Various questions about research experience

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Joined: Wed May 29, 2013 8:55 pm

Various questions about research experience

Post by colsanders » Tue Aug 27, 2013 12:44 pm

To keep this short and sweet I was wondering if someone could a few questions for me:

1. In various people's profiles they state they have x years research experience in a particular field, I assume this doesn't mean they've been working full time in a lab for x years so does this generally mean x number of summers working on a project or is it some part time experience?

2. Being from the UK I'm somewhat unfamiliar on what exactly an REU consists of. Several people of spoken to seem to indicate on their REU's that they spent a vast majority of their time having to learn the physics behind their project before being able to do anything. So my question is (without trying to offend anyone) is an REU more of a sampler of a particular area of research?

3. Looking at profiles from years past I feel that compared to many applicants I possibly lack experience. As far as research projects go, by the time I apply I will have: Spent 3 months with a Professor and Post-Doc testing various models of an Adiabatic Quantum Computer; Led a 3 month long undergraduate group project (8 peer group members) into creating a new method determining statistical uncertainties on neutron interactions; Spent around 4 months working on my master's thesis helping to optimise a PMT/Scintillator modules for use in timing electrons from double beta decay. In the eyes of admissions folks will I lack experience (i.e. should I wait until the following rotation to apply and try and get some experience in the meantime)? Will the diversity of my projects be seen negatively?

Thanks in advance for anyone that answers and sorry for the barrage of questions, booking my PGRE has started to make everything seem very real and scary :S

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Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2012 4:07 am

Re: Various questions about research experience

Post by stengah » Tue Aug 27, 2013 1:47 pm

1. I wouldn't assume it was full time either, probably it means part time during the school year (10-15 hours per week) and full time in the summer (40 hours per week).

2. Depends. I know someone who did a theory project who had a similar experience to what you describe. But the REU programs I did were experimental and I basically just learned the physics as the project went on, since knowledge of the physics wasn't entirely necessary to carry out the tasks I was given. So it was mostly research, but only for 10 weeks (but 40 hours per week or more). I would guess that the majority of REU projects are experimental like this. Usually you have to read lots of papers before your project starts, but this is often done in the weeks leading up the REU rather than during it.

3. I don't think you have a lack of experience as long as you a) got some decent results out of your projects and b) will get good recommendation letters from your mentors. Also, I think the diversity is a good thing, it shows you have tried different things and worked with a variety of different people. Maybe it helped you narrow down what you want to do for your PhD. But I'm not sure how admissions committees will view it, opinions will probably vary. I would be surprised if it were viewed negatively, though. And I hope not because I'm in a similar situation.

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