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Why/How do you start doing research as an undergraduate?

Though many physics departments maintain an active research environment for undergraduate students most schools do not have enough research slots for all of their undergraduate students. And it is useful and good for students to spend a summer doing research off their campus with other groups at national labs or research universities.

Why do research as an undergraduate?

Hopefully, it will be fun. Hard work ... challenging ... and exhausting. But also fun.

Too often at the undergraduate level we only see the problems in our courses. In undergraduate research we have the opportunity of pulling things from many courses to work on a single problem. We are also given more responsibility to work on a problem on our own, as part of a larger effort.

Undergraduate research gives you a much clearer picture of life as a scientist than course work can. And so if you think that you are interested in physics as a career - or if you simply prefer solving problems to the summer jobs you've had before - look into the research opportunities.

What will I do?

There are so many different experiences it would be impossible to say what you will get.

Some students land an opportunity to take over an interesting problem that will demand their best work and end up learning a lot of physics and a lot of themselves. But other students end up at a job that is ... only a job.

Some students land in a program that has a lot of opportunities outside of the work to meet with other students, with faculty, to learn physics not available on their home campus. But others end up in a program that is not that interesing.

Talk to students and faculty about the programs to which you are applying. Perhaps they know something good or bad to help you make a decision.

How do you apply for summer research opportunities?

Most of the program will require applicants to have two or three years of college physics. But there are a few programs that are looking for people with only one year. Read the requirements carefully.

Many of the positions will be looking for someone who has potential outside of the classroom and so good grades are not enough. Skills that would be useful come from upper-level laboratory experiences, programming, and on-campus research.

First some guidelines.

Please take a moment to read about the Victor M. Blanco Fellowships co-sponsored by NSHP.

Below is a partial list of some popular summer research sites. In addition to the following sites, you should check the announcements in your department.

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