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Undergraduate final year project topic.

  1. Aug 2, 2010 #1
    Let me explain my situation in short terms.

    1. to get a degree here(malaysia), we'll need to work on an undergraduate final year project which is sorta alike thesis? basically an undergraduate research program.

    2. I like theoretical or computational physics. Well, perhaps the math, quantum mechanics, astrophysics, relativity (but not solid state).

    3. The problem about my institution is that they don't really have professor which work on any field which I liked. However my supervisor told me that I may choose any topic of my interest and pursue it; He will give slight help but not very much (since he's not in the field).

    4. Problem:

    a. now that I have to come out with a topic and I have no idea where to start with (google wasn't helping...)

    b. I have no idea what people do in theoretical physics really. Other than computational (monte carlo, molecular dynamics) on solid states, what are other methodologies on doing a theoretical research? any example (thesis, etc).

    c. any specific topic of interest which not too far fetch? (note undergrad here aren't really trained to understand lots of things)

    d. what do you guys think. working without a supervisor which is good in that field: is it pleasant? is google suffice? I would seriously like to do something in theoretical physics but I have no lead nor idea.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 2, 2010 #2
    In my opinion, just because your supervisor said boleh, doesn't necessarily mean that this would be fruitful for you, see your supervisor will see no harm in supervising you, he might enjoy it and still learn something. If this was not counting toward your degree then it might be fine, but since its not,,, I strongly recommend against it.

    One things, it is never about the name of the field, but rather the contents of the work. Some uninteresting topics often come with fancy names, so judge by the content.

    Coming up with a topic is no business of the student,, it is a sole responsibility of the supervisor.

    Say your supervisor has no clue on your theoretical topic, then your project is ruined.

    Google will get you nowhere if you don't have a good background and idea of the field.

    1.) try to look for a supervisor whom had his education outside M'sia (BSc, MSc & PhD).
    Also, a bachelor project is not that really confining your future options if you are planning on goring for MSc degree. So it is better to have a good supervisor even if the topic is less interesting, the important thing about the project is that you get an idea of research and how its done.

    2.) You might come across a supervisor who has an idea of the topic (nothing solid, just some idea), which might either be useless contribution or a high impact work, those are very risky and should be avoided at all costs.
  4. Aug 2, 2010 #3


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    I disagree with this statement. At the undergraduate level students will need considerable guidance on a research project, but it's important for them to have some choice in what they take on. If you assign them a project randomly you skip a lot of the important lessons such a project can teach.

    The first thing you might want to do is ask around and find out what other students have done. Which ones were the most successful? Which ones were the most interesting? do they give you any ideas? Usually, students are required to present their findings at the end of the year - so for any 3rd year students who read this I would highly recommend attending these presentations. Otherwise, you might be able to access archives of previous projects if you ask around, which would be almost as good (if not better in some cases).

    Also just because a professor doesn't specialize in a particular area doesn't mean that he or she can't supervise an undergraduate thesis in it. Remember, professors may have experience in other fields that they are not actively involved in doing research in. And sometimes, when they are thinking about exploring a new field, an undergraduate project can be a good way to develop some preliminary results on which to apply for funding.

    I would agree that in going with a supervisor outside of his or her field of expertise, you are less likely to end up with your name on a publication out of the work - but in all honesty, the probability is already pretty low anyway.

    What's important is that you define reasonable end-goals early on and work out a means of accomplishing them. Then have regular meeting during which your progress can be assessed and you can get critical feedback.
  5. Aug 3, 2010 #4
    ah thanks for all the replies! hoping for input from more people regarding this dilemma.

    Anyway my personal thoughts: if i choose a topic that's not in lecturer's experties, it'll be pretty hard since he'll have to pick up new skills, which takes time and I might not benefit much since he wont be able to guide me (compared to me working in his field of experties).

    Also any idea about:

    will applying scholarship be harder if I choose to take postgrads which is slightly different from original field?
  6. Aug 3, 2010 #5

    For scholarships outside M'sia :
    Not really if the scholarship is open to all fields of study. Even for scholarships in specific fields (e.g. only open for those who want to pursue Electrical Engineering), what matters more is the degree that you will be doing and not the one you did (in terms of fields of study, assuming you background is relevant & you are admitted to the postgrad degree course).

    In M'sia: you know the ugly factors.
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