Research adviser question.

For the discussion of math. Duh.

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Who should I choose to direct my research?

The Professor
7
64%
Post-doc
4
36%
 
Total votes: 11

B.Good
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Research adviser question.

Postby B.Good » Tue Jul 05, 2011 1:34 am UTC

I'm interested in continuing doing some of my summer (undergraduate) research into the semester. The problem is that there are two potential advisers from which to choose and I need help deciding.

One is a professor (from now on just called "professor" or "The professor") who is in charge of the research I'm doing now (though he spends a lot of time overseas). He is a very well respected mathematician, he was invited to speak at the most recent international congress of mathematicians and he is spending a lot of time overseas because of conferences to which he was invited.

Some problems are that if he were to direct my research this upcoming semester I don't know how much help he'll be; this is by no means that he's a bad lecturer or teacher but he seems to overestimate my competence by quite a bit. Also, he is working on a project right now for my current research (not the project that I will be working on) and it appears that a lot of it is putting his code together and I'm not sure whether he'll make me do the same thing. The professor will be out of the country next spring so there will be a loss of continuity with the research. Also if I want to do research elsewhere next summer, say an REU and I need a recommendation, I will feel some guilt about asking him for a recommendation instead of working for him again, I know I shouldn't but that's kind of how I am. Since this is a relatively minor issue, I won't be listing this as a pro or a con.

Pros: Well respected mathematician and could possibly give me some interesting problems to work on and/or think about.

Cons: Research could possibly be mundane, he sometimes teaches beyond my knowledge, and a loss of continuity in research is inevitable.

My other option is a post-doc who, after glancing through some of his papers, is also very knowledgeable of subjects that interest me. He has previously directed undergraduate research and taught a very well received course so I know that he will probably not lecture above me, so to speak. That said, he will probably still push me which I see as a plus. His post-doc position also ends next spring so there will be no loss of continuity in research, at least this year. Also, even if he makes me do some programming work, it probably won't be fixing his code so the project he gives me will probably be more interesting. Also since his post-doc ends before next summer I wouldn't have any problems about asking him for a recommendation should I choose to do research elsewhere next summer.

Pros: More likely to have interesting problems, no loss of research continuity, teaches more at my level.
Cons: This isn't really a con but it's just that he is not as well an established mathematician as the professor.

After typing this it seems that the post-doc is a better option, but I am still curious about what you have to say (yes, you specifically). Thanks for reading this and any replies.

masher
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Re: Research adviser question.

Postby masher » Tue Jul 05, 2011 2:44 am UTC

Putting little thought into this, I'd go with the post-doc.

I'm assuming you're going to try and publish? The postdoc would probably push you more in this regard, as he will also get his name on any papers too; a bonus for them.

You would still be able to ask the prof for a recommendation as you still did research with him during the semester.

B.Good
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Re: Research adviser question.

Postby B.Good » Tue Jul 05, 2011 3:22 am UTC

masher wrote:Putting little thought into this, I'd go with the post-doc.

I'm assuming you're going to try and publish? The postdoc would probably push you more in this regard, as he will also get his name on any papers too; a bonus for them.

You would still be able to ask the prof for a recommendation as you still did research with him during the semester.

Thanks for the input, I didn't even think about publishing, consider that another plus for the post-doc! Regarding asking the professor for a recommendation, it's not that I don't think I spent enough time with him to ask for a recommendation, it's a kind of shame that makes me afraid to effectively say "Hey, instead of working for your project, can you help me get research doing a similar thing elsewhere?" I know I probably shouldn't feel this way, but I do. Since the post-doc, although affiliated with the research group last summer, is only very loosely affiliated to it this summer, and won't at all next summer so I won't have that fear.

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Re: Research adviser question.

Postby skeptical scientist » Tue Jul 05, 2011 7:44 am UTC

If you're planning to apply to grad schools in math, I'd go with the professor. He will be much more helpful when applying to graduate schools, and could help you get into a top university.

If you think you will end up as co-author of a paper if you work with the postdoc and not the professor, this will be less true, because the paper could help as much as the recommendation. But bear in mind that the postdoc needs to publish his own research to get his next job, so may not have time to write a paper with an undergrad.
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dedalus
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Re: Research adviser question.

Postby dedalus » Tue Jul 05, 2011 1:51 pm UTC

Honestly, it sounds like you're probably better off with the post-doc. Inasmuch as the extra bit of recommendation would be nice, you'll probably learn more from the post-doc in terms of how to think and how to research well. That being said, I'm not exactly sure as to how much weight to put on the recommendation, but if you've got a chance of publication that would trump anything your professor could say.
doogly wrote:Oh yea, obviously they wouldn't know Griffiths from Sakurai if I were throwing them at them.

B.Good
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Re: Research adviser question.

Postby B.Good » Tue Jul 05, 2011 9:22 pm UTC

skeptical scientist wrote:If you're planning to apply to grad schools in math, I'd go with the professor. He will be much more helpful when applying to graduate schools, and could help you get into a top university.

If you think you will end up as co-author of a paper if you work with the postdoc and not the professor, this will be less true, because the paper could help as much as the recommendation. But bear in mind that the postdoc needs to publish his own research to get his next job, so may not have time to write a paper with an undergrad.

Damn, just when I thought my decision would be easy, you of all people had to suggest the opposite of what I was thinking :lol: . Because of this post and the people in the poll seem to drastically support the professor, I am definitely now leaning towards asking the professor to direct my research.

I guess while I'm at it I should ask one more question. Would it be better to stick with one project for a long time, do a few REU's, or does it not really matter? I like the research I'm doing now and I'm learning a lot, however, it seems that a lot of it is writing code to visualize already well known phenomena. I once heard from a senior physics student that it is more impressive to grad schools to have worked at one place at a long time rather than multiple places. On the other hand, if I were to participate in an REU, it appears that I may have a better shot at publishing something (assuming I get in, of course, which I admit is rather presumptuous). Does anyone have any input regarding this?

gorcee
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Re: Research adviser question.

Postby gorcee » Tue Jul 05, 2011 9:28 pm UTC

skeptical scientist wrote:If you're planning to apply to grad schools in math, I'd go with the professor. He will be much more helpful when applying to graduate schools, and could help you get into a top university.

If you think you will end up as co-author of a paper if you work with the postdoc and not the professor, this will be less true, because the paper could help as much as the recommendation. But bear in mind that the postdoc needs to publish his own research to get his next job, so may not have time to write a paper with an undergrad.


Also consider that the process for publishing a paper is very lengthy. You don't just email a journal and say, "publish please!" It is not unheard of to have a paper take 24 months from submission to actual publication, and this depends greatly on the journal, the reviewer comments, editing, resubmission, etc.

If you're looking to go to grad school, I wouldn't assume that any research that you might do will be published prior to your application deadline. Depending on how far out that deadline is, I wouldn't even stake money on the paper being accepted for publication in that timeframe.

B.Good
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Re: Research adviser question.

Postby B.Good » Tue Jul 05, 2011 9:44 pm UTC

gorcee wrote:Also consider that the process for publishing a paper is very lengthy. You don't just email a journal and say, "publish please!" It is not unheard of to have a paper take 24 months from submission to actual publication, and this depends greatly on the journal, the reviewer comments, editing, resubmission, etc.

If you're looking to go to grad school, I wouldn't assume that any research that you might do will be published prior to your application deadline. Depending on how far out that deadline is, I wouldn't even stake money on the paper being accepted for publication in that timeframe.


I know that the publication process isn't immediate, especially after seeing some faculty list a few papers on their website that say "Submitted for publication to journal x", but 2 years? I had no idea. Although I would still imagine that an application for a grad school that said a paper was submitted for publication at some journal would still be somewhat competitive, or at least more so than an application which doesn't have that or is that not completely right?
Last edited by B.Good on Wed Jul 06, 2011 9:11 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Research adviser question.

Postby skeptical scientist » Tue Jul 05, 2011 11:16 pm UTC

B.Good wrote:I know that the publication process isn't immediate, especially after seeing some faculty list a few papers listed on their website that say "Submitted for publication to journal x", but 2 years? I had no idea. Although I would still imagine that an application for a grad school that said a paper was submitted for publication at some journal would still be somewhat competitive, or at least more so than an application which doesn't have that or is that not completely right?

If you can't say it was accepted, the mere fact that a paper was submitted will not mean much, since anyone can submit anything. If the paper is still being refereed when you apply, you could still write about it in your admissions package. Say something about what the research was about, what you discovered, and what you learned from the experience, and that will certainly count for something. If you can ask someone involved in graduate admissions decisions, they'd be able to say a lot more about how various things weigh when considering who to accept (although that can vary from place to place and person to person). But I know for a fact that if you can get a strong letter of recommendation from a respected mathematician, that will count for a lot.
I'm looking forward to the day when the SNES emulator on my computer works by emulating the elementary particles in an actual, physical box with Nintendo stamped on the side.

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skullturf
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Re: Research adviser question.

Postby skullturf » Tue Jul 05, 2011 11:25 pm UTC

skeptical scientist wrote:If you can't say it was accepted, the mere fact that a paper was submitted will not mean much, since anyone can submit anything. If the paper is still being refereed when you apply, you could still write about it in your admissions package. Say something about what the research was about, what you discovered, and what you learned from the experience, and that will certainly count for something.


All true.

Note that it's common for undergrads applying for grad school to have no submitted papers whatsoever, so it's definitely at least worth mentioning.

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Re: Research adviser question.

Postby ++$_ » Wed Jul 06, 2011 1:26 am UTC

"<Title>: Submitted" probably means something, but not much. However, when your letters of recommendation from established mathematicians mention that it is a really good paper that is likely to be accepted, that means more.

I did undergraduate research with a postdoc. It was a pretty good experience. The only thing I would want to be careful about is that you will want to get at least two of your recommendations from professors, and it might be good to build a better rapport with them rather than with postdocs.

masher
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Re: Research adviser question.

Postby masher » Wed Jul 06, 2011 4:18 am UTC

gorcee wrote:Also consider that the process for publishing a paper is very lengthy. You don't just email a journal and say, "publish please!" It is not unheard of to have a paper take 24 months from submission to actual publication, and this depends greatly on the journal, the reviewer comments, editing, resubmission, etc.


2 years! What/where are you publishing?!

My last paper took 6 months from submission to acceptance and that was an eternity. 2-3 months is more the norm in my area.

If it took that long to get it into a journal I'd wonder whether it would be worth the effort...

Jyrki
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Re: Research adviser question.

Postby Jyrki » Wed Jul 06, 2011 5:05 am UTC

:) In the olden days (90s just called) all reputable journals had a backlog of close to one year. The most prestigeous ones had 2-3 years, but, alas, yours truly had nothing to do with those.

While I'm at it, and my inner grumpy old man hasn't had enough coffee, I need to get something off my chest. I really hate it when these automated review systems send you e-mails like: "your review is two weeks overdue", or "your deadline for submitting a revision to your (tentatively accepted) paper just expired, so we consider the paper withdrawn". All according to some frigging time stamp. Come on, robots! We have teaching duties. Yeah, I will give you a review of this 60 page manuscript in six weeks, but the counter starts, when I'm done with this semester's load. A friendly reminder e-mail from the editor, written in person, is the way to go.

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dedalus
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Re: Research adviser question.

Postby dedalus » Wed Jul 06, 2011 5:48 am UTC

2 years possibly includes multiple rejections from some journals before being published imo...

Just for the record, ultimately the best thing to do is go with your heart - both options are good options, and the main thing is to not be sitting there during a lull in your research going 'I really should have taken the other one'.
doogly wrote:Oh yea, obviously they wouldn't know Griffiths from Sakurai if I were throwing them at them.

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Re: Research adviser question.

Postby ++$_ » Wed Jul 06, 2011 6:59 am UTC

Some journals are slow. Others are fast. The range is enormous, from less than 3 months to more than 2 years.

Your adviser can tell you which ones are which.

DavCrav
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Re: Research adviser question.

Postby DavCrav » Wed Jul 06, 2011 10:36 am UTC

As this is a maths forum, I'm thinking maths journals here:

Ann of Math: 2-4 years is standard from submission to print.
Invent Math: has an 18-month backlog, from appearing online to print.
Math Z: 15 month backlog (my paper appeared in print last month, online in March 2010).
Advances in Math: not heard anything at all yet, it's been six months.
Proc Lond Math Soc: has about a six-month backlog, takes about a year to referee.
Trans Amer Math Soc: refereeing was quick, YMMV, but been accepted for a couple of months now, but not online yet.
J Algebra: very quick turnaround, ten weeks from acceptance to print.
J Pure Appl Algebra: referee got bored, and had to be chased by the editor, in total 2 years, maybe more.

Take the Math Z article: submitted December 2008, appeared in print June 2011. Two years for a presitigious journal (Math Z is fairly prestigious) is standard.

gorcee
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Re: Research adviser question.

Postby gorcee » Wed Jul 06, 2011 1:22 pm UTC

Even the American Mathematical Monthly (which, as it turns out, is not actually monthly) has what appears to be at least an 18 month delay. Often times, in the "about the authors" section of a paper, you will see something like, "Professor so and so is a professor at such and such. This work was performed while Jimmy Smith was an undergraduate student of Professor so and so and is now a graduate student at University of Some Other Place."

And the AMM is certainly a respectable publication, but is by no means an outlet for, shall we say, the cutting edge of mathematics.

Jyrki
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Re: Research adviser question.

Postby Jyrki » Wed Jul 06, 2011 1:34 pm UTC

dedalus wrote:2 years possibly includes multiple rejections from some journals before being published imo...

No. Two years for the usual cycle. Review, accept with minor revisions, revise, wait, get galley proofs, wait some more.

I guess it depends heavily on the field. [Edit]Removed a passage were I was being an ass. Sorry about that[/Edit]


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