TakeruK wrote:Emailing professors could work. You don't have to worry about the logistics of funding---that's up tot he professor to decide how they would fund you. Of course, this means that your chances of a position is quite small because you have to find someone willing to take you / has a good fit project for you AND has funding for you. I don't know of any funding source that you could tap into to self-fund.
To maximize your chances you should:
- Email a large number of people that are good fits
- Be open to a much wider range of research. It sounds like your goal here is to get research experience to help you get into grad school. So you don't need research experience in "scattering amplitudes in QFT". You don't even need research in hep-th, just find anything that interests you and is physics or mathematical in nature.
- Find ways to make a personal connection with profs (without being creepy). Do you have connections at any nearby schools? Are there events where physics profs from the nearby schools will be attending so that you can introduce yourself and your interests? What about your previous school? Who do you know there and can they introduce you to anyone?
- I don't know what your emails or resume would look like if you were actually trying to apply to a position, but make sure that it is the best that it can be. Have physics profs look over it if possible (e.g. did you have an advisor in your previous program?). Make sure you can write something that is short and clearly states what your skills are and how you can contribute to their research.
To be clear, when you write these emails, you are basically applying to an un-advertised position in their group. (Sometimes you can find actual job postings though, so look in the HR department of nearby schools too for actual positions). Maybe the prof has been thinking of hiring someone for awhile but hasn't got around to it, or they might have had a project in mind but haven't met the right person yet. So typically, you would write this email with introducing yourself, your goal of graduate school and that you are seeking a research position in their group. Then you should list the most relevant skills and experiences you have. Be sure to tailor this to each prof you email.
I mention this because you said you would like to work on "scattering amplitudes in QFT" but for this type of research experience search, it's not going to be you that determines what project you work on. Instead, you are trying to show that you are a good fit for their current research programs.
KillingFields wrote:I got along well with my undergrad advisor. He worked in QCD....30 years ago and switched over to quantum computation (not an area of interest). He has contacts, but none of them are working in related fields.
KillingFields wrote:I’m open to researching anything, as long as it’s hep-th or closely related. Otherwise I don’t see a point: I wouldn’t be interested and it wouldn’t help with grad applications either.
KillingFields wrote:Frankly, the goal here is to get exposure and do some challenging research. Grad school would be nice bonus, but as I said above, I may not apply again. Not sure. So I’m not certain I should present grad school as the main goal in my emails. What do you think?
KillingFields wrote:I agree that emailing a large number of people is the best strategy. But wouldn’t I be spreading myself too thin? For example, if I picked 30 research groups, I’d have to familiarize myself with their work, which would amount to hundreds of papers. I think they’d be able to see through my emails. I’m having a breadth vs. depth problem here.
KillingFields wrote:Finally, I have to ask: what do gap year students usually do when opportunities are so limited? Do they just pack up and become hedge-fund managers? Are you basically screwed once you exit an institution?
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