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Tips in finding a research topic

  1. Nov 23, 2013 #1
    Hello everyone. I'm a first year MS Physics student and I can't think of a research topic. :confused: I hope to start next year in my research (I'm still doing coursework and teaching right now.) Any tips on how to start on something? I don't want to continue my research in undergrad anymore. I kinda like to start anew.

    All I know is that I am interested in light and atoms and chemistry. I have this desire to understand quantum mechanics. I have this fascination on how macro properties arises from micro interactions and processes (like ice has these properties because at micro-level this and that is happening.) I have this aesthetic fascination with light; they give me this mesmerized feeling. And I have this desire to improve the quality of life through better energy sources--more efficient, cleaner, and accessible for the third-world countries. Is there a line of research where these qualities converge? I was thinking of quantum optics, although I do not really know if this is the kind of field that suits the above description.

    Also, I have this weird fascination with higher dimensions and time. I've been trying to understand what 4th dimension really means.

    Lastly, I have this interest also in quantum mechanics and its relation with objective reality and consciousness..

    Thank you very much for your time. :redface:
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 23, 2013 #2


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    If you are a MS student, then you should have an advisor. And if you have to do a research topic, then you must also have or should appoint a supervisor/advisor who will supervise you on that research work. Why aren't you talking to someone like that?

    I have no idea where you are and what type of a system you have at your school. But typically, you simply do not have the freedom to do whatever you like. If the area you want to pursue is not within the expertise of the existing faculty members at your school, this normally will not get any approval.

    You really should be having this discussion with your advisor.

  4. Nov 24, 2013 #3
    Thank you for your reply. Normally, the department gives a list of advisers and their fields of expertise. The students then initiates to talk to the adviser of their choice. It is the prerogative of the professor on whether he would accept the student or not (which depends on the situation like if the professor has too many students to advise, he will refuse the student most probably.)

    I just have some problem choosing the professor that is why I am looking for some advice here. :) I kinda have some snippets of the things that excite me though.

    Just for clarity, in our school, normally a student would work with a part of the research project his adviser is doing. This is true, especially with the experimentalist and computational advisers who works on big, funded projects. Although, in some cases, especially the theorist advisers, they ask the students to suggest their topic and they usually start from there. I recently got my undergrad in the same school, took the topic my adviser gave, and in the middle of the work realized it's not what I wanted to do. I just finished it to get my degree. :(

    I was hoping MS research would be less of a drudgery and more of an excitement if I work on a topic close to my heart.

    Thanks again for your reply. :)
  5. Nov 25, 2013 #4


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    In situations like the one you've described, what you really should do it talk to a number of different professors about the projects they have available. Take a couple weeks. Book some time with each available professor. Ask some questions and just listen. Don't worry about trying to impress anyone with the level of question you ask. Just ask. Sometimes, they will have stuff to tell you that you weren't really aware of that may come across as really appealing... job prospects when you finish, the potential for the work to lead to a patent, travel, etc.

    Then start cutting. Cut out the projects that aren't interesting and the professors you would prefer not to work with.

    Break what's left into a short-list. Do some reading on each topic. If you're really having trouble at that point you can always go back to each professor and inquire a little more. And you may find yourself in a position where you have to choose between multiple good options, which really is a great position to be in.

    In some cases you might have the opportunity to suggest your own project, but I would only recommend doing this if you already have something very specific in mind. Don't try to force it.
  6. Nov 26, 2013 #5
    Oh, I see.. I've talked with two professors already.. They say they will allow me to visit their research meetings.. :) Thank you very much.. :D
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