Choosing your research area

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Skribb
Posts: 9
Joined: Sat Aug 22, 2009 5:22 am

Choosing your research area

Postby Skribb » Tue Aug 25, 2009 1:29 am

I'm curious about how people determine what area of study they want to go into and also some recommendations in choosing such a thing. My personal interest happens to be in particle physics but really I think that my exposure to the topic, as would be the case with most undergrads in most topics, is too superficial to really commit to a given area. How do you decide whether you have an interest in a field that you really don't have a lot experience with as an undergrad, in particular I'm thinking Particle, Condensed Matter, Fields, Strings, Plasma, etc. I certainly reviewed the topics to an extent as an undergrad and even do research because of my own personal interests but I don't really know that this is enough.

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grae313
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Joined: Tue May 29, 2007 8:46 pm

Re: Choosing your research area

Postby grae313 » Tue Aug 25, 2009 11:17 am

Skribb wrote:I'm curious about how people determine what area of study they want to go into and also some recommendations in choosing such a thing. My personal interest happens to be in particle physics but really I think that my exposure to the topic, as would be the case with most undergrads in most topics, is too superficial to really commit to a given area. How do you decide whether you have an interest in a field that you really don't have a lot experience with as an undergrad, in particular I'm thinking Particle, Condensed Matter, Fields, Strings, Plasma, etc. I certainly reviewed the topics to an extent as an undergrad and even do research because of my own personal interests but I don't really know that this is enough.


Your post has been moved to the "Research" subforum. Please place future questions in the appropriate location.

To address your question, it's difficult to pick a research area with only an undergraduate background. The best thing you can do, if it is still early enough in your undergraduate career, is to participate in research to get a better feel for some areas. You can work with a professor in your department or in another affiliated department, participate in a summer REU program which takes you to another university, or if none of these options work, you could get a research internship at a local company or government-funded lab. Otherwise, how can you know if research is the right career for you, or what area of research you enjoy and are interested in? It's difficult. However, even after a year or two of research you still might not be sure, and I think graduate admissions people know this. Your choices are not binding, and you can try out different labs once you get to graduate school. It's OK to say something along the lines of, "I think I'm interested in X for these reasons but I'm open to exploring the many research opportunities available as a grad student before making up my mind completely." They know we are only human. Research experience of any kind is important though--your job as an applicant is to somehow convince the admissions committee that you will thrive as an independent researcher, and there is no better way to do this than to participate and do well in research as an undergraduate.




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