Research Projects for Physics Undergraduates
The Physics Department hosts strong research groups in the fields of astrophysics, extraterrestrial materials, condensed matter physics, quantum information and quantum materials, particle and nuclear physics, and biophysics. Undergraduates are encouraged to take advantage of these research groups and participate in the cutting-edge research that is conducted in the department. Engaging actively in research as an undergraduate student is highly recommended for students planning to do a PhD in Physics or in another science.
Undergraduate students are invited to participate in research at all levels of their undergraduate career. Active involvement in research at an early stage will broaden your perspective of how physics research actually works. Upperclassmen are highly encouraged to engage in research so they can apply techniques they have studied in their physics classes. Most professors welcome students interested in doing research for one semester or several semesters.
Research can be conducted while classes are in session or during the summer. It can count for credit after approval of an advising professor (enroll in Physics N41 or N42 where N is your year in college) or can be paid. Please note that research requires a substantial time investment. Students interested in doing research while classes are in session should set aside between 6 and 12 hours per week for the research. Request credit for independent study on this form.
Summer research usually takes as much time as a full-time job (40 hrs per week) or a half-time job (20 hours per week). Students in their senior year are encouraged to do a senior or honors thesis (the latter requires a projected >3.65 GPA). Usually, professors ask their advisees to summarize their research findings in a report and/or to report the results at a conference or in a physics journal.
How do you find the research group which is right for you?
As a starting point, please investigate the research descriptions on the departmental research web site, and consider attending the Physics 582 seminars. The next step is either to directly contact professors whose research interests you, or to schedule a meeting with the undergraduate research coordinator who can advise you about research opportunities that match your interests. All students wishing to do a research project will eventually have to make one-on-one contact with the advising professor. You should contact the professor by email and ask for a meeting to discuss possible research projects. A good preparation for this meeting is to read about the professor’s research on the website, and to bring a resume and/or a list of courses completed along with any relevant skills.
You can find additional details about undergraduate research at the university via the Office of Undergraduate Research.