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I am a pre-final year undergrad student of computer science. I am interested in getting into research. I have already done some research, but it has not been very formal, and I have not been able to devote a lot of time to it due to college coursework.

In my final year of college, my university allows me to pursue my undergrad thesis at any university / research institute where I can find a professor willing to advise me. I have been able to find such a professor in Germany, who is willing to advise me for 8 months, and his group is very relevant to the kind of research I want to pursue in future.

However, the problem is that the institute is not very well known, at least in my country. But the Google Scholar profile of the professor is decent enough. The group in which I'll be working does seem to be doing good work, although the project assigned to me currently is one on which just a single researcher is working. Also, what surprised me a little was that the researcher is just a master, she doesn't even have a PhD yet. But the work being done by her seems to be good enough and state-of-the-art.

Another criterion by which people suggested I can judge the state of a project is the funding. If a project is well-funded, it probably means it is in good shape and is going somewhere. Well, I don't know about the funding of the project exactly, but they are offering me quite a large stipend which points to the fact that they are not exactly low on funding. Also, many of my friends have applied for theses abroad and have found that obtaining a funded position for an undergrad is very hard. Considering I have a well-funded position is probably a good sign then, right?

How else can I go about evaluating this opportunity? Are the things mentioned above important to factor into this decision? Any other points I should consider?

  • You write "In my final year of college" did you mean 'university' in place of 'college'? – user2768 Nov 20 '17 at 16:33
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    I'm sorry, I come from a place where we use the terms 'college' and 'university' interchangeably. By college/university I mean my bachelors (undergraduate) program. So final year of college means my final year of the undergrad computer science program. – James Bond Nov 20 '17 at 16:50
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    @JamesBond Your original post is okay. "college" and "university" are often used interchangeably. – Richard Erickson Nov 20 '17 at 17:04
  • They aren't used interchangeably everywhere, hence my question, which is worth clarifying because answers will deviate considerably if the OP meant another meaning of college. – user2768 Nov 20 '17 at 17:25
  • If it's a public university in a decently-sized city and it has university status as defined by german law it's probably fine. I haven't been back home in a while but IME we don't really go in for rankings that much, everyone I know chose their university mostly based on location. There are some individual departments that are stand-outs in their specific area, but universities overall are assumed to be pretty much decent. I don't know that we have any "superstar" universities like Harvard or anything... – nengel Nov 21 '17 at 1:55
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Master's

Someone doing his PhD in Germany typically has a Master's. So, it's not a sign of a failed PhD or something. And you genuinely don't need a PhD to do world-class research, even if it would be a sign you have more experience with a degree.

So, din't worry about the research assistant not having a PhD, rather think if he/she is good in his/her research area. From your question I infer that this particular PhD student is good.

Funding

As for funding, there are two possibilities: the student assistant rates (which are typically around 8/10 Euro/hour for up to 80 hours/month) or a research/teaching assistant position. They are stacked after having/not having a Master's, the typical rates are E12 and E13. You can google the the rate in corresponding federal county ("Bundesland").

An easier way is to look for third-party projects at the website of the professor / his group.


Update:

Rankings

There are multiple university rankings out there. Something like CHE focuses on German universities and splits up based on the major. You might want to look that school up.

Costs of living

A German university imposes a rather small (bureaucratic) fee. It's not the tuition typical for US universities, but rather like 200-250 Euros in a semester, i.e. half a year. It brings a cheaper food in mensa and a bus ticket with it. This would not put a huge dent into your finances, but you'd need to consider it.

However, the costs of renting a flat / a room in a shared flat and medical insurance can be rather high and range from 150 to 500 Euros for living and 80-250 Euro for insurance. You would find rental costs in your typical website for renting (I am actively avoiding ads here). The insurance is probably stated in university's checklist for foreign students.

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