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I am doing an undergraduate project on matrix analysis which mostly involves functional analysis(but not a lot of heavy machinery) but I realize I don't really like the area very much and my work isn't particularly non-trivial. I have an excellent and patient guide.The alternative is that I can instead read a bunch of graduate texts in analysis over the next year. Here are the pros and cons of quitting the project I could come up with:

Pros: 1. If I quit, I will be reading some graduate texts. 2. I will be reading something I like.

Cons: 1. I will lose out on valuable research experience. I am concerned that the lack of it will render my applications to graduate schools in the US rather ordinary. 2. I have an excellent relationship with my guide.I am a little concerned she might be disappointed with the switch. (I can't work under someone else for various reasons.) Any help is appreciated. Thank you.

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In my opinion it is definitely worth considering quitting an undergraduate project that you have tried and don't like in favor of doing more reading that you do like. Indeed you should talk to your advisor about it. To be slightly more specific:

Pros: 1. If I quit, I will be reading some graduate texts. 2. I will be reading something I like.

Reading graduate texts is a great thing for a would-be math graduate student to do, especially if you really like them. If you can acquire graduate level knowledge mostly independent as an undergraduate, that will be strongly beneficial in your graduate applications.

Cons: 1. I will lose out on valuable research experience. I am concerned that the lack of it will render my applications to graduate schools in the US rather ordinary. 2. I have an excellent relationship with my guide.I am a little concerned she might be disappointed with the switch. (I can't work under someone else for various reasons.)

  1. Doing some undergraduate research is not what will make an application to a US graduate school stand out. A lot of students have done this, and it is not necessarily very impressive. If you do research that is sufficiently good and sufficiently independently done then that will grab people's attention but (i) that is very rare and (ii) most undergraduates who are in a position to do that had excellent applications anyway. In your case, it sounds like your research is not going anywhere exceptional. (But you could be wrong, and this is worth talking to your advisor about.)

  2. You're right that your advisor might be disappointed. When a student strays from the path that you've laid out for them, it is usually a bit disappointing at first...but it happens frequently, and most advisors are used to it. The real question is if it's disappointing enough to have a real negative effect on you (or your advisor, but I am less worried about that), and the way to find out is to ask. It is much better to ask than to just stick with something that you don't like, I think.

  • I just asked my advisor if I could drop the project and instead read a few graduate texts. She happily agreed to that. Thank you, especially for comparing reading graduate texts to doing a not very ambitious project as an undergrad. – user340001 Sep 20 '16 at 6:18
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Well, I believe you should not quit your research right now. In my opinion what you said about your research situation was very good. You should know that the purpose of B.Sc. project and research is to get familiar with research world and to do something real in the Correct Way.

I think a helpful, devoting professor is like a gold in these situations. She can help you throw your bright future. It does not mean you should stick to this field for the rest of your life! Take it as a start for your future more professional research experiences.

Also, you can talk to her about different fields which you like. She may find you a combined nice problem to work on.

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Can't you do both? You may be able to do the reading and work on the project.

If you dislike your project, then try speaking with your advisor/mentor. You never know if they might be able to help you find something more aligned with your interests.

Aslo, I would say that for undergraduate research, it isn't really about your project, but more about getting some experience, networking, and resume building.

But like I say in most of my answers on this website: try talking to your mentor about this issue!

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