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Switching research groups without burning bridges?

  1. Sep 5, 2012 #1
    I'm currently a third year undergraduate doing semiconductor research for about one semester and a summer and I absolutely hate it! My professor doesn't have that many grad students and his lab is severely under funded. I don't have my own mentor/grad student and I've been blindly doing a project. I asked for some guidance from my professor but he told me to figure it out or ask someone else. When I do come up an idea, he tells me it's wrong but won't tell me why it's wrong and it leaves me more confused and frustrated. I know I shouldn't take it to heart because professors don't give a crap about their undergrads, but I really don't like being left in the dark.

    I really want to go to grad school (at least I want to go for a masters) and I want to get research experience. I just don't think this is the right research for me. I want to leave my group but I am afraid to burn bridges. I don't have that many professors to ask letters of rec. Are most undergrad research like this?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 5, 2012 #2
    A lot of research depends on "personal compatibility" and if it's just not working out with your professor, then the sooner you switch the better. One thing to consider is that if you are dissatisfied with your research group, then it's likely that the recommendation letter you are going to get isn't going to be that great anyway.
  4. Sep 5, 2012 #3


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    This statement bothers. Now that I've supervised a couple of undergraduate projects, I understant the other side of things. As a supervisor, when you agree to take on a student, you're agreeing to provide a certain level of mentorship. Exactly what that level of mentorship is needs to be specified at the outset of the project. It is unfortunate to hear that students have this opinion.

    What I might suggest is defining a clear end point for yourself. If you've been doing work for one semester and a summer, this might be a good time to call it quits. Maybe you want to stick it out for another semester. Maybe you can define it in terms of a specific goal - you'll work until you get such and such completed. The point in not burning a bridge is to establish a clear goal and work towards that.

    I doubt anyone will penalize you for wanting to try something else. Part of what an undergraduate physics degree is about is figuring out where your specific interests lie. The only way I know of to do that is by exploring. It's one thing if you agree to a project and then do a poor job, stop showing up, or quit unexpectedly half way through. It's another to finish it as best you can and move on.

    Good luck.
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