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Research Experience Besides REU

  1. Jan 21, 2009 #1

    First off, a little background information. I'm a second year physics major planning to go to grad school, so I'm looking to start doing research (preferably this summer). The trouble is, I've only taken intro physics courses so far and am not close enough to any professors to ask for recommendation letters (most REUs seem to look for students in their junior year and ask for at least two letters).

    Now, my advisor gave me a list of a few professors to ask about doing research with, one of which is my current professor. I was planning on asking him if I could do research with him this summer. But I heard that professors don't really like to be asked about such things and, given my current level, he (and the others) may not have a place for me right now.

    I suppose my question is, what are my chances of getting to do some research? Should I just wait until I'm better qualified? What sort of research could I do during my junior year with classes and everything?

    Many thanks for any replies.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 21, 2009 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    Not true.

    True. All you can do is ask.
  4. Jan 21, 2009 #3
    I second the Vanadium's views above.

    If, after that, things don't materialize, you might also try a related department at your home institution. My first research experience was in the lab of a physical chemist in the chemistry department of my undergraduate institution.
  5. Jan 21, 2009 #4


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    I don't think there's any reason to wait until you're "more qualified" before asking. Even if they turn you down based on lack of experience, it's a clear demonstration that you have an interest in their work, which they may remember down the road when they're looking to higher a more senior student.

    Some tips on how to approach professors:
    - meet face to face during office hours that they specifically schedule for students
    - if they don't have office hours, schedule a meeting by asking if they have time to talk about the research they do
    - start out by asking about the research itself, what problems they're working on, what directions they plan on looking into in the near future (most professors enjoy talking about the research they do)
    - ask if they know of anyone looking for an undergraduate assistant (even if the particular person you talk to doesn't have an immediate opportunity, he or she may know of someone who does)
    - before going in, make an honest assessment of the time you're willing to commit
    - how many hours a week can you put in?
    - are you willing to sacrifice a better paying job to remain working in the lab?
    - are you willing to volunteer?
    - what kind of work are you willing to do?
    - how will you handle it if circumstances change and you need to devote more time to your studies?
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