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Theoretical vs Labwork Research as Undergrad and How it Affects Grad School Applic

  1. Jan 29, 2013 #1
    As an undergraduate, I have a choice between working under two different professors in the Physics department at the university that I am enrolled in. One is theoretical, so my work would be in helping derive equations, and the other has a lab (not a super high-tech one, but a lab nonetheless). I have essentially started working under the theoretician, mostly because he has taken a much more active role in recruiting me and he is a bit more organized, and also I am slightly more interested in the research. However, I have a question.

    Essentially, if I wanted to do grad school research, how will choosing not to work in a lab affect my chances of getting into a good program? Will it confine me to the theoretical field, or is it easy enough to make the transition once there? Do grad schools evaluate those with theoretical vs traditional lab backgrounds differently?

    Many thanks for reading!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 29, 2013 #2
    Re: Theoretical vs Labwork Research as Undergrad and How it Affects Grad School Appli

    I did theory as an undergrad and then did experiment in grad school. They know that you often take what you can get for undergrad research. If your undergrad research is right inline with your grad research, that is a plus. But otherwise I dont think it would be looked at poorly to switch from theory to experiment after undergrad (or vise versa).
  4. Jan 29, 2013 #3


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    Re: Theoretical vs Labwork Research as Undergrad and How it Affects Grad School Appli

    I agree with ModusPwnd.

    What's more important is that you do a good job in the position you take. Most people on admissions committees won't expect you to have already done research in the specific subfield that you're interested in. This is because:
    - not everyone has opportunities to get involved in a specific subfield at the undergraduate level
    - not everyone knows at the end of their second or third year in undergrad where their academic interests lie
    - undergrads are allowed to change their minds, particularly based on specific experiences.
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