Switching research areas after NSF GRFP

Opticks
Posts: 6
Joined: Fri May 06, 2011 2:48 pm

Switching research areas after NSF GRFP

Postby Opticks » Fri May 06, 2011 3:27 pm

So I intend to start grad school this fall in Physics. I did two research projects as an undergrad but they were both related to research area X of Physics. I intend to apply for the NSF GRFP fellowship program for this upcoming fall. I heard that it helps alot if you write about how your prior research experience fits in with your proposal. However, if I actually win the GRFP (or another fellowship, ie NDSEG) then I may want to switch to research area Y of Physics. I know its common to switch research areas like this after winning the GRFP but theres a few things that concern me

I only did 2 research projects as an undergrad. For grad school apps, that 3rd LOR came from a prof I took a class with. I am hoping now to get the 3rd LOR from a prof who I do research with. I should get that 3rd LOR from a prof who does research in X, not Y, right? But wouldn't I be burning bridges and pissing off the profs in research area X (whether I work for them as an RA or TA) if I left them to do Y after winning the GRFP? Or after winning the GRFP, should I continue to do research in X for a little longer (maybe a semester?) before deciding whether I want to stay in X or move to Y?

I was planning on writing my proposal to be related to one of the research projects I worked on as an undergrad, not on a research project I could get from a prof in X at my upcoming school.

Another reason why I thought this situation was tricky is because research Y is actually housed in another department (I won't say here, but to give you an idea, it could be Opticks, EE, Chem, etc). I actually applied to both the Physics dept and dept Y, but was rejected from Y. The Physics dept wont fund its Physics students to do research in Y unless dept Y offers them funding or I get outside funding (ie GRFP)

negru
Posts: 308
Joined: Wed Oct 13, 2010 3:49 pm

Re: Switching research areas after NSF GRFP

Postby negru » Fri May 06, 2011 4:47 pm

Opticks wrote:(I won't say here, but to give you an idea, it could be Opticks, EE, Chem, etc)


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUdrZ0WQmFY

all i had to say relevant to this thread

bfollinprm
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: Switching research areas after NSF GRFP

Postby bfollinprm » Fri May 06, 2011 11:32 pm

People understand wanting to switch, and the grfp is extremely flexible. no te preocupes.

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grae313
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Re: Switching research areas after NSF GRFP

Postby grae313 » Sat May 07, 2011 9:52 am

The GRFP funds graduate students, not projects. The proposal is just so that they can see you understand research and can come up with a good proposal. I promise you will not encounter any significant barriers from NSF to doing whatever research you want in graduate school.

I don't think you should worry about burning bridges. No one honestly expects you to know your field before you even start. However, if you're worried you could be up front with them about it. Also, I don't think it's as important as you think to get your third letter from field X -- they just need to be able to write about your potential as a researcher in general.

Opticks
Posts: 6
Joined: Fri May 06, 2011 2:48 pm

Re: Switching research areas after NSF GRFP

Postby Opticks » Sat May 07, 2011 3:50 pm

I was just a little nervous about burning bridges since one of the Y profs told me that the Physics dept sees me as 'back dooring' into Y. But if its no problem if I win the GRFP, then thats good

Also, I don't think it's as important as you think to get your third letter from field X -- they just need to be able to write about your potential as a researcher in general.


who should I get it from then? I could also do research in area Z of Physics, which isn't my main interest but the prof in Z still does interesting stuff and has RAships available if I work for him. I just thought it would look really bad if I do research with him in Fall 11 and Spring 12, only to leave after getting the GRFP if I decide to




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