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Suggesting own research proposal?

  1. Jul 6, 2015 #1
    I'm currently a graduate student in Finland and I'll be moving abroad to study for an MPhil degree. I have knowledge of space plasma physics and computational physics, since I have worked in that field, and some basic knowledge of cosmology. I wanted to ask for advice on how smart it is for one to suggest their own research topic.

    Since I'll be mainly studying a subject I don't know so much about, cosmology, I would like it to be somewhat related to things I have more knowledge of; plasma physics and computational physics. I know my supervisor would give me a topic if I didn't come up with one.
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  3. Jul 6, 2015 #2


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    Unfortunately, I think this is something that can be either really really great, or really really terrible. It can be great - it can be well tailored to your expertise, and you can have a great feeling of ownership over the project. It can be terrible - if it's too far away from your supervisors field and they can't give good advice; if (due to inexperience) you pick too ambitious a project or if the hypothesis is just not thought through right.

    This is where you need to talk to your supervisor.
  4. Jul 6, 2015 #3


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    Essentially as a student, when you meet with your supervisor to discus a project, you should come to the table with some ideas about what you would like to do. Some students will come to the table with only vague notion of the sub-field and not much else. Others will be well-read, and have a general idea of what problem they would like to work on, and the methods they want to use to work on it.

    In the former case, what tends to end up happening is that the student will get thrown into a project that the supervisor has on hand. This can be good or bad, but as a student it forces you to place a lot of faith in your supervisor to match you with a project you'll be successful with.

    In the latter case the student won't always have a good idea of what can be accomplished in the timeframe available, and the student will need guidance with specific details of the project, but in general, I think supervisors tend to like this scenario a lot more. When the student is driving the direction of the project, he or she knows what step will happen next and these students tend to make a lot more progress in a short amount of time.
  5. Jul 7, 2015 #4
    Thank you for your replies. I have one interesting subject which is fairly specific (active galactic nuclei), so as suggested by e.bar.goum I'll ask my supervisor what he thinks of it. I'll also try to outline generally my interest in plasma physics just in case he has some other ideas. I've written a research proposal before, but I figured it doesn't make sense to go through the effort in case he's not interested.

    I also think the supervisor might like it if I take initiative.
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