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Should I continue to work for this prof if he can't fund me?

  1. Jan 15, 2010 #1
    I'm recently graduated after the fall quarter with my BS in physics and applied math, but am now currently enrolling/auditing engineering classes since i've decided i probably want to do engineering as a career. I'm currently doing research with a math professor, but its not quite the work i'm looking for since its not related to engineering at all. its mostly just doing c++, with no numerical analysis or anything involved. he can only hire me for 10 hrs/wk this quarter, and needs some time to figure out if he can pay/fund me this quarter or not, as i've previously worked for him voluntarily but now i want to get paid.

    Since i'll probably get admitted to the SULI program for the summer with an engineering prof (i got accepted for the winter term but had to reject it due to a family crisis situation), i can always wait until then to work with an engineering researcher. That, in addition to the fact that i've already done an REU 2 years ago, would give me the 3 necessary profs to apply to grad schools. So I would have no need to work for an engineering prof right now, correct? Even if i wanted to, i couldnt anyways since i've recently asked engineering profs to do research with, and they all said they dont need students, i dont have the engineering background, etc.

    so what should i do about my current prof? if he doesnt pay me, i dont see any need to continue working with him, unless he gives me a project related to engineering, but i doubt it
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 15, 2010 #2
    If you're not interested in the work and can't spare the time, you don't need to continue it. Just keep a good relationship with the professor and be polite when discussing why you're leaving his project. None of the profs I know have any hard feelings towards students who leave, 'cause they get that the work isn't for everybody.

    I hope you've been keeping in touch with the prof you did an REU with, 'cause 2 years is a long time and lots of students ago.

    Research in the field you want to go into is always a plus.
  4. Jan 15, 2010 #3
    well i can spare the time I guess, if he pays me. But what i should i do? go into his office and ask if he can pay me this quarter? if he says no, just make up an excuse as to why i can't work for him this quarter?
  5. Jan 15, 2010 #4


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    Professors are humans, and yes I know this is hard to believe but it is true.
    From what I understand you are not doing any work for him that will in any way benefit you in the long run in terms of experience etc, which means that the only reasons for you to keep doing it would that you enjoy it OR you get paid. I am sure the professor in question will understand this..
    Hence, my suggestion would be that you are honest, i.e. don't make up excuses. Simply ask him if he will have the money to employ this quarter, it should be obvious to him that you will leave if he says no and I would be very surprised if he gets annoyed or angry.
  6. Jan 15, 2010 #5
    so if he cant fund me, he won't get annoyed and hence will be able to write me a good LOR in the future, anyways?
  7. Jan 15, 2010 #6


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    Of course I can 't guarantee that. The guy might be a total *** as far as I know, but the point is that he will probably react just like any other normal person would.
    Would YOU get annoyed if someone declined to work for free?

    You can never be 100% sure that you will get a a good LOR regardless of what you do. Also remember that a LOR is -at least in theory- suppose to be "objective", i.e. it shouldn't have anything to do with whether or not you work for free (of course it doesn't always work that way).

    Last year I had a student working with me for about 3 weeks, the idea being that he would get some experience working in a lab (and he was working for free). Now, he was a nice guy and did make an effort, but if I were to write a LOR I wouldn't exactly give him a glowing review; simply because he was one of those people who isn't very good at anything practical... The fact that I liked him is irrelevant when it comes to what I would write in a LOR (not that he would ask for one).
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