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Unsure what undergraduate research to pursue

  1. Apr 14, 2015 #1
    I'm a sophomore electrical engineering student. I've decided to apply to the honors college at my school. Part of the program includes writing a senior thesis and doing undergraduate research. One of the essay questions on the application asks me to describe a topic that I might be interested in researching,and why I would want to research said topic.

    I don't have a problem with this. In fact, the research opportunity is one of the major reasons I'm applying to the program. The problem is that, before now, I have never really given research much thought. I don't really get deep into my major classes until next semester, so I can't really draw from that. There are loads of fields that I find intriguing, but the one that stands out to me is quantum computing.

    My concern is that as an undergraduate, I won't have necessary skills to contribute anything worthwhile to the field. It seems as though it will require mathematics and knowledge of quantum physics far beyond what I'll learn as an undergraduate. Am I correct in this? If so, should I write about something a little simpler? Am I completely over thinking this? I understand that they're not forcing me to choose a research subject at this very moment, but I don't want to come off as an idiot by picking something that's way over my head.

    Any advice would be appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 14, 2015 #2
    Experimental groups usually have grunt work that all but the lowliest of undergrads can handle. If you try to work with a theorist you'll probably be out of luck unless you have taken advanced coursework, but it depends.
  4. Apr 14, 2015 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    The main point of undergraduate research is in learning about the research process and a bit about the field, not in making a major contribution to the field. Professors who supervise undergraduate research are generally very much aware of this, and don't expect you to bring much to the project except a willingness to learn and maybe a bit of some practical skill such as programming, electrical work, pipefitting, etc.

    When I was an undergrad, one of the things I did was to help my professor install extra electrical outlets in the lab space that he had recently taken over.
  5. Apr 16, 2015 #4
    Thanks for the replies. It sounds like they'd be more concerned about me demonstrating a desire to do research and show an interest in something, rather than focusing on what I can contribute to a particular topic. I guess I'll write the essay on Quantum Computing and hope for the best.
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