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How much undergrad research is 'enough' for top schools?

Posted: Sat Feb 17, 2007 2:43 am
by gcensr

Posted: Sat Feb 17, 2007 3:59 am
by JackSkellington
Your research sounds good, but it never hurts to have more- and it probably will help you.

Posted: Sat Feb 17, 2007 12:15 pm
by schmit.paul
If you just completed a big research project and published, you could either take your research in a related direction with the same advisor, or consider it a good stopping point and find another group to work with at your institution. I've heard people throwing around numbers as high as 3 for the number of research projects one should do as an undergrad in order to get into a really good grad school, but I think 2 is a more realistic minimum. However, if the stuff you're doing right now is really compelling, interesting stuff, staying on with that research a little longer may have its benefits. In that case you'd be smart to try to find a summer research opportunity elsewhere, also because getting away from your home institution for a summer really has its perks. In reality, you should be doing research purely for the good experience it provides and the opportunity to contribute to science as a *relatively* untrained scientist, but from a more pragmatic standpoint, the fewer the number of research projects you take on as an undergrad, the fewer truly convincing letters of recommendation you will have to submit to the monster graduate programs you want to be part of.

Posted: Sat Feb 17, 2007 4:36 pm
by gcensr

Posted: Sun Feb 18, 2007 5:55 pm
by braindrain
Some schools will accept 4 letters.

But, I think they care more about physics. It's not like applying to undergrad. where they want to see leadership. Plus there are places on the application form to describe extra-curricular. I'm not sure how much a Dean is respected as compared to a professor. I mean, it sounds official and high up, but the professor's may think this person isn't a professor and therefore not on the same plane of existence. But, I do think its great you are on government. Leadership skills are important to running your own lab, getting funding, etc.. For the intangibles of science, I'm sure it weighs high. I just don't think committees will substitute intangibles for tangibles. That's just my opinion. Other people may disagree.

Posted: Sun Feb 18, 2007 6:32 pm
by schmit.paul
If you want to have a prof from a class you did real well in write you a letter, my suggestion is to build up an informal relationship with the professor at some point and have a few good talks with him/her. I've done this with nearly all of my professors to varying degrees (being part of a very large university but a reasonably small department helped to some extent), and two of them wrote me recommendations, while my other two recs came from research advisors. Both had taught two of my advanced courses each, and I had frequent conversations with both over the course of a couple years (one had even been my advisor since I transferred in to the physics curriculum from engineering). Even if you do phenomenally well in your coursework, that's only going to give your professor about a paragraph of material to write about. But if you've sat down and talked with them about your aspirations, asked for advice, discussed the future of physics and its subfields, or even just remarked about how much you love the curriculum, that will give them a basis to turn that single paragraph into a page full of flattering remarks. Don't be bashful, get to know them...unless they're complete douchebags, they will eventually have a free moment to talk (and it never hurts to initiate a conversation by asking them to talk about their own research...same rule of thumb applies when asking about a potential research job).

Posted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 6:10 am
by CPT
I think right now you should be conentrating more on doing what you like and having fun with your physics. Ultimately, the only thing the grad school would like to see is that you were committed to physics enough to not fritter away your summers and did a couple of REUs and other projects. And if you're working on projects you enjoy, you are quite likely to come up with some original or interesting research work. Enjoy the physics