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undergraduate research

Discussion in 'General Electronics Discussion' started by afroze100, Sep 3, 2010.

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  1. afroze100


    Sep 3, 2010
    Hi everyone,
    I have completed my sophomore year of undergraduate in electronics engineering, and I plan to go for a graduate degree after my undergrad (maybe right after or after a year).

    I understand that for getting admission in a good graduate college i need to have some research experience in the field of my interest and publish paper proving my research. Now the problem is that i understand that to publish a paper in a well reputed place i need to have some novel idea in my field, but I can't understand that how can undergraduate students be expected to come up with novel workable ideas of unsolved modern day problems when there are PhD's out there researching on the same topics? Like whatever novel idea i might come up with in my own study of a topic, chances are that it's already been tested and a paper may already have been published on it by a professional researcher! So basically how can undergraduate students contribute enough to a field that they may be able to atleast publish a paper on their research.

    I figure most of you would say that the proper way to do is to get affiliated with a professor / research group of your particular field of interest and work with their team on their ideas and get co-authored in their papers. However, the problem is that there isn't very great research already going on at my college in my particular field of interest, so whatever research i do i would have to do it independently or with some other undergraduate student. Like i would be able to get help from some relevant professors or graduate students, but most of the research work (probably including the part about identifying the problem to work on) i would have to do myself.

    I should add that my interest lie in circuit designing and I am a member of a relevant research group (which is very relaxed, hence the problem :/ ) and I've previously worked on designing a fairly simple 3 stage OTA on cadence and currently I'm working on a delta-sigma ADC understanding and designing. But although these two projects have provided me a great insight into the field circuit designing, but I feel that the stuff I've done is fairly academic in nature and MANY people would already have done it before (designing and understanding how the circuit works). So that brings me to the initial question, how can I do research worthy enough to be published in a paper? =/
  2. NickS


    Apr 6, 2010
    Research worthy of getting into grad school and research worthy of academic journals are not really the same thing. If you want to be published in a reputable journal that other researchers read then you will likely have to join a professors research group and play the role you are given.

    You said no proffs at your school are doing research in your area of interest. That can be for several reasons. A few I can think of are

    (1) There is not much money in researching what you like. Thus not any real push for research in that area. I graduated from a research University and that was a common problem with scheduling some fundamental classes. They just did not have anyone to teach it because there was no research money in the area.

    (2) Every University cannot have good breadth in every area of EE. The department would be abnormally large and it would be impossible to schedule all the classes.

    (3) Perhaps you have not dug deep enough. Electronics have been around for quite a while and there has been a lot of research done already. If you want to stay with such a generic topic then you need to pinpoint one small aspect and then go to work researching how that could be improved.

    Your work will be easier if you resort to working with your proffs. They are very good at what they do best and usually only pretty good at everything else. So if you are venturing outside of your universities specialties then you are not going to have very good or meaningful support from your proffs and that will show in how long it takes you to finish properly.

    If you are interested in IC design then there are dozens of details in the process of IC manufacture that impact the functionality of your designs. You could find and explore these process limitations.
  3. afroze100


    Sep 3, 2010
    Thank you for your reply. Can you kindly elaborate more on the following statement:
    "Research worthy of getting into grad school and research worthy of academic journals are not really the same thing."
  4. Mitchekj


    Jan 24, 2010
    I believe he means that getting published with some novel, industry changing paper is well beyond the level of what you'd need to do in order to get into grad school. Grad school entry probably focuses more on potential and demonstrated understanding of your topic, rather than it's earth shaking content.

    (All pure speculation, as I've never applied to a grad school.)
  5. NickS


    Apr 6, 2010
    Exactly. If you had research worthy of professional journals at the undergraduate level then what would you really look forward to improving in your graduate studies. I am not saying you don't have to try. You still try as hard as you can but don't be sad to learn that it is not all that great. It is not uncommon for a PhD student to spend years straight(all day every day) refining their work and some of that is not journal worthy.

    If I can drive one point home without discouraging you it would be that as a sophomore in undergrad work you just don't have enough experience yet to expect that your undergrad research will be great(especially if done independant). Rather you should focus on showing that you can

    1. Recognize a problem
    2. Properly analyze the issue
    3. Develop an intelligent direction to resolve the issue
    4. Pile on the results good and bad. Have the maturity and resolve to fully describe what works AND what fails.
    5. Finally layout the next steps you think should be taken.

    If you can demonstrate those skills and convey your ideas clearly then grad schools will be able to see what you are capable of. If the grad school you want demands you are published to get in then you better think real hard about which research professor you want to work on research with in your undergrad(whether you like it or not).
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