The opportunity to work directly with faculty on research is one of the strengths of our program, and it's possible to get involved as early as Freshman year. It's a great way to see how new discoveries are made, and some students even end up with their work published in scientific journals. The skills you gain doing research will be of great benefit for future careers in science, engineering, and medicine, and even in areas such as finance and consulting.
To work on some research projects in the Department of Physics, you'll need particular physics or math or computer skills (which you acquire as you progress through your coursework), but for others, you'll simply need enthusiasm about figuring out how Nature works.
How to get started
First you need to figure out what kind of research is interesting to you and which faculty members have opportunities available. To get started on that, take a look at our Department of Physics Research page and explore what our faculty members study. Each Spring semester, we also hold information sessions at which some of the faculty members describe research opportunities in their groups. (Some of their presentations are available on-line.) Once you have an idea of what type of research you might want to do, just stop by our offices or send us email. Even if we haven't advertised an opportunity, we might have one available. We're a friendly department, and if one of us doesn't have a spot available for you, we might be able to point you to someone else who would.
The time commitment for research can vary quite a bit. It's possible to get involved informally with only a few hours per week. When you're ready for greater involvement, you can get course credit through our Independent Research courses. Over the summer, we also offer opportunities to get paid for doing research full-time.
Independent Research courses (PHYS-300-339)
Juniors and Seniors may take as many as 4 semesters of Independent Research for course credit. These courses require a time commitment of at least 10-12 hours per week, but you'll be rewarded with an opportunity to take a research project and really make it your own. That extra time will let you really delve into the physics you're exploring in a deep way, and by the end of your first semester, you'll probably even be starting to come up with your own ideas for the next direction in your research project. With each semester, you'll gain more experience, skills, and independence, and you may even get to publish your work in an international scientific journal.
In each semester of Independent Research coursework, you'll also be learning how to present your research to other scientists. The formal requirements for the written and oral presentations are described on our Physics 300 webpage. If you complete at least 2 semesters of Independent Research, you'll also be considered for Honors in Physics at the end of your Senior year.
Summer research at Georgetown and beyond
Starting as early as the summer after your Freshman year, you can get paid to do research over the summer! You can stay at Georgetown and work in one of our research groups or you can take advantage of the many summer programs at other universities and research labs across the country. Either way, it's a great chance to get some experience and maybe even make a new discovery.
- GUROP: Through the Georgetown University Research Opportunities Program you can apply for funding for a summer of research in DC.
- Georgetown Department of Physics REU: We have been awarded a grant by the National Science Foundation to conduct a Research Experiences for Undergraduates program in our department each summer.
- Beyond Georgetown: Believe it or not, scientists outside of Georgetown do research, too! There are hundreds of universities and labs across the country (and a few outside the country) which run summer programs for undergraduates. You can search for NSF-funded REU sites or search for a wider variety of programs.