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Undergrad publications

  1. May 17, 2010 #1
    it's been said on the lab today that maybe the lab work we're doing (i'm an undergrad, 4th year of physics) could be honed into a publication.. my lab partner was really excited about it, but i had my doubts because i don't know what are the future consequences of doing this. i never trust things that are pink on all their sides, so i wanted to ask more experienced people what they thought about the idea. what are the pros and cons i should weight to make my decision?
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  3. May 17, 2010 #2


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    Are there any specific concerns you have about publishing a paper? Publishing papers is how scientists report their results to the scientific community. Publishing a paper is generally something you very much want to do, unless you publish a very bad paper (or worse, a paper will falsified data). It's especially helpful in undergrad - it will look good on graduate school/scholarship applications.

    I guess if your work is to develop a product that might be patented there could be issues with the patent, but I don't know anything about that.

    Have you discussed this with your research advisor? He/she should be able to tell you all about the process and what the pros and (any plausible) cons are.
    Last edited: May 17, 2010
  4. May 17, 2010 #3
    well, it kinda feels like i'm ripping off a project my lab teacher started. He had troubles in his earlier attempts, so when they told him to think about a lab project so we could work on it, he just pulled this thing out. I heard is something not uncommon to just add students in teacher's publications to make them look good, and i think that in the end this kinda makes them look bad :S
    Also, i don't think it's about something i'd like to work on later. it's kinda like a lucky strike (speaking of which, i'm gonna go smoke one :P)

    not really. he just mentioned that since we had finished what was required of us earlier, we might just keep on working on it, and then added "we may be able to publish something in the end!".. i didn't take him seriously, but my lab partner did and started questioning me about my feelings on the subject afterwards.
    i don't know if i want to mention it again unless he brings it up (the teacher, or my partner..) 'cause if he was not so serious it'll be embarassing (edit: more like awkward for me and my teacher).. but i wanted to think about it just in case they ask for my opinion.

    edit: i forgot,
    i don't think so..
  5. May 17, 2010 #4


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    The first question I would pose is what is meant by "could be honed into a publication." It sounds like your lab instructor has tailored some of his own work into a project for undergraduates, which could mean that he might include some of your results in a paper that he writes up and maybe names you and your partner as co-authors depending on the amount of overall contribution you've made to the work. There are a lot of pros to this scenario including a publication on your CV and the weight it carries in graduate admissions and scholarship applications. The cons are that you could at some point be asked about this research and could be expected to know a lot of details about it.

    On the other hand, he may be suggesting that if you're amitious, the project is original enough that you could write it up as a paper. The pros are the same. The cons also include the sheer amount of work required in writing and revising the paper, and climbing the learning curve to do this.
  6. May 17, 2010 #5
    You got it right on your first guess. Of course, i would read all about it if this goes on.. and i think he may be making us do all the writing stuff.. i suppose we'd be his flying monkeys if we do this :P
    hmm.. unless someone else comes in and shatter my slowly growing optimism, i'm starting to believe i've been worrying over nothing.
    Don't get me wrong, i thought this might be good thing from the start. It's just i'm such a n00b in academic life that my first reaction was fear (of the unknown?) and doubts.
  7. May 18, 2010 #6
    At your level you should try to still think of it as being a total bonus if you do manage to get anything published. A little warning - the publication process is not in the least bit straightforward, and can be very lengthy (though with your results included in your supervisors paper, this won't really be your problem - the reason I still mention is that you should know it may take a very long time and it is still very possible nothing will come of it). Do not, however, let this dampen your optimism! Always have hope :smile:!

    Otherwise, what Choppy says is spot on. If you do get something published then it's something you can talk about from here on out - more experiences are a good thing, too.
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