74

Accept that what you are doing when working with undergraduate researchers is teaching and developing young scientists. Make that mental shift, and your view of productivity changes enormously. Even the very best undergraduates I've had -- students who now have R1 faculty positions or equivalent -- were time-sinks at first and break-even after a year or ...


68

One of the perks of being a college or university student is access to the faculty for academic purposes. Ph.D's become professors at community college particularly because they want to be engaged with students and their curiosity without the enormous overhead of excessive grant writing, etc. In short, they basically live to work with curious students like ...


51

Yes, it is entirely appropriate, especially if you come to them in person and just knock on their office door when they're around and ask if they can spare 5 minutes to answer a question or two. If you are nice, polite, curious and fun to talk to (and you sound like all of those things to me) they may easily end up talking to you for an hour. Busy or not, ...


36

I've had a lot of undergrads in my lab (physics). Unlike Corvus, I'd say that certainly more than half have been net positives to the group's research, and several have been very productive. The two most important things, I would say, are: A lot of direct contact and guidance -- not by email, but actual conversation -- either (ideally) from you (the PI) or ...


9

Try not to "show yourself as an active student", be it! There is really a difference in it. As an active student, you are genuinely interested in the field, you are asking question no mtter how stupid they seem, you are going an extra mile in assignments, be helpful to others (even if no one notices it), be active in students activities, ... In fact ...


9

You're asking for the impossible. Almost every mathematician with more than a few papers has had the experience of submitting a paper or circulating it as a preprint and having some relevant work they didn't know about (and are not expected to have known about) pointed out to them. If you are asking about one or two specific narrow questions or equations/...


8

If you don't ask, the odds of getting help are zero. Admittedly, even if you do ask, you're unlikely to get very far—as you mentioned, the professor doesn't know who you are, and therefore would be very unlikely to respond unless the email is written in such a way as to grab her interest. However, if you're a student attending the same institution as this ...


8

I think you're wasting too much time psychoanalyzing your professor. If the semester has already started and he has not reached out, it's fine to e-mail your professor to set up a meeting. I will advise hold on to the problem set answers for now. In the meeting, you can definitely mention the prep work you have done and you're enthusiastic about this ...


8

No one is ever a perfect student, because no such thing exists. You will make mistakes. It's a part of life and failure and errors are a fundamental part of the research process. Surving the adversity and challenges of research will make you a better researcher than doing everything "perfectly." I've seen people who try to hard to be perfect, and crumble ...


6

The OP seems to imply that it is a kind of moral failing to not be curious about everything. Plokavian's answer is good for covering why many people simply do not have the time to be curious, but I think that their answer fails to cover two points: 1) people in academia who are, to a certain extent, paid to be curious; and 2) why should everyone need to be ...


6

Talking to a dean is probably not the place to start. Independent study should normally be arranged directly between a student and a professor, so it'd be best to start by identifying a professor you'd like to work with - typically this should be someone who's taught the course before - and asking them whether they'd be willing to supervise you in an ...


5

Universities and individual departments have criteria for allowable independent study courses. One of the reasons is exactly the scenario you outline. In my department, approval will depend on whether there is "academic value" for the student. Academic value, however, is subject to interpretation. By all means, inquire with colleagues, department chair, etc....


5

Assuming that you've exhausted a reasonable degree of effort to try and understand what the author is doing, you can always just contact the author directly. There is usually contact information on the paper for the corresponding author. There have been a number of papers that I have read and needed to reach out to the authors for to get a better ...


4

I've had very productive undergraduates helping my team with software development and data input for research projects. As others have pointed out already, high productivity is not the main aim of the exercise. Obviously experienced professionals will almost always do the job much more quickly and accurately. I would even advise against focusing on ...


4

The details will certainly vary from place to place, but, as your questions suggest, what is required is not coursework per se, but knowledge of the material. The Math GRE subject test is perhaps not the most convincing way to demonstrate competence in calculus and linear algebra. Instead, you should directly negotiate with your target undergrad institution ...


4

No single strategy is likely to be optimal for all (math) searches. I would start with math key words (not symbols), both on the full web and in google scholar. You will get hits to math papers and books and stack exchange postings. Those links will suggest next steps. You can also post a request for references at math.stackexchange.com if you are specific ...


3

I have only seen one professor who does list students who completed an independent study with him on his website. However, it appears that he has a very specific goal in doing so. By looking at his website (and previously talking to him) it seems like he is trying to portray his strong motivation to instill students with real world skills by giving them ...


3

In my experience (which has been both as a student and a professor), the best way to do well in theoretical physics graduate school is to get a really good understanding of the material. That will give you the best path forward. If you try to memorize a bunch of recipes for solving all different kinds of exam problems, you are missing the forest for the ...


3

These authors wrote for a particular audience and you, as a person living in 2017, are not who they had in mind. Part of comprehending text is being able to attach it to something that provides context to the text. You probably don't have this. Before reading books such as these try reading a modern summary that also provides context. This will give you a ...


3

People learn differently and you may be an extreme (but not unusual) case. Lectures don't work for many people and, in fact, lectures are overused (IMO) in many fields. But, you can't really learn by reading either. Learning requires that you practice and otherwise reinforce whatever it is that you hear/read/see. One of the reasons that face to face ...


3

I tried out psychological help but it keeps coming over and over. First this is important. If you have received any behavioral or medical interventions you'll need to discuss with your health care providers and let them know you're not progressing. My overarching question back to you is: Have you considered aspiring to be a perfectionist in time use and ...


2

You should consider timeliness, for classes, setting up the lab, meetings, any planned activities... So get there with time to spare to be able to help sort problems that may (or will eventually) arise... That is the type of attitude that will get noticed...


2

If you study 1+3=4 hours per day I believe this is enough. Do not worry about anything. Just keep studying like this and you will reach your goal. (Which I suppose is to become an independent researcher)


2

A link to Academia is your best bet. Stay in touch with people doing research in the field of your interest in a formal setting. If you come up with a notable work you may end up co-publishing it with them. Open source is a great alternative There are many, many notable pieces of code developed (and credited to) individuals no tied to major organizations ...


2

I think there is another point that the other answers have not touched upon, and that is that people may be curious about the world around them but they need to draw the line somewhere. The OP mentions a fascination with lightning storms as an example of good curiosity. The question I would ask is: at what point is your curiosity satisfied? Maybe you're ...


2

I do think this is quite general among passionate students. As a former physics student and now a TA, I have seen various persons fit your description, from various academic systems, including myself to some extent. While self-motivation is great, it is important to acknowledge that curricula are designed by professors who do know best. While some courses ...


2

Let me suggest that there isn't any magic answer. Certainly not for efficiency. But a few things can help. Many (most?) such groups have some leadership. Often it is a senior professor and the group consists of other professors and some students. Often the subject of the group is the main research interest of the senior professor and others are looking ...


2

Since the other university is actually the subject of your study, then I think that the IRB of your current university is the better place to judge it. It avoids a conflict of interest within the other university. Your former colleague at the other university probably shouldn't be a co-researcher, but could be integrated into the study in another way; say ...


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