Urgent help needed !!!!

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Discus: Individual Schools: US News Top 25: Massachusetts Institute of Technology: 2004 Archive: Urgent help needed !!!!
By Canadian (Canadian) on Tuesday, March 16, 2004 - 02:32 am: Edit

Hey guys !

This is totally off topic but I need very sincere advice.

I am a 2nd year EECS student at McGill Univ. in Canada. I am interested in doing research in Energy and Electromagnetic systems. One of my proffs who teaches Electromagnetics offered me to do research with him over the summer ( ofcourse I went to him and asked if I could do such kind of thing). Now the thing is that since this research is voluntary ( I approached him), he said he has no money to pay me. But he has lots of work for me. I accepted the offer since I need some good research experience to apply to grad school in teh US.

I told this to one of my friends. And he has been condemning my decision. He says working for 4 months without a pay is ridiculous. You'll just get to watch what he is doing and he won't let you do anything. Atleast he should pay you for basic amneties like housing and food. He says that he also went to some proff and asked for summer research position. He said that the proff told him that he won't pay him and he won't let him do any manjor work.

Now I am very confused. On my part, I believe it's what I make of this whole experience. I have never done research before adn I think, if I show passion and take initiative, the proff will obviously be interested in offering me more work. On the other hand, the things which my friend's telling me is disturbing to me.

I am in a dillema.

Please help

Thanks a lot.

By Canadian (Canadian) on Tuesday, March 16, 2004 - 04:12 am: Edit



By Collegeboarders (Collegeboarders) on Tuesday, March 16, 2004 - 05:00 am: Edit

It really depends on the prof and his attitude towards mentoring and research and how much independence he gives his undergraduates. True -- some profs exploit free interns and make them do the busy work but many times, the profs appreciate your value and you get to contribute to real research.

Personally, I would say -- in terms of doing research, you should not be doing it for the money anyway. You should be doing it to explore, understand, innovate, deal with the usual frustrations of research life... and hopefully make enough progress on your project to get a publication so that you'll be an attractive applicant to grad schools.

My own "volunteer" research experience... I volunteered as a research assistant in an EE lab and my mentor gave me TONS of freedom -- after being shown how to use the technology/equipment, I was basically left to my own devices to pursue my project. After a few months of research, I gained enough knowledge and made enough progress to win a grand prize at an int'l science fair and write a paper. And I gained A TON of experience that I have been able to use and talk about in several admission and college merit scholarship interviews.

And my research wasn't even conducted at any "top institution"... my impression of McGill is that it is the Stanford/Harvard of Canada (correct?). Thus, getting an offer to do research as an undergraduate at such a good school is very impressive and you should DEFINITELY take up the offer.

Bottom line advice -- don't listen to your friend. Although it is true that many research positions come with (minimal) stipend, it really shouldn't be a factor in your decision.

If you can survive financially without having to live in a homeless shelter during your research months, and unless you have a better (in terms of researching independence and responsibilities) offer from somewhere else, take the research position.

Often times, if you are good, then the professor asks for you again the following summer -- paid! Because the next time, he'll know for certain how productive you are... you have to start somewhere. Regardless of pay, as you well know, doing research is extremely important for admissions to college/grad school(esp. for engineering)... Start early, start now, start with this. :-)

Hope this helps.

By Canadian (Canadian) on Tuesday, March 16, 2004 - 03:31 pm: Edit

Hey thanks collegeboarders !

Btw, which univ did u attend for both undergad and grad...just curious

By Collegeboarders (Collegeboarders) on Tuesday, March 16, 2004 - 07:06 pm: Edit

Well. I'm going to assume that you are fair-minded and you won't judge me on whatever university I attended for undergrad/grad... or if I have attended one at all.

Yes, I am a high school senior right now.
I have been fortunate to have a few internships and research positions (both in industry and academia) and also know and have talked to a lot of engineering professors and industry engineers(my mentor/prof I spoke of went to MIT for grad and postdoc for EE)

As for my university... So far, my most recent admission letter has been from MIT, as of yesterday. :-) I'm waiting to hear back from about 10 more schools -- at this point, my main choice is between a (possibly) full-ride at USC and going to MIT... come April 1st, I hope I'll have a few more choices (that hopefully will include Caltech, Stanford, Duke, etc.).

Anyway, my being a high-schooler isn't a big secret or anything (I've posted several times on college admissions stuff, etc.) but I feel bad and apologize if I misled you into thinking that I was some big-university-educated adult. Technically, I'm not... yet. ;-)

Regardless, I hope that I and/or my advice hasn't lost credibility because of my age. I also hope that you don't think it presumptuous that I addressed your question -- I just happened to have been in a position somewhat similar to yours (volunteer research or no?) and I wanted to give you my personal post-decision thoughts about whether I chose correctly or not.
I dare say that many/most engineering folk would agree with my advice to you to go for that position.

Anyway, let us know what you decide!

Also -- it'd be great if I could get your expert engineering student opinion on something... How "intense" has your EECS degree been? Have you had to take more than a full schedule and do you still have a life(compared to when you were in HS or generally)??
I've been accustomed to doing pretty much nothing in terms of academic-prep during HS and I'm super worried about college because I'm sure that college and Engr. in particular is going to kick my ass if I continue my slacker ways...
Anyway, I was looking at the CECS load at USC... while even other engr. majors only take 14 - 16 credits per semester, the CECS kids are loaded with 18 credits for 3 years!
Bottom line -- could you give me your personal evaluation of how difficult your engineering degree has been and how much harder you have had to work than you did in HS??
I realize my question sounds pretty childish but I just want to get an idea (from different people) about how much of an adjustment I should be prepared for.

By Canadian (Canadian) on Wednesday, March 17, 2004 - 04:53 pm: Edit

For some reason, I wasn't able to post yesteday, it was giving me some error message...

There's no way I am doubting what you said. So what if you are a HS senior, you have experienced the same thing and are in a position to give advice. And thanks for the advice! It was wonderful. I am definitely staying here for the summer to do the research.

Hmm...about the intensity of EECS. Well, the first year was alright. It was just an extension of what you did in high school plus some new stuff. You really have a well rounded life in first year. As far as second year is concerened, this is when you learn most of the basic concepts, which you'll be using for the rest of your life, no matter what you chose to major in EE. Basically I am on a full course load plus I am doing several projects. By the end of 2nd year, I will have 5 EECS projects under my belt. I am making a search and rescue robot right now. 2nd year is hard. Hard in the sense that everything is new and you have to learn all the basic concepts from Circuit analysis to Electromagentism to Microcontrollers and Microprocessors. You'll get to learn new languages like VHDL, Matlab, Assembly Language. As far as my projects are concerned, I have applied almost all teh concepts that I have learnt in 2nd year. Well, you have to neglect your social life a bit, but I still manage to enjoy with friends and work as an undergraduate TA for the math deptt. I am not partying kind of a person. I hate the idea of getting drunk every friday night. That's not my kind of enjoyment. I love to go out with friends, try new restaurants, see new places, watch movies, talk endlessly about anything on earth...

As far as my high school is concerned, I really didn't have anything extraordinary, except the fact that I was from one of the best schools. I had perfect grades and a very good SAT score. No research experience.

I am definitely working much harder than what I did for my HS. I used to have a lot of time for ECs during high school. That time is steadily decreasing as I am getting more involved with eecs.

Yeah, I wanna get a PhD in EECS after this. MIT is my top choice. That has always been my dream school. You know any thread for graduate admissions ? Though they have the stats up on the website, I really wanna know about admission details for graduate studies at MIT. I want to prepare ahead for that. Just want to know what they expect from an undergrad when he applies for the graduate program at their institute.

Hope this gives you an insight. Feel free to shoot more questions and congrats on your admission to MIT !

By Canadian (Canadian) on Thursday, March 18, 2004 - 12:29 am: Edit


By Whizkid (Whizkid) on Friday, March 19, 2004 - 01:11 am: Edit

You can't put a price tag on everything. Go for it.

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