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Undergrad Research

  • Thread starter w3390
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  • #1
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Main Question or Discussion Point

Hi guys,

This summer I am looking to get involved in research at my university. I am eager to go and meet with a professor to see if I can hold a position for him, but I am very intimidated and I sometimes feel like I don't know enough to contribute to a research team. I have been told, however, that everyone else in the physics program is in a similar situation and I shouldn't worry so much and just apply for a position and have fun.

Have any of you guys been in a situation similar to mine and, if so, how did you get past the intimidation and how was your experience?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
eri
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Don't worry, you're not expected to know anything. Keep in mind that they're doing you a favor if they take you on; undergrads are almost never actually useful as research assistants but do take up a ton of time. However, that's not to say you shouldn't plan to slack off or not try at all. They expect you to be interested and enthusiastic - nothing's worse than a sullen research assistant who never shows up on time or accomplishes what they're asked to do.
 
  • #3
Yeah that's what I don't get. I'm also an undergrad looking to do some research. It doesn't make sense for us to try to uncover something new when we haven't even learned what is known (i.e. the undergrad curriculum) but how do we go about trying to "assist" someone?
 
  • #4
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Doe anyone have any actual research experience? Like the guys above said, what can you actually do with only a couple years of undergraduate education?
 
  • #5
Pengwuino
Gold Member
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Yeah that's what I don't get. I'm also an undergrad looking to do some research. It doesn't make sense for us to try to uncover something new when we haven't even learned what is known (i.e. the undergrad curriculum) but how do we go about trying to "assist" someone?
Because the professor has better things to do then mix a chemical for 4 hours straight when they can just trick an undergrad into doing it for free.

And I'm serious. Not every single thing that needs to be done in a research program requires a phd in physics to do. There is a lot of mindless busy work that has to be done sometimes.
 
  • #6
eri
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I did 4 undergrad research projects as an undergrad. One of them ended up with an acknowledgment in a paper, the other as co-author (2nd of 3). If the professor has something very specific planned out for you, a piece of a project which it is possible to complete in a few months and learn all that's necessary to do it and you work hard, it is possible to be somewhat useful. However, that part of the paper that took me two months to do could have been done by my adviser in about a day. I find the same thing is true when I have students working for me (in grad school and into my postdoc). Some mentors will have something specific for you, some will have vague project ideas that never amount to anything, and someone might just have you doing lab work (from growing samples to cleaning).
 

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