read some material, and then based on the recommendations you get, do what you can to learn whatever specific thing will help you in gaining the understanding required to do research.

    If you do that extra bit of planning, then you will have more self direction and more importantly you have a concrete goal in mind that you can pursue even in absence of the professor themselves. You could ask specific questions on this forum even, and I'm sure at least someone will be able to give you some advice.

    If you need to do something involved with experiments (i.e. the physical type), then I can't offer any advice in this regard. That is a whole other level of complexity that I am not familiar with.

    But yeah, in closing I recommend you plan and structure your research and spend some quality time with your family.
  5. Sep 20, 2011 #4
    I see, that certainly is a possibility. I could look for some very detailed research topic (even in theory possibly) and ask the professor about it and if they're willing to take me on, I could spend the summer learning the required material, and then pursue the actual project during the year. However I don't know if professors would be willing to do that, as they may be looking for students who would rather work with them during the summer, rather than preparing for research during the summer and spending the semester conducting it.
  6. Sep 24, 2011 #5
    Anyone else have any advice/comments/suggestions?
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