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I am undergrad who will be doing a research internship this summer in Physics. The professor I will be working under is from another country, so there is no possibility of working in-person. I have never met the professor beyond a few Zoom meetings.

I am worried that not being in that environment of working with other students and the professor, but instead from home, may encourage me to slack off or become demotivated. Since there are many academics here who have probably experienced online research and probably have some valuable tips, I would like to know:

How do I make the most out of this opportunity?

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Keep a weekly (or even more frequent) meeting with the professor or supervisor to discuss progress, which will help keep you accountable. Furthermore, participate in virtual seminars, talks, and happy-hours that may be made available to you.

Most importantly, be persistent in your work. The high-school and undergraduate students that I work with who make the most of research opportunities do so by working hard and taking the opportunity seriously. The ones who do not tend to not put much effort into the experience. Additionally, unless the contrary is explicitly agreed upon, you will need to take initiative in your research. Do not just complete the tasks you are given; think about how your work fits in the broader research context, read papers and ask your supervisor questions, think about what additional experiments you can do, etc.

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    Nice answer. Also, establish a regular work schedule and stick to it. So many hours each day. Not necessarily a single block, though.
    – Buffy
    Apr 19 at 15:35
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I am a student who did a fully online research internship in theoretical physics last summer.

In addition to what is said above, here is some advice that I found useful:

  • Keep a log of what you do each day.
  • Send your supervisor a weekly update by email, at the end of the week (or depending on when you have meetings with them). I met my supervisor on Mondays, so an update on Fridays was perfectly timed (eg if I asked for literature suggestions for a particular topic, he could think about which ones were more suitable during the weekend).
  • Write a nice set of notes (in LaTeX or similar) of what you learn, even if you are not asked to do this. When doing this, have in mind students at your university taking similar modules and write enough so that they could understand your research topic.
  • Have a clear goal of what you want to get out of the project, eg a paper, and a rough timeline, if appropriate. This will motivate you. In my case, my goal was to get a strong letter of recommendation from him for my PhD applications. I ended up getting a PhD offer to work with him.
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    Another good answer.
    – Buffy
    Apr 19 at 16:25
  • @Buffy agreed. I have a hard time choosing the 'accepted answer'. Thanks mmm for some valuable advice!
    – justauser
    Apr 20 at 6:19

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