Research Experience Recommendations


2017 REU Scholar suggestions related to making the most out of your Research Experience:

Suggestions from scholars based on FAU’s Harbor Branch campus

  • Take advantage of the resources around you! Don’t be afraid to ask for help from not only your mentor, but also everyone around you. Graduate students and the employees at HBOI have a ton of knowledge that you can easily apply to your work.
  • Stay diligent on your project and get going as early as possible. Ten weeks is a short amount of time for a research project and to yield the best results, don’t lose your pace of work half-way through the summer.
  • Be excited to work on projects that you know might actually be deployed in the field. You might even get to deploy it!
  • REGARDING TO RESEARCH HABITS: DON’T wait until the last minute to ask questions – even if you feel intimidated because the mentors we work with are extremely intelligent, work with them and other people in the department! They want to help you. Doesn’t matter what you do or do not know – even if it’s a stupid question, don’t be afraid to reach out and completely understand your project – it helps make the final presentation a walk in the park. I still talk about my project to people at school (especially professors), and understanding the little things goes a long way.
  • Don’t forget to start your papers and presentation early. It creeps up on you (as do many deadlines) – but the summer goes by SO FAST, so get a planner that will organize what’s due and what can wait. Definitely start the Powerpoint as you go through your research. You can delete slides in the end, but it’ll be harder to add them.
  • Stay on top of your game. As you do research, nothing is guaranteed or planned for sure—I know we had some interns that experienced major changes in their experiments that weren’t supposed to happen. Something we also don’t plan for is computer malfunctioning. Buy a USB drive or a Box account – we may not think about saving things to an external drive on the daily, but it’s 100% worth it. You don’t want to lose the progress you make.
  • Talk to your mentor before the program starts. Hopefully they can provide you with material to study before you come so you can get a jump on your research. 10 weeks will fly by.
  • Learn to be independent. The mentors have other mentees and they cannot be there every time you need help. Ask your peers for help too.
  • The project is what you make it. Don’t be afraid to ask “what if” questions regarding your research. Sometimes you can go off on a tangent and create another research project that is more interesting and useful than the one you start with. A lot of professors are open to what you want to make of the project.

Suggestions from scholars based on FAU’s Boca Raton campus

  • Research roadblocks are totally normal! Always have two tasks that don’t rely on each other. If you get stuck on one and have to wait for a process to complete, another research, or a mentor you can work on the other task in the meantime. Getting a head start on your final presentation or final write up is never a bad use of time!
  • Learn from your fellow REU students. They may know a computer program or mathematical tool you aren’t familiar with. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your peers to grow your knowledge and further your project.
  • Ask your mentor how to best communicate with them and adapt to that style. Do they prefer emails, calls, meetings, or you dropping by?
  • It’s important to constantly stay in contact with your mentor. Make sure to keep your mentor updated on how the project is going, and to see if they have any suggestions on how to make improvements. It’s easy to get lost and overwhelmed if you feel like you are completely on your own.
  • Be willing to get out of your comfort zone. In order to fully take advantage of this internship, you should always be eager to try new experiences. It can help you develop as a researcher and as a person.
  • Try to develop meaningful relationships with the people you work with. Not only can they be extremely helpful to your project, but they can be kind and interesting people that can make your time at FAU far better.
  • Communicate with your mentor as soon as possible.
  • Try to meet with you mentor at least once a week to discuss your progress or any questions you might have.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you are having trouble or are stuck on something.
  • Always be on the alert when it comes to your research, look out for ideas that you may have and keep them logged down, that way you will not forget them and will be great insight when you discuss with your mentor.
  • Meet with your mentor, it is important because they will be a great guide to a successful program.
  • Assist others with their research, do not just only focus on your research, remember you’re part of a team there, take some time to see what your fellow peers are working on, it may even lead to some break through ideas.
  • Start researching into your projects before the internship begins. 10 weeks goes by extremely fast, and it is barely enough time to go through the research, planning, and execution of a project.
  • Make a connection with your mentor. Meet with them on a regular basis and ask for insight on your project and any help they could offer. These professors will go out of their way for you if you show that you are dedicated and committed student.
  • While at FAU, there is a lot of resources available to you for your research. There are a lot of professors, graduate and undergraduate students who may be doing similar research to yours. They can be a very helpful asset to you if you take the time to talk to them about your project.
  • For me, it was useful to figure out what resources I had at my disposal (3-D printer, Machine Shop, Electronics lab) as soon as possible. Create a plan that lays out weekly goals and objectives and make sure you hit those goals.
  • I was working independently and my weekly schedules forced me to stay on top of my research.
  • When in doubt contact your mentor, Prof. Van Zwieten or other interns. Help will accelerate your research and everyone is always happy to help you out.

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