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I am an Indian, currently in 12th standard and I am pretty sure next year I am going to be in a decent UNI for my bachelor's in physics. I have read a lot about undergraduate research in Western colleges but I am not very sure about that here in India, as I have heard that a very small amount of money from the GDP is spent on research every year - like 0.6%. So I was curious if I will be able to get any research opportunities during my initial college years or not.

Another question is:

-- Are researches necessarily done by college professors or there are other groups of researchers who provide opportunities out of school?

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Some observations:

  • In India, as far as I know, some institutes like CMI, etc. offer (or used to offer) internship programs. Please note, it is usually very competitive to get selected. Earlier, they used to select students based on NPTEL exam results. I remember reading somewhere that you could also email the respective professor and ask if he/she is willing to assign an intern. So, it is best to email the professor. He/she might invite you to work with him/her during Summer/Winter vacation.

  • Sometimes, I see professors of electronics asking undergrads to write codes. So, you can understand that they would let you do something which perhaps they might not be very comfortable with (reasons being, new languages, new areas, etc). I remember a friend of mine was assisting a professor by writing python codes for some machine learning experiment. Most of the Physics/Electronics professors in India above 50s are comfortable with FORTRAN, while the younger generation learns Python right at high school.

  • Usually, you would not see much research in a normal college offering undergraduate degrees. They wouldn't have the equipment, etc. They go to a university for those.

So, if you are willing to contribute to research the best thing would be to:

  • talk/email professors from your areas of interest. If you are in a reputed institute like in one of the IITs, IISc, etc. it becomes easier and it's best to try to get into one of such institutes.
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  • Do teachers perform researches on their own in those colleges and would they allow a first year undergrad to be a part of their research? Oct 21, 2020 at 16:03
  • @Devansh Undergraduate research has been a matter of discussion. There might be something new someday. As of now, I think the profs perform research with the PhD scholars or MS scholars only. However, I encourage you to do it if you get an opportunity and even if you are contributing something minimal. That would be a learning experience and would get to know people in the academia. Also, it is worth mentioning that many undergraduates of different fields have published papers. Oct 21, 2020 at 16:57
  • Did they publish the research papers on their own? like did they not have a prof guiding them throughout the research process? Oct 21, 2020 at 17:16
  • Also please answer my previous question, which is whether the professors of big private unis perform research related tasks or not? Oct 21, 2020 at 17:17
  • While I am not sure of the entire process of research paper publishing, the process needs guidance of profs in various stages. Coming back to the original question, since you didn't mention which degree you are going for (3 years B.Sc or 4 years BS), my assumption was that of a 3 years B.Sc. In a 4 years BS (research) degree, research is part of your curriculum. That degree is offered by comparatively less number of institutes. Oct 21, 2020 at 17:24
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It depends on your university, its professors and the institute policies.

There is significant research happening in universities, but in India, it's most prevalent in the top-ranked institutes/universities, which are mostly government institutes. Can you get involved in initial years? Yes and no. It's difficult to answer without knowing if your uni is decent w.r.t to the world or just the country. I study at IIT Delhi (Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi) and I'll tell you my experience:

  • Yes, you can ask professors to get involved in research in your initial undergrad years. You'll most probably not have the required background, but there are professors willing to help you learn and develop and/or explore interest(s). You'll not contribute significantly but it'll help you start learning. To reach to the level of actually publishing something, it'll happen later in undergrad. A freshman is just getting started will college and sophomore with their major. It is after that that you'll start taking advanced courses - but who's stopping anyone from learning!

  • For summer and winters, many students apply for research opportunities in other institutes and universities for research interns in summer. A lot of people from the top IITs and/or IISc also go to research interns abroad. At IITD, we also have institute programmes to do projects in summer. A lot of information about such programmes is shared over mailing lists or informed by your seniors in college. Most of the research opportunities are obtained by emailing. Even for research programmes, a better path is emailing someone from the research team first - unless the guidelines state otherwise.

  • If you're not in IIT/IISc/IISER, you can mail professors from these institutes to get involved with them. However again, that requires you to show more dedication since there are already students from that institute itself showing interest. Very few to none have dedicated research programmes for external students.

  • Most professors will deny, some will be open to short projects while some might ask you to dedicate longer times. Usually the shorter projects do not provide a new learning curve, so research projects are usually the latter ones. Landing an opportunity depends on how you approach professors and show interest. They do not need you, you need them; show interest, be willing to learn.

In conclusion,

  • Can you have research experience in your undergrad in India? Yes.

  • In initial years? Depends on you and under whom you apply.

  • Are researches necessarily done by college professors or there are other groups of researchers who provide opportunities out of school? Not all researchers are professors but most of such opportunities are available to grad students so your best bet is first reaching out to professors in or outside your university since they're more open to working with students.

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