Deciding on a senior project

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Posts: 21
Joined: Mon Jul 30, 2007 10:21 am

Deciding on a senior project

Post by sirjetpackbob » Mon Aug 06, 2007 2:49 pm

I feel like my choice of a senior research project will be pretty important on my upcoming grad school application. I have two choices and am trying to decide which would help me out the most, and would like your advice!

First, let me start by saying I already have a year and a half of undergraduate "slave labor" research experience. It's materials science related and has mostly been preparing samples, taking images, measurements, and sorting and presenting data.

I am interested in applying to graduate school for particle physics, likely theoretical but possibly experimental. Unfortunately there are not many undergraduate research opportunities for particle physics around here. Given that I already have some experience with experimental research, my adviser recommended I try to find something theoretical or computational.

My first option is an off-campus project offer that would deal with several aspects of fluid dynamics, spectroscopy, and radiative transfer of combustion. I've been told that it will not be a simple put-the-data-in-Excel job, and it will have some computational modeling, but the rest is a little vague. Also, I'll earn money for this job.

My second option is to work with faculty on-campus. The project I was recommended to would involve either metamaterials or simulated wave guides, and would likely involve a lot of literature review of ongoing research. From what I understand, I would write a program to simulate results that have already been obtained and maybe take it a step further. I will earn no money for this job.

My adviser thinks the second option would look more appealing on an application because it will show a better understanding of physical and mathematical concepts than the first job. I'm pretty torn between the two though. The money is an issue but doing what is best for grad school comes first.

Does anyone have any thoughts or opinions? Any idea what grad schools look for in projects? Is the subject matter more important than doing new research? Since I can't get any projects directly related to particle physics, is E+M any better of a subject them chemical physics? Is this really even that big of a deal?

Unfortunately job # 1 wants to hear back soon, so I've been stressing over this decision for the past couple days. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Posts: 30
Joined: Mon Aug 06, 2007 6:03 pm

same situation

Post by anthonyk » Mon Aug 06, 2007 6:12 pm

hi, first i just wanted to say we are very alike. i also will be applying for grad school in particle physics, have 1.5 years in undergrad research, and the reseach i did was in materials (same stuff: preparation, stm imaging, and a poster presentation), though my recent research has been in astrophysics. but i too am approaching my senior research project. i couldnt find anything to do witih particle physics either so i decided to work with a professor on campus who i spent a summer working for. i did this for a few reasons, i want to go into experimental physics and the work i would be doing would be experimental. but another reason is that i do know him, and working with him again i feel will increase the good things he can say about me in a letter of recommendation. he has already agreed to write some for me.

so i guess my advice is to work with someone that you would like a letter from, thats what im going to do. i hope that helps, good luck!

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