1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Salvaging my summer?

  1. Jul 15, 2009 #1
    I'm going to be a sophomore next year, and while my peers have all been improving their resumes I sat at home and read a lot of classics. I don't regret doing that, but I have nothing to "show" for it (on paper).
    I have about a month until classes start.

    What could I possibly do in a month to "salvage" the summer and make it productive in a direct sense?
    The only thing I can think of right now is studying for next year, getting a leg up.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 15, 2009 #2


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    There's a few good movies out that you might want to check out.

    Oh, academically? Snore.

    If you really want, study for classes you're taking next year or expand your mathematical tool-belt. You're in a physics program I assume? From what people I know who have gone into the workplace or did internships and what not, what you get is a lot of "Oh you don't know programming language X, Y, and Z? You have 2 weeks to learn them". Might want to learn programming languages too in your spare time to prepare for possible internships in the future. My experience is that I wish i had a better mathematical background when I was an undergrad when I was taking my classes.
  4. Jul 15, 2009 #3


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    I'd say that the summer before sophomore year is the one you can afford to take off. It'll be progressively more important to do something useful during your next two summers... but this year, don't worry about it.
  5. Jul 16, 2009 #4
    If you've been successfully managing to read some classics then that's pretty good in and of itself... like diazona said it's not that important after your freshman year... next summer and the summer after junior year are by far the most important... maybe try doing some review and also looking into things that were especially interesting or curious from your last year, start thinking about what you might want to work on next summer, talking to professors about that if you were interested in their work, etc.
  6. Jul 16, 2009 #5


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member



    Recharging... 1, 2, 3, CLEAR!


    Check for pulse... check for heartbeat.... check for breathing....

    I'm sorry, there's nothing we can do. Your summer, it's... it's gone.

    I'm assuming you're in college (I wouldn't be surprised if a high schooler posted a thread like this though)... what do you want to do when you graduate, get a job or go to graduate school? If it's graduate school you're too late to do anything research related, but you can always do something like volunteer for Habitat for Humanity or something vaguely career related (or not, doesn't make a huge difference) and that stuff can look pretty good
  7. Jul 16, 2009 #6


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    I assume one is in university. During the summer between my freshman and sophomore years at university, I took a job as a plummer on campus. That pretty much paid for my sophomore year, and lead to another summer job the following summer. If there is a work-study program at one's university, one could try to find a part-time job on campus.

    Getting the textbooks for next semester/year and getting a head start would be good.

    Contacting professors about research opportunities would be another productive use of time.
  8. Jul 16, 2009 #7
    That looks like the best way to improve your resume! Stick 'reading the classics' in the further interests section and you'll impress a lot of people. Of course, that's not the reason to do it. They are a higher pleasure (though you may need to suffer some pain to realise that...). So my suggestion is to read some more classics - Don Quixote (Grossman trans.), Shakespeare's 'The Tempest', Dickens 'Nicholas Nickleby'... If you have only time for one, the latter might be most appropriate for a young person going through a big change in life. (And it's great fun!) For advice on reading the classics try Harold Bloom (maybe start with "Genius").
  9. Jul 16, 2009 #8
    Do a REU or research experience next year or the year after (in the summer). It would've been nice to have done one this summer, but that's rare. But definitely make sure you get one in, before the end of your undergrad career, if possible. It would help if you co-author a paper from the research you do. These suggestions are if you want to go to grad school. You might want to just relax or brush up on some math or physics for next year. You should have fun and recharge a little; next year and/or the year after you'll want to be doing research for much of the summer. You don't really improve your resume much if you're working at a fast food joint or something like that unrelated to physics over the summer, it isn't a detrimant, and you can get some money to pay off some loans, but it isn't experience in your field, if that's what you were considering doing. Studying on your own is probably a better bet than doing that, unless you need the money. Reading the classics is a fine way to spend your summer before your summer year, especially if you go to a liberal arts school.
  10. Jul 19, 2009 #9
    I'd start looking around for research opportunities for the Fall (or sooner). Go to your department's web page and see which professors you might like to do research for. Read some of their publications to get a better sense of what they do. Then email a bunch of them, but remember to personalize the emails!!! Most professors ignore generic emails that were clearly sent to dozens of faculty.

    Brushing up on stuff you learned as freshman is a good idea if you plan on taking the GRE subject test down the road. It's always good to review.

    Otherwise, just relax! You'll have research, the GRE subject test, grad school applications to worry about during your next summers, which is all very stressful! Enjoy your last true break.
  11. Jul 19, 2009 #10
    I wouldn't worry about it too much. I just got a regular job the summer after my freshman year. Follow the advice above. Go to the http://www.nsf.gov/crssprgm/reu/reu_search.cfm" [Broken] to have problems for motivation.

    Maybe try to pick up a computer algebra system. These usually aren't too hard to learn, but if you know one of them well, it can really aid in creating plots, checking your approaches and solutions, etc. Your school should have Maple or Mathematica available in their labs, but http://www.sagemath.org/" [Broken] is a great open source (free!) alternative. Learning these auxiliary skills can really help out. Even trying to learn LaTeX is a good use of time. Plus, they are different than just studying math or physics out of a book, which you'll get plenty of during the semester. It is hard to pick up these skills during the semester.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  12. Jul 19, 2009 #11
    Well, maybe I haven't been completely honest with you. I'm "already" doing research, technically, but the progress is going very slow and this professor is well known to pay his undergrads when they start actually doing work. He actually offered me the same, last summer when I started working for him, once I'd gotten into, but it hasn't come up so I assume I haven't gotten into (the project is designed such that I can't spend a lot of hours on it, the computer takes 24 hours to do every test).

    So yeah, I technically have started research, but its not very fulfilling yet. And I was looking for anything else I'm missing.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook