How do you gain research experience once you've graduated?

mtio
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How do you gain research experience once you've graduated?

Postby mtio » Mon Apr 04, 2011 10:01 pm

Unfortunately, I was not accepted into any of the graduate programs I applied to this year. I've lurking around here while I was waiting for results of my applications looking for advice as to what to do with my year off. I've read about people getting research jobs under with professors at universities. I don't live that close to my undergraduate university, but there are a couple schools with physics departments that are closer. Is it ok to just e-mail a professor I don't know out of the blue asking if they have a research position open? Are there other options to find research?

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midwestphysics
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Re: How do you gain research experience once you've graduated?

Postby midwestphysics » Mon Apr 04, 2011 11:16 pm

First, if you don't want to do it at your own school talk to the prof's from where you graduated because they might know some people at the other schools. That could be an in for you, which means you won't be contacting them out of the blue. Secondly, be careful in the way you word any emails, be specific that you're a recent bachelors looking to gain some experience within the next year (well year and half, until grad school starts.) I don't think you'll have a problem on the volunteer level, but paid research will be tougher and strictly dependent not on the school but on each prof individually. There are some other options, i.e. some of the national labs which are tough to get into, but I'd stick with trying to work in an academic setting because you'll have more responsibility. As a last resort, yes, you can send emails out of the blue but that will be very hit or miss I expect, it all depends on what you’re willing to live with.

bfollinprm
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Re: How do you gain research experience once you've graduated?

Postby bfollinprm » Mon Apr 04, 2011 11:33 pm

Do you have any previous research experience, and what were you doing?

Some fields flush with money this year that I know of (big collaborations starting):
Cosmology (herschel, plank, various ground telescopes)
HEP (lots of competition though)
Biophysics


If you have previous work in these or other areas you might be able to find money, even if your previous work was just a short REU.

If you have no experience, i'd find the grad chairs and ask them to ask around for you, you'll be less annoying.

pqortic
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Re: How do you gain research experience once you've graduated?

Postby pqortic » Tue Apr 05, 2011 12:39 am

I don't think you can find a paid research position but it doesn't hurt if you contact a professor for research opportunity or ask the professors in your undergrad school to introduce you to someone. especially during the summer that most students leave the school and professors have more free time to supervise students in researches you have a good chance of finding a place to work and gain research experience and get to know someone who can write you a letter.

rolandgill
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Re: How do you gain research experience once you've graduated?

Postby rolandgill » Mon Apr 18, 2011 3:09 am

You can directly request your class teacher or professors to assign a research task related your physics topics. This will help you to get more idea about how to research and about the subjects. You know many college professors are still doing research in particular subjects to make experiences and idea about subjects.

avpan
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Re: How do you gain research experience once you've graduated?

Postby avpan » Tue Apr 19, 2011 1:09 pm

@mtio I too am in the same boat as you. I did not get accepted this year to any of my schools and have been a lurker. The community on this forum has been really fair and less "dickish" compared to other places like i found physicsforums. I am trying to look for internships and contacting my contacts of what to do.

I mean i graduated in december and been working with a prof I was working with earlier. I am unsure if I would be able to work with him for the next year but I hope to ask and if not then I just got to keep looking. The next year and half is all about improving yourself for the next round. I know my PGRE was my weakest and redflagged everywhere along with my GPA. So hopefully ill be able to correctly take it this time.

TheBeast
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Re: How do you gain research experience once you've graduated?

Postby TheBeast » Tue Apr 19, 2011 9:26 pm

I was in a similar boat a few years ago. I went about contacting profs at a local university, via e-mail, completely out of the blue inquiring if they had research opportunities for someone with a bachelor's degree looking to get some experience before applying to grad school. Having had some money saved up, I said that I would work for free. At the time, my interests were varied, so I contacted around 12 profs in a variety of different fields that I was interested in.

Most didn't respond. A couple said "thanks, but no thanks." But three invited me in to talk. One offered me an unpaid position. After about a month of working with him, he asked me to fill out the paperwork so that he could pay me. I eventually did my Master's work with the same prof (or rather am in the process of finishing off my Master's work), and if it wasn't for some awesome academic opportunities elsewhere, I would have stuck around to do a PhD under his supervision as well.

While scouring prof websites to decide who to contact, in addition to research interests, I focused on contacting people with the following characteristics:
1) Young profs. The newer they are, the less of a chance that they have an established group and are looking for extra hands. However, depending on what info is available on their website, this might be difficult to ascertain.
2) This is probably silly, but I placed greater emphasis on people who were smiling in their website photos. To me, this was a sign that they probably were still enthusiastic about their work.
3) A big plus if their website said something like, "inquiries about graduate studies welcome" or "I'm looking for graduate students!"

In the end, I think I lucked out big time. Your mileage may vary. But it is possible to find research opportunities while you're no longer a student.

CarlBrannen
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Re: How do you gain research experience once you've graduated?

Postby CarlBrannen » Tue Apr 19, 2011 10:41 pm

TheBeast wrote:I was in a similar boat a few years ago. I went about contacting profs at a local university, via e-mail, completely out of the blue inquiring if they had research opportunities for someone with a bachelor's degree looking to get some experience before applying to grad school. Having had some money saved up, I said that I would work for free. At the time, my interests were varied, so I contacted around 12 profs in a variety of different fields that I was interested in. ...


I think this is incredibly good advice.

I can only add one thing. When you talk to these 12 professors, if they're not available for assistance, ask them if there's someone else you should be talking to, or other advice they can give you. (Which might be, for example, telling you that you should sign up as an "unmatriculated" grad student, or consider the math department, or get practice writing in C++, or whatever other advice they may have.) It's possible that they know someone, and professors love to give advice. This will extend your network vastly and might provide you with some useful advice.

Another thing you might consider doing is simply telling a professor that you're planning on working on something that's related to what they're doing and you'd like some advice on it. In your first email you might outline your plan to attack the problem. (This is what I'm doing and it seems to be going well.)

kapil_ds
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Re: How do you gain research experience once you've graduated?

Postby kapil_ds » Thu Apr 21, 2011 7:18 pm

Thank you guys for some excellent advice here. I am also in the same boat as the OP and am currently in the process of contacting prof. for research opportunities. So, the advice is very helpful.

Thebeast - I am also using the 3 criterion you mentioned. I am big on #2.
Carl - Thanks for the idea on asking for advice. I hadn't thought of that.

Only thing I would add to the advice already offered is that I am also planning to attend some upcoming symposiums and conferences in my area of interest. I hope to use these events to renew old contacts and make some new ones which can then be pursued for research opportunities.

Kapil

microacg
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Re: How do you gain research experience once you've graduated?

Postby microacg » Sun Mar 04, 2012 10:53 pm

I'm in a similar boat. I have no research experience from undergrad due to being an education major also, as well as being and undergrad TA.

I see from reading above that you might luck out and find a professor who will let you volunteer with him for a while, and maybe transition to paid research later. That sounds viable for me except I'm not sure if there are any good research opportunities near me (I'm in zip code 11714). How would I go about researching possible research opportunities? I'm not that far from NYC, and brookhaven national lab is East of me... that's all I know offhand.

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grae313
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Re: How do you gain research experience once you've graduated?

Postby grae313 » Tue Mar 06, 2012 10:33 am

People have already given you great advice in this thread to start with any and every professor who knows you from your undergrad (assuming you're still in the area). They'll want to help you.

If you're in a new area...

Research is done at:
- Universities
- Government labs
- Companies

If you don't live near any of these you are SOL, but as long as you do there is a chance to find a research opportunity. Personally, I didn't like any of the research going on at my small state University and did my undergraduate research in carbon nanotubes at my local NASA branch.

Start with Universities. Browse their research web pages if they have any and look for what's interesting and start there, but be prepared to take whatever you can get. Then start meeting with people (call/email to set up appointments). If you're lucky, someone will have more money than they have students and will be willing to take you on. Come prepared with a resume and offer references. If it's an option, say you're willing to work for free in order to get the experience.

If Universities are out, you're going to try basically the same thing with government labs or industry except you'll have to coordinate your investigations of available opportunities through their administration. Industry may have intern research positions for new graduates, and you can call up and ask about these or look online.




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