Undergraduate Research, Jobs

Hands using an instrument in a labThe best way to learn physics is by doing it.

Hands-on learning has always been an essential and valued part of the undergraduate experience in the physics department. It begins with the laboratory courses of the first two years (PHYS 19A, PHYS 19B, PHYS 29A). These lead to the advanced physics laboratory, PHYS 39A, in which students carry out in-depth experiments on modern topics such as laser tweezers, holography, X-ray diffraction and chaotic dynamics.

Senior Research Positions

Laboratory courses are only part of the hands-on experiences that are available to our students. Most students carry out independent research (PHYS 99D) during their senior year, which leads to writing an honors thesis and receiving an honors degree. This is usually in the context of the overall research effort of one of the research groups in the physics department and may be a continuation of work that the student has carried out in that group during the previous summer or year.

Research positions are usually paid and can be part of a student’s work-study financial aid. Over the course of their undergraduate careers at Brandeis, students are encouraged to obtain experience in two or more research groups. These jobs reinforce material from lecture courses and help students develop a wide range of practical skills. The jobs also provide undergraduates a window into the life of a graduate student who participates in cutting-edge scientific research.

These opportunities fit naturally within the initiative for experiential learning from the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences. Students can receive academic credit for one semester of a research job. This appears on the student's transcript as PHYS 93, “Research Internship.”

Students may be invited to participate in symposia organized by that office, bringing together students from many disciplines. Senior physics majors who have carried out independent research for an honors degree must present their results at the annual Physics Department Graduate and Undergraduate Student Research Symposium, named for the late professor Stephan Berko.

Summer Opportunities

Rather than working in one of the research groups in the physics department, it is possible to participate in other programs across the country. Every year, the National Science Foundation funds “Research Experiences for Undergraduates” in a wide variety of subjects and departments. The student receives a stipend and travel expenses.

Other Fellowships and Internships

There are some special scholarships and research grants available to Brandeis undergraduates.