1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Other Undergraduate Research

  1. Feb 14, 2017 #1
    What is an Undergraduate research paper? What would be an undergraduate research paper in Physics be like? How is this paper different from Masters research paper?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 14, 2017 #2
    That depends. If the goal is a course requirement (capstone, research course, etc.) then you need to pay attention to the course requirements. I'd get the requirements from the course professor and also try and get some exemplar papers from past years.

    If the goal is to publish real science, then the peer reviewers won't know or care that you are an undergrad, grad student, or PhD. Usually if you can accomplish something really publishable as an undergrad, the course prof for an undergrad research course will be pleased.

    Either way, the challenge is connecting with a mentor in a field you like who can empower you to find a worthwhile project you like that is a good fit with your skillset to give you a big chance of success. As an undergrad, you should focus on finding an interesting and relevant problem that you can address with the available skills and resources.
  4. Feb 14, 2017 #3
    Sorry to hijack the thread, but in your opinion what constitutes a publishable paper (what would an undergrad need to accomplish) ?
  5. Feb 14, 2017 #4


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    This is extremely vague.

    1. Is this paper something that is part of a research that you did? If it is, then you should be asking your research supervisor.

    2. Is this paper part of a course? If it is, then you should be asking the instructor of the course.

    3. Is this paper part of your undergraduate degree requirement? If it is, then you should be asking your academic advisor!

    There is nothing "standard" here. So I could give you an advice, and it may end up to be totally worthless and irrelevant for your situation. Each school sets its own requirement and guidelines. In most schools in the US, an "undergraduate research paper" isn't a requirement for graduation. So not only is there no standard, there is also no requirement in many cases.

    That is why I stated that your question is vague.

  6. Feb 14, 2017 #5
    Usually, it is a novel and interesting result in either theory or experiment that is more likely than not to be correct.

    "Novel" is a bit easier to understand objectively: it means the same result has not been published previously.

    "Interesting" is more subjective. Often in the search for "novel," scientists (including undergrads) go off into the weeds, because accessible theory and experiments that have not been previously published are more likely in areas where no one has cared enough to work very hard. This tends to make them less "interesting."

    As mentors of a lot of undergrad (and high school) research, we've found that there are several niches that work well:

    Inventing new instruments and techniques (or revisiting usefulness of existing ones with faster/cheaper technology)
    Device for Underwater Laboratory Simulation of Unconfined Blast Waves

    Shock Tube Design for High Intensity Blast Waves for Laboratory Testing of Armor and Combat Materiel

    A More Accurate Fourier Transform

    Accurate Measurements of Free Flight Drag Coefficients with Amateur Doppler Radar

    Measuring Barrel Friction in the 5.56mm NATO

    Bullet Retarding Forces in Ballistic Gelatin by Analysis of High Speed Video

    Novel experiments that are interesting because of environmental applications
    Terminal Performance of Lead-Free Pistol Bullets in Ballistic Gelatin Using Retarding Force Analysis from High Speed Video

    Performance testing of lead free primers: blast waves, velocity variations, and environmental testing

    High-speed measurement of firearm primer blast waves

    Evidence for Magnetoreception in Red Drum (Sciaenops ocellatus), Black Drum (Pogonias cromis), and Sea Catfish (Ariopsis felis)

    Novel experiments that are interesting because of educational applications
    Studying the Internal Ballistics of a Combustion Driven Potato Cannon using High-speed Video

    Measuring Deflagration Velocity in Oxy-Acetylene with High-Speed Video

    An Acoustic Demonstration of Galileo's Law of Falling Bodies

    Echo-based measurement of the speed of sound

    Finding mistakes in published papers and writing comments pointing them out
    Comments on “Analysis of permanent magnets as elasmobranch bycatch reduction devices in hook-and-line and longline trials”

    Errors in Length-weight Parameters at FishBase.org

    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Publishes Misleading Information on Gulf of Mexico “Dead Zone”

    Predictions Wrong Again on Dead Zone Area - Gulf of Mexico Gaining Resistance to Nutrient Loading

    Review/hypothesis papers bringing together different fields that are clearly related, but not well connected in the literature
    Nutrient Loading Increases Red Snapper Production in the Gulf of Mexico

    Review of Magnetic Shark Deterrents: Hypothetical Mechanisms and Evidence for Selectivity

    Testing products to compare measured values with product specifications or claims
    Testing Estes Thrust Claims for the A10-PT Rocket motor

    Comparing Measured Fluorocarbon Leader Breaking Strength with Manufacturer Claims

    More Inaccurate Specifications of Ballistic Coefficients

    Comparing Advertised Ballistic Coefficients with Independent Measurements

    There is a very deep well of potential projects testing physical specifications of all manner of products.

    In physics, most interest may be testing specifications of laboratory equipment. Odds are pretty good there is also considerable interest testing specifications of equipment marketed for educational labs. How accurate is that force sensor, thermometer, etc? Every sensor in the Vernier catalog is a potential project.

    Testing validity of commonly used equations with little published data supporting how they are used
    Most equations in science have some area of applicability where they have been validated as accurate. But over time, usage often expands far beyond the "fine print" relating to the assumptions and conditions where the equations are valid. Experimental tests of these equations to explore their validity in areas of ongoing application can be of great interest.

    A Test of the Acoustic Impedance Model of Blast Wave Transmission [in air]
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/274705917_A_Test_of_the_Acoustic_Impedance_Model_of_Blast_Wave_Transmission [Broken]

    Experimental Test of the Acoustic-Impedance Model for Underwater Blast Wave Transmission through Plate Materials


    Experimental Tests of the Proportionality of Aerodynamic Drag to Air Density for Supersonic Projectiles


    Altitude Dependence of Rocket Motor Performance

    This is probably the niche that requires the most background work and guidance from a mentor to identify, because the idea to test how the formula is being used usually originates with the recognition of an ABSENCE of supporting data. Gaining confidence that there is really an absence of supporting data in the literature requires an extremely thorough background literature search. But note that in 3 or 4 of the cases above, the new (and relatively simple) experimental result showed that the application of the well-known formula was inappropriate. Formulas without supporting data are wrong a lot of the time.

    Note, that our niches seldom include significant advances in FUNDAMENTAL physics. The skills and resources are often outside of the scope of abilities of undergrads. But there is a lot of good and solid science to be done in the niches we find useful. Most of the discussion among my physics colleagues would not center on whether these papers are "publishable" (since they are all published), but on whether they are "physics" of the sort suitable for undergrad research. Each institution sets their own standards on that.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted