Extracurriculars & Summer Opportunities
- Haverford Society of Physics Students
- Genders Underrepresented in Astronomy and Physics (GUAP)
- Jolt (Haverford’s STEM Magazine)
- Women in STEM
- Racism, Science, and Health Book Club
- Underrepresented Minorities in STEM
Getting involved with research at Haverford is meant to be easy, but you will need to take some initiative! If there is a professor whose research interests you, reach out to them to learn more about what they do and how you can contribute to their research! Don’t be intimidated by the research descriptions! Most if not all of the Haverford students that end up working on those research projects usually had no idea what those descriptions meant. If you are interested in doing any form of research, reach out to the professors and arrange a session to listen to them talk about their research project. Try to read their papers and/or learn a bit about their field before you talk to them. You don’t have to completely understand the paper! A helpful tip is to read the abstract as well as the conclusion. They usually provide you with the gist of the research as well as the possible extensions for further research. If you don’t understand the terms/concepts that they used in their paper, it would be a great conversation starter when you reach out to them to learn more about the research opportunities in their lab!
Example email to professor about research:
Subject: Learning About Opportunities in Your Research Group
Dear Professor ___,1
My name is [insert name] and I am a [insert class year] in the physics and astronomy department with a major in ___ and ___ minors/concentrations. [Perhaps you say a bit more about yourself here, if you want to. But keep it short!] I am very interested in the research you are doing in your lab. In particular, I was excited by your work with ___ because of my interest in ___. I’ve already looked at your website, and I’d love to learn more about your research and how I can get involved. What would be the best way to go about this? If a meeting is the best way to proceed, here are a few times that I’m free: ___. I can propose other times if those don’t work for you!
Thanks so much,
- Most professors in the physics department go by their first names, but if you don’t know for sure what a particular professor prefers, “Professor ___” is always a safe bet. If they respond to your email and sign off with their first name, you can address them that way in the future!
Physics/Astro Summer Opportunities
Other departments may also have physics-related research (e.g. Rob Manning in the math department), so feel free to browse the research of professors in other departments as well. Calvin Barrett '22 also put together a Crash Course Guide to Penn!
Secure Your Funding
If you want to get involved with summer research at Haverford, you will need to get funding! The two most commonly used funding sources are the KINSC Summer Scholars funding, which comes from the KINSC and is divided among the STEM disciplines, and the physics department funding, which comes from the physics department and the professors’ individual grants. You should also check the Center for Career and Professional Advising's College Funding for Summer Experiences page.
KINSC Summer Scholars Funding
The Student Research Funding page includes information about the KINSC Summer Scholars program as well as some other sources of KINSC-related funding. The application is lengthy and requires you to have details about the research you will be doing, so give yourself plenty of time before the deadline!
Physics/Astro Research Opportunities
The Summer Research Opportunities page explains how to learn about, apply to, and get departmental funding for physics research positions.
Note: There’s really no formal application for physics summer research at Haverford! There’s a quick form you fill out with basically just your name and which professors you’re interested in working with. Many professors will ask to meet with you to discuss their research. This is not an interview! This meeting is to help you; it is your chance to learn more about their research and see if it would be a good fit. The only preparation you should do for this meeting is to visit the professor’s website and read (and probably not understand, which is ok!) the description of their research, and think of a couple questions you’d like to ask.
If you want to do research in the physics department over the summer, you should apply for BOTH KINSC Summer Scholars funding and physics department funding (as well as other funding sources if they apply to you). This may feel odd as you’re applying since the KINSC Summer Scholars application requires you to commit to one professor, while the physics department allows you to have multiple choices. The KINSC Summer Scholars decisions will come out before the physics department decisions, so this setup gives you a better chance of getting funding from somewhere through these two rounds of decisions. If this is your first time receiving KINSC funding, you have a good chance of getting funding, but it is far from guaranteed, so applying to off-campus opportunities as well is a good idea!
Off-Campus Summer Research
How to Cold Email
- Ask Haverford professors and see if they know anyone in the field that they can connect you with. It would greatly increase your odds of getting a positive response. Professors in the Tri-Co/Quaker Consortium also tend to be more responsive especially if they have previously worked on a senior thesis with a Haverford student
- Definitely read papers from professor/lab and pinpoint areas that you are interested in and want to explore further (connect with things you have learned in class)
- Attach resume (highlight skills relevant to specific labs)
- Attaching a recommendation letter from a Haverford professor or other relevant person could help, but is not necessary
- Be clear about your availability (daily, # of weeks, can you participate over several summers?)
- Email several professors!!
This timeline will help you determine when to Reach Out to Profs and apply to REUs.
- Fall Break
- Go through the list of research programs/opportunities and put down the ones that you are interested in on a spreadsheet. It is perfectly fine to have a lot on your list for now. Try to do this during Fall Break!
- While you are doing that, create columns to take down the deadlines, whether they need 2 or 3 letters of recommendation, whether they need an official transcript, what kind of application essays/questions they have, etc. This will make it easier for you to identify similar essay questions/prompts that you can categorize and work on them together.
- Most summer applications open October—November and close January-February.
- One Month Before the Deadline
- Try to get in touch with 2-3 professors one month before the deadline to ask them for letters of recommendation.
- Create a spreadsheet that lists down all the deadlines so that the professors will know when the deadlines are.
- A Few Days Before the Deadline
- Send reminder emails to the professors a few days before the deadline to remind them to upload their letters. It is your responsibility to ensure that all materials are ready.
Note: some research programs require you to have an official transcript! Make sure you go through the list of required materials and obtain the official transcript from the Office of Registrar!
Even if you were to wind up with no concrete summer opportunities, you can still have an incredibly productive summer. Almost all physics research projects require students to know some programming. It would make you a much more competitive candidate for research assistantships next summer if you were to pick up some programming skills in the summer. You don’t have to become an expert programmer! It would be super helpful to learn how to code in Python! Useful Python stuff to learn include numpy and scipy for Scientific Computing as well as matplotlib for plotting figures! You can also apply the programming language that you have learned on some personal Scientific Computing projects! An example would be using Scipy and Mayavi to simulate the Thomson Problem! It would be super impressive if you could write in your research assistantship application that you have taught yourself how to program and share with them the code for your personal project!