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So in the Summer, I was offered to work on a paper with a doctor at my local university. The main goal of the paper is to try and predict the amount of displacement when pressure is applied to a 3D-printed ball of titanium using machine learning. The thing is that the main focus of the paper is about 3D printing with titanium but machine learning is used to achieve some of the results that couldn't be simulated easily.

Fast forward a couple of months, my work ended and I did what I was supposed to do. The other day, the doctor I was working with called me and told me I did a good job and offered me to work on it during the school year as well. The thing is, I have to put quite a few hours into it and I go to school so I don't want to do it if it won't help me that much in the future. So my question is, how would working on this paper, which is mainly about something I won't do in the future, help me later?

By the way, I'm a freshman in high school.

Thank you so much in advance!

  • The future is unknown. To you and to everyone. Do what you like to do. Very few people get that opportunity, actually. Sadly. – Buffy Sep 15 at 14:18
  • I'm a freshman in high school --- What age is this? In the U.S. this would be roughly age 14-15, and at that age most (among academically able) students probably have little more awareness of what they want to do in undergraduate college (let alone afterwards) than general descriptions such as science, humanities, social science, etc. A former student of mine from the late 1990s (his last 2 years of high school), before and during the first semester of his Junior year (age 16-17), was planning to study history in college. Eight (8) years later he got a Ph.D. in math from Rice University. – Dave L Renfro Sep 15 at 16:39
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I'm a freshman in high school

And you’re already sure about what you’ll do in the future? I’m impressed. In any case, you shouldn’t worry too much about what your future research topic would be. I was sure I’d be a chef and ended up with a PhD in math. People’s interests vary wildly over time.

What does matter is that you have the capacity to do research at a very young age, which is impressive to anyone reading your CV when considering you for undergraduate programs or hiring you for a job. If this is a legit opportunity I’d take it even if it’s not 100% within my field of interest.

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Spark gave a really good answer above, but I want to note another aspect: not only are you young enough that you might not know what you want to do or might change what you want to do, but the experience of research in general will be helpful. This will be helpful in at least two ways. First, and most cynically, it will look good for college (and later grad school if you choose to go that direction). Second, some of the skills from research apply to research in general, or to related areas; if you are working on a project that involves both hands-on work as well as machine learning then that means you are likely both learning good lab habits as well as getting exposure to programming and related topics. It may also help produce a good general approach to research.

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how would working on this paper, which is mainly about something I won't do in the future, help me later?

You did not really hint about how distant this machine learning and 3D work is from the field you are interested in. The skills and relationship with the doctor would be helpful in helping you differentiate yourself from your other high school colleagues. However, I suspect you are similarly accomplished in the field that you are interested in and would be likely doing relevant projects instead. If that is the case, then maybe spreading yourself thin may not be a good idea.

It also depends on how competitive the field that you are interested in is as well. If you can easily get into the course that you are passionate about, then diverting your time and effort to challenging work is definitely worthwhile. However, if your course requires jumping through and having strong scores in high school, then maybe this distraction may not be as beneficial...

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