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Undergraduate research

  1. Jul 24, 2009 #1
    So whenever the subject of graduate school admissions comes up, the importance of having research experience as an undergrad comes up. My question is, what does this actually mean. Are you expected to publish? Does it really help if you've spent a few years tooling around in a lab with no publications to show for it?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 24, 2009 #2


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    Any research experience is valuable, even if you don't end up publishing. The idea is to get an idea of what it's like to do research for a living - doing experiments, programming, data analysis, statistics, interpreting results, figuring out how to solve a problem, working independently, even being bored by running your 500th spectra. People who publish get a bit more of the experience - technical writing, working with a collaboration (maybe), explaining their work, presenting at a conference, peer review, etc. No one is going to get all of that out of one internship, but maybe out a few, and any of the above experience is useful for an introduction to what graduate research might be like.
  4. Jul 24, 2009 #3
    Research is a huge part of a Ph.D. From what I've heard from graduate committees is that people who did research as an undergrad have a better idea of what a Ph.D. program entails than someone who just took classes. This is directed at CS people, but I think it is valuable info for any field.


    Pay attention to section 2.3
  5. Jul 24, 2009 #4


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    All documented research experience counts in one way or another. It certainly helps to have peer-reviewed publications to your name, but you don't need these. Even the experience you get in a fourth year undergraduate thesis project can help you.
  6. Jul 24, 2009 #5


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    Even if you don't get any publications out of it, you'll get one or more good letters of recommendation out of it. Provided you impress your supervisor(s), that is. :wink:
  7. Jul 24, 2009 #6
    Thanks for the fast responses. I guess the crux of my question has to do with admissions. The experience I've gained so far has been an eye opening experience, and I'll continue to pursue research regardless, but besides gaining letters of recommendation, would having some experience help one get into a top graduate school even if there's nothing concrete to show for it?
  8. Jul 24, 2009 #7


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    Even if there is something to show for it you still might not get into a top school - I did three REUs and had a publication and two conference posters and still didn't get into a top school. But I'm perfectly happy at my lower-ranked school; happier than I think I would be at a top school. It's a lot less stressful.
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