UG research Advisor wants me to come up with my own topic

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Physics_UG
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So I started this REU and my UG research advisor wants me to come up with my own research project. That way I can be the number one author of any paper I publish. However, my creativity seems to be lacknig and I am having trouble coming up with feasible project topics, especially since I am not really all that familiar with the research field. What do you do if you can't come up with original work? What helps you come up with ideas?
 

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  • #2
berkeman
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Do you see anything in the last few issues of Physics Today that interest you?
 
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Its a little presumptuous to think that an undergrad just starting on an REU program can figure out their own area of research. First of all it's pretty unlikely that you would even be able to work on any project of your choice as your adviser's expertise and resources are going to determine what you can do. And furthermore, even if that wasn't a constraint, there's no way you could be expected to be on top of all the latest research in some subfield enough to be able to come up with a doable and interesting (aka publishable!) project. Perhaps you should ask him/her if they some suggestions you could choose from? This has been the case in the undergraduate research as I've experienced it (sometimes I haven't even had a choice at all). It does little good to be the first author if your project never even gets off the ground.
 
  • #4
Physics_UG
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Its a little presumptuous to think that an undergrad just starting on an REU program can figure out their own area of research. First of all it's pretty unlikely that you would even be able to work on any project of your choice as your adviser's expertise and resources are going to determine what you can do. And furthermore, even if that wasn't a constraint, there's no way you could be expected to be on top of all the latest research in some subfield enough to be able to come up with a doable and interesting (aka publishable!) project. Perhaps you should ask him/her if they some suggestions you could choose from? This has been the case in the undergraduate research as I've experienced it (sometimes I haven't even had a choice at all). It does little good to be the first author if your project never even gets off the ground.
Well, I have been in the lab part time (10 hours a week) since january, but you're right, I am still having trouble finding a feasible project. And to answer Berkeman, there's lots of stuff I am interested in, but I don't know enough about the state of the art of the field to come up with ORIGINAL work.

I talked to the PI of the lab (he's not my direct advisor) and he said he would meet with me on Wednesday and discuss some ideas with me. He said he has 4 projects for me to choose from.

I respect my advisor for giving me the chance to come up with my own idea, and it'd be great if I could pull it off, but I also want to accomplish something and I don't really have much time to do it so I think someone just has to give me something to work on.
 
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  • #5
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I wouldn't worry about the project being anything ground breakingly original, bleeding edge or state of the art. It's an undergrad summer research project, not a PhD so you'll only have a couple of months to work on it anyway. Pick an aspect of some of the stuff you've seen going on in the lab. It could be something to do with instrumentation, or some data analysis. Take one of the experiments or components of the experiment and run it using some different variations and look at some possible sources of error. it may seem minor in the big scheme of things, but it will be more than enough for a summer project.
 
  • #6
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I found a good research project is :

Do BLANK to BLANK using multiple methods and see what the differences are using multiple ways of analysis.

Something I worked on in undergrad was the looking at the differences polishing methods have on Silicon Carbide. Whether it was chemical, chem-mech or mechanical methods. Each results in different surface structure, as well as we found interesting deposits on one. We analyzed using an SEM, Raman spec, and some other methods. Published the results.

The key is to take a simple idea, get it started, and then make it as in depth as time allows. With the method above you can choose what methods you want to use to perform the task on the material, and what methods of analysis you want. All things that are time limited.
 

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