Where should I go this summer? Help!!

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Where should I go this summer? Help!!

Post by irockhard » Wed Jan 23, 2008 10:42 pm

I am facing a dilemma here. I can't decide where to go for my summer research this year.
I am a sophomore at a Big Ten university that is well known for its physics program, especially condensed matter. I am taking the second semester of both upper level quantum mechanics and E&M right now and am close to complete all the required physics classes.

I worked in my physics department last summer already for a high energy physics professor. My work involved exclusively computer engineering and programming that had nothing whatsoever to do with physics.

This semester, I just started working for a new professor in AMO physics. The research involves cooling and trapping atoms with lasers. Right now, I am building circuit boards for the apparatus of the experiment. I will also be learning about laser cooling and trapping, building the laser, vacuum chamber, doing some laser spectroscopy when the lab is finally set up. The professor wants me to stay for the summer.

I am really interested in this professor's research and he is a great guy. But I am not sure if it is a good idea for me to do all of my summer research in my own school's physics department.

Does grad school appreciate it more if you have done research in other places besides your home school's department? Since I am an international student, I don't have that many choices regarding summer research programs. But among the few places that do fund international students, I am interested in Lehigh, William and Mary, and Harvard's REU
programs, in the area of condensed matter. Comparing to doing summer research in my own school, these programs would be more organized and structured. And mostly likely, I will be able to produce a research paper at the end of the program, which won't happen if I work in my school this summer.

But on the other hand, working for this professor in my department in the summer gives me much more consistency and allows me to build a great relationship with him whom I will likely be working with for my junior year, even beyond. And he told me that if everything goes well, I will be able to publish a paper in 1.5 to 2 years.

So what's your opinion? Should I do work in my ow school this summer or else where?

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Post by Bufalay » Wed Jan 23, 2008 10:45 pm

You should just stay in Illinois. I think its a good idea to stick with a particular project if you like it. In applying to grad school I think that it is more impressive that you achieved a lot on a single project than a little on several projects.

On the other hand if this isn't something you are interested in, and have to opportunity to go somewhere else for the summer to try something new then that would be a good idea.

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Post by cancelled20080417 » Wed Jan 23, 2008 11:17 pm

Bufalay, you know what is funny in your post? here is the ans:
irockhard never says that he is from ILLINOIS and you sounded as if you know him personally and suggested him to stay in ILLINOIS!!!

I hope my frequent visit to Amsterdam has no effect in my abilty to read sentences on the computer :wink:

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Post by goodfromfar » Wed Jan 23, 2008 11:57 pm

I agree with Bufalay. If you don't like what you are doing, try something else.
But if you enjoy the research you are doing now, there is no greater feeling than working on an experiment for a long time and seeing important results gleaned from your research. Especially when it is published.

You are also only a sophomore and have time to try other subdivisions of physics experiment. What about doing research during the school year? Is it possible to work for your professor 10+ hours a week during the year, and apply to an REU in the summer?

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Post by irockhard » Thu Jan 24, 2008 1:02 am

that's the thing, yea, it might be possible for me to work close to 10 hours a week on the research during school year if i try really really hard, but i will definitely be more productive during the summer.

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Post by grae313 » Thu Jan 24, 2008 1:56 am

IMO, if you already have good research going, the only benefit to going outside your University for an REU is the potential to work make relationships with professors at grad schools you may want to attend. If you will be applying to those schools you mentioned, then it might be a good idea to do an REU there, but you have plenty of time to do that. If you like this research, and esp. if the prof. is well known, stick with it, build a relationship, get that publication and a great letter of recommendation, and you should have time to do both. If you are almost done with your physics, you should be able to work during the school year.

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