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Should I pursue a senior project that exposes me to a new area of physics or one that is more in line with what I believe I'll want to do as a career?

Currently, I don't have a clear idea as to what I want to do after graduation. I'll definitely apply to PhD programs, but I don't know what field I want to specialize in. Right now I'm most interested in optics, laser physics, and math.

For my senior project, I'm tasked with choosing a research advisor I'll work with for my final year of undergrad.

The first professor is amazing. We have a great relationship, and I know I'll have an excellent experience working with him. His project deals with a field I'm interested in but don't have experience with. We would work with nanomaterials and fabrication - a lot of hands on lab skills.

The other professor seems super cool. I don't know him at all, but his project deals with optics, lasers, and orbital mechanics. He's also working in collaborations with aerospace companies I'm interested in.

I'm learning toward the first prof because chemistry with your advisor is so important since you'll be working with them for a whole year. I'll also be taking electives and labs in optics next year so it's not like I'll be missing out on the material. And at the end of the day, I think exploring options is the goal of the undergrad experience.

Am I making the right choice?

math college capstone senior-project undergrad phd undergraduate optics last-physics microelectronic-engineering engineering physics research research-advisor

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Subject: Career question for you

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4 answers


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Lyndsay’s Answer

You will spend so much time on this that I'm inclined to advise you to choose the placement within the field you're wanting to work in later. I learned everything I know about my current job from working in that field in my internship my final semester. Chemistry with a teacher is great but it just needs to be someone you like and the more important thing is the experience you gain in your field as opposed to the relationships you make.
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Paige’s Answer

I am not in a science-based role but I can tell you that you can learn from any experience, even if it isn't what you think you want to do in the future. There is a lot of value in learning about what you don't like because it will help you to realize what you do want in future positions. Any experience is good experience and I would encourage you to pick the option that you will learn the most in. Best of luck and hope this helps!
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Simeon’s Answer

Choose the advisor you have a better relationship with. It's no use having a more appropriate advisor if you're not comfortable talking to or reaching out to them. You'll want someone you're excited about connecting with. Plus, I would imagine that you could still ask the other advisor for references even if they're not your advisor specifically. I'd recommend choosing the first professor, but reaching out to the other professor as well and developing a rapport with them. See if ya'll get along better than you might at first think.
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Russel’s Answer

You will spend so much time on this that from my own experience and misteaks I would advise you to choose the placement within the field you're wanting to work in later. BUT - always be aware and curious - I learned everything I know about my current job from working in Artifical Intellegence during my internship in my final semester. Chemistry with a teacher is great but it is (to me) a limited job future - and really noy exciting for a young bright person like you - just be cautious before you commit! The most important thing is the experience you gain in your field as opposed to the relationships you make.

Russel recommends the following next steps:

Really nail down the total requirements
Keep exploring and be curious
The computer world is exciting and pays really well
With a MBA and higher - major companies will quickly hire you and not as an intern
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