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Research this summer -- how to ask the professors

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Main Question or Discussion Point

I really want to participate in some research with some professors from another institution this summer. Do you think it's wise to call them rather than send them an email. If calling them is better how do I ask to participate in their research without sounding weird.

Thanks.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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Email is better.
 
  • #3
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First try to find out if the professor(s) in your current institution have affiliations with the professors in the another institution (with whom you want to work). If that is the case, you can request the professor in your institution to introduce you to them. If not, then email will have to do.

Also note that direct interaction is always much more effective than emails.
 
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  • #4
eri
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Keep in mind that professors from another institution have no incentive to take you on. You're not attending their university and they won't be paid or recognized for helping you - and it takes undergrads far longer to do something than it takes a professor. Also, we're already a month into the summer at most schools - students had to apply for summer internships many months ago, and face competition. You're asking for a large unpaid favor they'll likely get nothing useful out of, so keep that in mind when attempting to contact them, and understand they might just ignore you.
 
  • #5
Keep in mind that professors from another institution have no incentive to take you on. You're not attending their university and they won't be paid or recognized for helping you - and it takes undergrads far longer to do something than it takes a professor. Also, we're already a month into the summer at most schools - students had to apply for summer internships many months ago, and face competition. You're asking for a large unpaid favor they'll likely get nothing useful out of, so keep that in mind when attempting to contact them, and understand they might just ignore you.
So there's no use in emailing them at this point?

What incentive can I even offer them at all?
 
  • #6
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What incentive can I even offer them at all?
You should think very hard about the answer to this question.
 
  • #7
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As has already been stated, most summer internships are already in progres. Why did you not think about this sooner, and why would they trust someone who waits until halfway through the summer to think about summer research?
 
  • #8
As has already been stated, most summer internships are already in progres. Why did you not think about this sooner, and why would they trust someone who waits until halfway through the summer to think about summer research?
I applied to many, but I didn't get accepted.
 
  • #9
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I applied to many, but I didn't get accepted.
Ah, I apologize for what I said then. I assumed that had that been the case you would've known before now. Keep in mind that unless you are exceptional in some area, you will not get paid. Also, is there no one at your home institution with which you can work?
 
  • #10
My home institution is in Ohio. I live in New York. I was looking. Not to get paid at all. I kinda just wanted to shadow the researchers and assist them with basic things like clerical work. I can get one in my home institution in the fall semester.
 
  • #11
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I applied to many, but I didn't get accepted.
Fair enough. What is different now?
 
  • #12
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My home institution is in Ohio. I live in New York. I was looking. Not to get paid at all. I kinda just wanted to shadow the researchers and assist them with basic things like clerical work. I can get one in my home institution in the fall semester.
You're an undergraduate, right? Don't "shadow" the researchers - this has little to no benefit to you and you'll just be in the way. What sort of skills do you have that you can offer a professor? Do you have expertise in any area such that you can help with a project, or would you need to be trained? As someone asked before, do you have any connections at the institution in New York?
 
  • #13
You're an undergraduate, right? Don't "shadow" the researchers - this has little to no benefit to you and you'll just be in the way. What sort of skills do you have that you can offer a professor? Do you have expertise in any area such that you can help with a project, or would you need to be trained? As someone asked before, do you have any connections at the institution in New York?
I was looking at research involving electronics on a nanoscale. I would call myself an expert on electronics, but I know what I'm doing. Also, most of the courses in my home institution is all laboratory based, so in a sense i can fairly handle and use most lab equipments.
 
  • #14
Fair enough. What is different now?
Nothing is really different now (due dates are passed, research has already begun). It's highly likely I might not get any to participate in however, I'd like to at least try.
 
  • #15
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I think you should have done this much sooner. Even if you applied to other places you could have emailed professors in March or April if you hadn't heard back from the programs. Most students have these plans set by March or April if not earlier. Just use this as a learning experience for the future.

You need to really be on top of things to get good research experience. Things like REUs are very competitive and have certain types of students they are looking for (people from small schools, women, minorities, upperclassmen) So even very strong applicants get rejected. For example, one of the REUs I got rejected from before my senior year later accepted me for grad school with a prestigious fellowship. So that leads me to think I wasn't the right fit.

By the way, you would actually be shadowing a grad student since professors are for the most part way to busy to work that closely with undergrads, that is if they even agree to it.
 
  • #16
Indeed a huge lesson. Lol. I'm going to learn from it.
 
  • #17
jtbell
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What year are you?
 
  • #18
  • #19
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  • #20
What have you done in previous summers?
I have experiences unrelated to physics.
1. Social Projects.
2. Hospital Experience
3. Work Experience
4. Tutoring.
 
  • #21
Choppy
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I can get one in my home institution in the fall semester.
Unfortunately by this point, there probably isn't a lot for an undergrad to do. You can ask around at your university. You never know, of course, but as others have said, it's pretty late in the game.

As a backup plan, you might have a few options. If you have something lined up for the fall, perhaps you could contact that professor now and start on the project early. That will enhance the chance of you accomplishing something of note with the project. Diversity of experience is good if you can get it, but if that's not going to happen, duration isn't a bad alternative (and in many cases can be better).

Another option is to just forget research for now. There's an opportunity cost to doing research on a volunteer basis - that's time that you could be working and earning a paycheque as well as developing experience for when you eventually enter the working world. You could use that time to earn some cash and cut into your student debt load.

You could also use that time to do some of your own reading and develop or refine your own interests.
 
  • #22
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As far as I understand, the OP is unable to work at his undergrad institution due to being several states away.
 

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