Lab research during a year off

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torquemakesheadsspin
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed Jun 04, 2008 4:59 pm

Lab research during a year off

Postby torquemakesheadsspin » Wed Jun 04, 2008 5:22 pm

For a variety of reasons, my physics GRE sucked the first time I took it. I'm taking it again in the fall, and I'm very confident that as long as I stay disciplined studying over the summer, I'll do A LOT better this time around. However, I want to improve my application in ways other than just getting my PGRE score up. Since I just finished my undergrad career, I think the best way for me to do this is to work in a lab over the next year doing research in my area of interest (solar system astronomy, planetary science, etc).

My question is, what is the "standard procedure" to make this happen? Is it normal to just e-mail a bunch of professors at universities my resume with a cover letter? Should I look at government labs in addition to universities (NASA stuff, Lunar and Planetary Institute, etc)? Is it realistic to expect someone to take me on for a year, as opposed to a longer time period? Ideally, I'd like to start working immediately after the PGRE in early October, but I'm willing to be flexible and start earlier - is now the right time to look?

I asked my advisors for advice on these questions, of course, but I thought it'd be good to hear some other opinions - especially if someone has personal experience with this.

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grae313
Posts: 2297
Joined: Tue May 29, 2007 8:46 pm

Re: Lab research during a year off

Postby grae313 » Wed Jun 04, 2008 7:56 pm

torquemakesheadsspin wrote:For a variety of reasons, my physics GRE sucked the first time I took it. I'm taking it again in the fall, and I'm very confident that as long as I stay disciplined studying over the summer, I'll do A LOT better this time around. However, I want to improve my application in ways other than just getting my PGRE score up. Since I just finished my undergrad career, I think the best way for me to do this is to work in a lab over the next year doing research in my area of interest (solar system astronomy, planetary science, etc).

My question is, what is the "standard procedure" to make this happen? Is it normal to just e-mail a bunch of professors at universities my resume with a cover letter? Should I look at government labs in addition to universities (NASA stuff, Lunar and Planetary Institute, etc)? Is it realistic to expect someone to take me on for a year, as opposed to a longer time period? Ideally, I'd like to start working immediately after the PGRE in early October, but I'm willing to be flexible and start earlier - is now the right time to look?

I asked my advisors for advice on these questions, of course, but I thought it'd be good to hear some other opinions - especially if someone has personal experience with this.


The earlier you start looking the better. I'd ask my professors. Let them know your interests and to tell you of any opportunities that they know of. Make sure that if an opportunity comes up in the future, your name comes to their mind as a candidate. Emailing professors at other institutions could work too. I did my research at NASA and had good results, so I wouldn't cross national labs off your list, but I think for the type of position you are looking for, with only a BS degree, you sort of need an "in," and that's why I say go to your professors. These sorts of things are typically extensions of undergraduate research, and if you stay in the academic real it will not be unusual for you to be looking for a year's position before moving on to graduate school.

christopher3.14
Posts: 65
Joined: Thu Feb 14, 2008 2:19 am

Re: Lab research during a year off

Postby christopher3.14 » Fri Jun 06, 2008 8:51 pm

torquemakesheadsspin wrote:My question is, what is the "standard procedure" to make this happen? Is it normal to just e-mail a bunch of professors at universities my resume with a cover letter? Should I look at government labs in addition to universities (NASA stuff, Lunar and Planetary Institute, etc)? Is it realistic to expect someone to take me on for a year, as opposed to a longer time period? Ideally, I'd like to start working immediately after the PGRE in early October, but I'm willing to be flexible and start earlier - is now the right time to look?

I asked my advisors for advice on these questions, of course, but I thought it'd be good to hear some other opinions - especially if someone has personal experience with this.


It's worth a try, definitely. I actually met someone who did this -- sent out their CV to ~20 people and ended up working at Lawrence Livermore National Lab in Berkeley. From there they got accepted to some really good schools. So its a good, solid plan. Goodluck.




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