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I am a senior physics major and I recently applied to a national lab that is associated with my university. I applied for a student research position through their website (uploaded my resume and wrote a cover letter etc.) I was contacted by the PI of the research team to come for a 'visit' for an hour with him and his team. He went through the hassle of giving out the visitor pass for me.

More about me, I am a senior but I have no research experience. I don't have a strong GPA and I admit I am not that 'smart' like other students. Should I have to explain about my GPA?

So my question is what should I prepare myself prior to my visit? Do you think it would be some sort of an interview? What sort of questions (academical/personal) should I prepare? Also, should I take an updated resume (I don't think it has really changed since I applied)?

  • Have you been accepted? If so, you are really overthinking it. – Drecate Aug 2 '15 at 4:29
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    I don't think the PI would expect too much from an undergrad. However, you need to prepare to answer some questions like: Why are you interested in the field you study (physics)? Are you willing to devote yourself to it? What do you already know? What's your research interest? When are you available? That kind of questions. Your GPA is what you already have. He can tell that from your CV. You may need to explain some weak grades. It's just your past. Try to move his attention to the future during the interview, that is, what your future goal is. – scaaahu Aug 2 '15 at 5:38
  • He hasn't mentioned about acceptance, he just wants me to visit him first. I guess he will decide during our meeting – tadf2 Aug 2 '15 at 6:24
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    I feel like a broken record saying this, but I guess it has to be said: Undergraduate research is firmly on-topic here. – ff524 Aug 2 '15 at 20:26
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You should treat it as an interview unless you get information telling you otherwise. Yes you should bring a resume, but you may not need it. You should read about the PI's research, lab, and team. Usually there is some information on the national lab's website. Typically undergraduate researchers are not expected to know how to do research, so you might be questioned about your motivations for learning to do research. If your grades are not good you should be prepared to say what you are doing to improve them.

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So my question is what should I prepare myself prior to my visit?

Learn as much as you can about the work that is done in this lab, by reading the material on their website and any recent work your potential supervisor has published. Look up terms you don't understand. You want to be able to understand as much as you can about what you're shown during your visit.

Do you think it would be some sort of an interview?

Yes, in the sense that he will be evaluating whether you're someone he can see himself working with, and you should be evaluating whether this lab is a place that you can see yourself working. (It may or may not be an interview in the "formal" sense.)

What sort of questions (academical/personal) should I prepare?

  • Any academic questions you might have while learning about their work (from the preparation phase).
  • "If I do undergraduate research here, what kind of work would I be doing?"
  • "What level of supervision/independence should I expect while working here?"
  • "Do your undergraduate research students usually publish the results of their work?"
  • "What material should I read/review to prepare for doing research here?"

Also, should I take an updated resume (I dont think it has really changed since I applied)?

Yes, it's always nice to have a hard copy of your resume on you. When I meet potential research students, I print a copy of their resume to write my notes on. Sometimes I forget or don't have a chance to print it before the meeting, and when that happens I always appreciate if the student has a copy on hand.

Should I have to explain about my gpa?

I would suggest that you not bring it up unless he does. Concentrate on making a good impression on your visit.

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