So, I'm doing my undergrad in physics in India. I want to apply for research internships, but when I read professors' CV's and stuff they are doing reasearch on currently, I don't understand anything, it's way too complicated, I see things like " X-ray Binaries, Neutron Stars, X-ray Polarimetry , quantification of non-linear quantum correlations at very low light intensities. etc. ". It seems way beyond what I can comprehend !

So, if I have no idea about what they are working on then should I apply for the reasearch internship ?

2 Answers 2


It's normal to feel overwhelmed with the complexity of such advanced topics at your level, the goal is to learn about it progressively. However if you don't even feel interested in discovering the topic, then there's probably no point applying.

In order to start evaluating your own interest about a particular topic before applying, it would be a good idea to read a bit about it. you won't understand everything of course, but this way you can get a sense of whether you like the topic or not. This will help you choose, and it will also help you get accepted in case you decide to apply, since an advisor is more likely to choose somebody who knows at least a little about their topic.

  • What I'm afraid of is, I get accepted and then the professor talks about highly advanced stuff which I don't know, then he thinks I'm useless which ruins the whole purpose of the internship Commented May 3, 2019 at 16:33
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    As a general rule in research, don't be ashamed of what you don't know, just keep learning! Nobody knows everything, the professor is unlikely to expect you to know a lot about a particular specialized research topic. If he accepts you then he thinks you can do it. Unless you pretend to know something that you don't (don't do that of course), it won't be a problem. Be straightforward with the advisor, say that you don't know much but you want to learn.
    – Erwan
    Commented May 3, 2019 at 16:54

Research broadly each of the topics that you might be interested in, and use that to help you narrow down the fields you are interested in, and then apply for research internships in those fields. Most of these professors are focused on extremely specific research topics and it is generally expected that undergrads like you will struggle to grasp the concepts as opposed to the concepts that are more generally taught in the classroom setting. You just want to get a general taste of what the field might be like.

Finally, when it comes to actually applying for internships, try seeking the help of an advisor of professor at your institution that you may know as to which field might be the best suited for you. In addition to that, figure out where your interests are, and apply to as many research internships in those areas (I'd even suggest contacting some faculty behind those internships for advice to get an idea of where you stand), because the worst they can do is say no.

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