Helping a prof with his research vs doing your own research.

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InquilineKea
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Helping a prof with his research vs doing your own research.

Postby InquilineKea » Thu Jul 22, 2010 4:52 pm

Helping a prof with his research vs doing your own research (with prof's guidance).

So all of my research experience so far has been done with helping a prof with his research. I haven't really done any independent research on my own. Is this the norm among students who apply? Is it not as good as me doing my own research? (and compared to students who have done their own research projects, is it a significant disadvantage?) Of course I can put it in my personal statement and say that I understood what my role was and the direction the research is supposed to take (e.g. show that I'm perfectly capable of having my own research project should I have the chance to do it)

cryingsun
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Re: Helping a prof with his research vs doing your own research.

Postby cryingsun » Thu Jul 22, 2010 8:50 pm

I think there are pros and cons for both options. When helping a prof, he is the one leading the project and likely writing the paper, so it's more likely to get a paper out with ur name on it. When u have your own project, a professor with many students may pay less attention to your project, and since u r on your own, it's less likely to get a paper out. However if you do get a paper published, it will be a first author paper and is definitely better than second- or third- author.

So in my opinion it depends on how good you are and how busy your prof. is.

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satyad18
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Re: Helping a prof with his research vs doing your own research.

Postby satyad18 » Thu Jul 22, 2010 11:43 pm

cryingsun wrote:I think there are pros and cons for both options. When helping a prof, he is the one leading the project and likely writing the paper, so it's more likely to get a paper out with ur name on it. When u have your own project, a professor with many students may pay less attention to your project, and since u r on your own, it's less likely to get a paper out. However if you do get a paper published, it will be a first author paper and is definitely better than second- or third- author.

So in my opinion it depends on how good you are and how busy your prof. is.

Can't someone help the prof with his project as well as try and go ahead with one's own (long term)project...at the same time??!

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grae313
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Re: Helping a prof with his research vs doing your own research.

Postby grae313 » Fri Jul 23, 2010 2:27 am

Most undergrads participate in a project funded and directed by a professor. This is the norm. Doing independent research is what you spend 6 years in a PhD program training to do...

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satyad18
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Re: Helping a prof with his research vs doing your own research.

Postby satyad18 » Fri Jul 23, 2010 10:15 am

grae313 wrote:Most undergrads participate in a project funded and directed by a professor. This is the norm. Doing independent research is what you spend 6 years in a PhD program training to do...


@grae: Could you please explain in detail..getting confused..

signminus
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Re: Helping a prof with his research vs doing your own research.

Postby signminus » Fri Jul 23, 2010 11:00 am

Most undergrads don't have enough knowledge in a specific research area to come up with a feasible independent research project and actually carry it out. That's why the majority of research experience available to undergrads is in the form of REUs or undergrad theses or whatever, highly directed by a professor.

When you say "independent research," do you mean that you won't be working with a professor? If so, who will you talk to if you get stuck? And who will help you publish, assuming that your rogue efforts yield anything of substance? If you do plan on working for or with someone, maybe you could clarify by what you mean by "independent."

Out of curiosity, what area are you thinking of working in for your project? Do you feel that you're completely up-to-date on the literature so that you can tell if someone has done your project before, and so that you can adequately put your own work in the context of other recent developments?

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satyad18
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Re: Helping a prof with his research vs doing your own research.

Postby satyad18 » Fri Jul 23, 2010 12:35 pm

@signminus: I definitely agree with you. Your questions are apt. By "independent research" I mean, the whole thing..the 'idea' being mine and I work on it, and the prof is there to support in every possible way.

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InquilineKea
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Re: Helping a prof with his research vs doing your own research.

Postby InquilineKea » Fri Jul 23, 2010 12:49 pm

Hm though, don't people in REUs do their own projects? They write papers for their own projects (even if they aren't publishable for a journal). They're under massive guidance from a professor, but they still investigate the project with some independence, rather than do what their profs tell them to do (even if the ideas aren't their own).

This is also the case for a lot of the high school research people do in programs like HSHSP and RSI.

What I'm doing, on the other hand, is simply helping a professor - with programming and plotting. But I don't end up writing a paper (even an unpublishable one) or anything.

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grae313
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Re: Helping a prof with his research vs doing your own research.

Postby grae313 » Fri Jul 23, 2010 4:04 pm

signminus wrote:Most undergrads don't have enough knowledge in a specific research area to come up with a feasible independent research project and actually carry it out.


Not to mention funding.

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grae313
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Re: Helping a prof with his research vs doing your own research.

Postby grae313 » Fri Jul 23, 2010 4:09 pm

InquilineKea wrote:Hm though, don't people in REUs do their own projects? They write papers for their own projects (even if they aren't publishable for a journal). They're under massive guidance from a professor, but they still investigate the project with some independence, rather than do what their profs tell them to do (even if the ideas aren't their own).

This is also the case for a lot of the high school research people do in programs like HSHSP and RSI.

What I'm doing, on the other hand, is simply helping a professor - with programming and plotting. But I don't end up writing a paper (even an unpublishable one) or anything.


So of course, there are degrees of independence. And of course, the more towards the "completely independent" side of that spectrum the better, but research experience is research experience and you have the chance in your SOP to highlight it however you want. REU students usually join with a project already decided for them. It is still a very highly directed environment.

For your original question, I think the norm is to help a professor with their research by undertaking a project with some specific goals, and where you have some but not that much independence in how you go about meeting those goals. If your prof tells you exactly what to do and you just do it, that research experience is not as good as one where you make some of your own decisions regarding how to answer questions.

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InquilineKea
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Re: Helping a prof with his research vs doing your own research.

Postby InquilineKea » Sun Jul 25, 2010 1:29 pm

Okay thanks for all the info!

Yeah, I usually end up working for professors who end up telling me what to do. I guess part of it is which profs I end up working for, but another thing is that they might give me small tasks and then allow me to move towards bigger (more independent) tasks. Or I might try asking for one where I'm more involved.




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