TakeruK wrote:You can try but you would be doing yourself and others a disservice by doing the exact same work a paid student would but without pay. Volunteering to work with certain profs or groups in order to get experience is one thing, since that's something you and the prof/group set up with the goal of getting you into research waters. But it's really wrong, in my opinion, for you to go and volunteer to work a paid position for free. I know physics/research is not all about the money, but here's why I think this is a bad idea for students to do:
1. You are basically undercutting your peers. This is equivalent (but even more extreme) of applying to PhD programs and saying that you're willing to attend with only half the normal funding of other students. In grad school and in the national lab, a student, whether their stipend is paid for or not, still cost a lot of resources. There's overhead charges, desk space, and time (a free student still costs time to supervise). So, you are still taking a spot away from someone. How would you feel if you and another student were roughly equal in skill and experience and competing for the same spot and they told you "we'll take the lowest bidder"?
Yes, I see your point. Can you think of something else that might be preferable for me to pursue?2. Even if they let you do this, this system becomes unsustainable when more and more students begin to do this. Why would places need to hire students if people are willing to work for free, for the experience. This leads to a system where only the people who are really good (so that schools are willing to pay them) or independently wealthy are able to access higher science education.
Yes this actually occurred to me before I made this thread. Maybe they want to know their interns are paid so they will be more serious. I could probably make the case that they wouldn't have to worry about that, but I wouldn't expect policies to get changed to make an exception for me.3. I actually doubt many places that normally hire students for the summer would even accept a free volunteer to do the same work. Like I said above, you will still represent a cost to them that is bigger than your stipend. Also, the mentality of a "free volunteer" is different than that of a "paid researcher". You might treat it exactly like a job, but it's hard for the employer to know that. Usually agreements between profs and volunteer students (for the experience) are temporary and casual in nature. When you are hired as a researcher, you would be bound to more rules and there's a stronger commitment!
In short, you are devaluing your skills (and all of your colleagues' skill) as a scientist/researcher/physicist when you volunteer to do work for free. There's already some issues with this going on at certain grad schools (where they don't pay for TA work since it's "part of our training"). Part of our "training" or not, most professional occupations pay their employees during the training phase of their career, and for workshops etc. "Getting experience" is not a substitute for pay -- proper remuneration for work like a summer research position at a national lab is both experience and a stipend.
bfollinprm wrote:I think if you do good work you'll end up paid anyway--and plenty of people do research for 'free', anyone on a teaching assistantship falls in this category (probably 60% of physics grad students).
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