Undergraduate Research Experiences at EIU


Calculators and computers are staples of any data analysis. These students are taking a moment to run the calculations on the data they just recorded. (Photo by Jay Grabiec)

The Department of Physics has several active research programs that students can participate in. These programs give students the opportunity to be mentored in the process of research, often in a one on one setting. The student and the faculty member tackle open ended research questions. This often results in papers presented at local, regional, or national meetings and occasionally it results in a paper publication in a major journal.

To take advantage of this opportunity the student should first determine the area that interests them out of the research opportunities at EIU. Then the student should contact the faculty member and request the project. The faculty member and the student should agree on the details of the project and then go to the Physics department office to do the paperwork to make the class happen. First-time students usually sign up for PHY 2600 and students with previous mentoring experience often sign up for PHY 4600.

The mentoring relationship can be one of the best educational experiences a student can have. Studying a field in more detail than covered in classes is rewarding and enlightening. But learning the process of research is important for all majors and especially for Physics majors. The steps that are typically followed begin with developing the questions then move to literature searches followed by attacking the problem which is never as simple as it would at first seem so then one works on solving the difficulties with new approaches and finally it is important to communicate your findings by presenting the results of the work.

All students are encouraged to find a research group and become an active member of that group. This experience will integrate your classes with further study to bring together the subject in new and different ways for you. You will learn how to attack problems for which there is currently no solution. You will learn methods and approaches to new material that will help in solving any problems. Your personal and professional growth will be accelerated through this experience.

Students can go off campus to participate in research during the summer months. They are encouraged to apply for and go to REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) programs at major research institutions around the country. For more information on programs and timing of the process see the REU Web page.

Don’t miss this opportunity!