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Programs Research position decision

  1. Aug 16, 2016 #1
    I just transferred to a university with quite a few undergrad research opportunities. My goal is to go to grad school for cosmology after my b.s. in physics, which will come with a minor in mathematics and 18 hours of astronomy and astrophysics courses.
    My question is, would I benefit from doing research related to particle physics (I met with a professor doing research related to ions of noble gasses), or a position in the observatory doing observational research on various astronomical entities?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 16, 2016 #2
    Do what you love most.
  4. Aug 16, 2016 #3
    Well to be honest it all seems exciting to me, I feel like a child in a candy shop. Just not sure which type of research would be more appealing for getting into a decent grad program, as well as benefit my studies in the long run.
  5. Aug 16, 2016 #4


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    On one hand, any research is good training. On the other, not all research opportunities are created equal. I would pursue the research that most closely aligns with your ultimate academic goals, which in this case would be observational research.
  6. Aug 16, 2016 #5
    This is true. However a lot of reading I've done has suggested much of the recent, and likely future, breakthroughs are related strongly to the quantum world. I originally intended on doing research in star formation, yet as I study more in the field, it seems that particle research may be more useful.
  7. Aug 16, 2016 #6


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    I don't think it *really* matters all that much. When graduate admission committees assess your application they're looking for evidence that you'll be successful as a graduate student. In that respect it's important to have some research experience and supportive letters from professors who feel you did a good job with it. But in most cases I don't think they get into hair-splitting where they attempt to assign weights by relevance of the research experience to what you're planning to do. Perhaps in the extreme they will. A committee may not lend as much weight to humanities-oriented research. But I think where the weight really gets placed is in how successful you are in the projects that you choose to take on. In that respect they will look for benchmarks such as publications, conference presentations, procedures you develop, hardware or software that you learn to use, etc.

    That's why the "do what you love" advice is so important. People tend to be the most productive when they are doing something they like.

    But I understand the kid in a candy store analogy. You can't really know whether you'll like something until you try it. Trying and failing is a part of developing academic maturity. So if you can't decide based on the merits of the projects, then allow other details into the decision. Which professor seems like a better mentor? Which team would you prefer to work with?
  8. Aug 16, 2016 #7
    Thank you for the insights so far. To me a lot of these positions seem exciting, I've met with each of the professors so far to express an interest and to learn more, I am just trying to avoid becoming the nagging undergrad who doesn't know what he wants.
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