Get Involved in Research
There is no more authentic way of broadening your horizons in physics than through direct participation in active research. Making the jump from coursework to participation in research projects can nevertheless feel daunting. Fortunately, there are a lot of resources designed to help you navigate the process, and the SJSU Physics and Astronomy faculty are committed to the participation of SJSU undergraduates and Master's students in their research activities. The information and advice below offers some resources and advice to help smooth out the process.
Departmental Research Specializations
Among the first things you should do in deciding to seek out research opportunities is to explore the different subfields of physics in which SJSU has research expertise:
- Astronomy and cosmology
- Atomic/molecular/optical physics and quantum information
- Condensed matter
- High-energy physics
- Optics and photonics
- Physics education research
- Quantum foundations
Research interests are also listed on the Department's Faculty Directory page, organized alphabetically by faculty member, and the graduate advisor maintains a list of research projects for which faculty members are currently seeking out students.
Reaching Out to Faculty
After having narrowed your interests down to a subfield or group of faculty members, you should reach out to faculty members asking about opportunities. The best way to do this is through email, using your sjsu.edu web domain. Introduce yourself and your background (i.e., whether or not your are an undergraduate or master's student, as well as your major and prior experience), explain how you came to know about the research in which you are interested, and ask the professor if they have any openings. Typical faculty response times are on the order of one-to-three days. If you don't hear back within a week, it is appropriate to follow up. Faculty contact information can be found on the SJSU Department of Physics Faculty Directory.
Faculty preferences regarding expected levels of prior coursework vary widely depending on the professor. In some cases — particularly in relation to experimental research projects — you cannot start research soon enough. Moreover, there is no best (or worst) time of year to start exploring. Don't be shy about reaching out to ask about opportunities if you are a brand new transfer student, a sophomore, or even a first-year!
Course Credit, Stipends, and Fellowships
Research opportunities can take the form of either unpaid opportunities to earn course credit and receive workforce training or paid compensation for work.
Course credit consist of 1–5 unit enrollments during the fall and spring terms at SJSU in supervision courses (PHYS 180 for undergraduates; PHYS 297, 298, or 299 for Master's students), and are initiated by the professor overseeing your research. These credits count as electives in your major, and can be aggregated and counted toward graduation requirements.
Paid research stipends vary from faculty member to faculty member, and are highly dependent on the grants and internal funding sources that the faculty member in question has at any given point in time. Most typically, these opportunities are offered as hourly compensation arrangements set up over portions of the summer or winter terms.
Beyond the funding opportunites available through faculty member budgets, SJSU offers campus-wide and extramural student research grants and fellowships:
- Students Research Support Programs (College of Science general listing)
- Research and Innovation Student RSCA Fellowship
- SJSU Student Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity Competition
- Research Initiative for Scientific Advancement (RISE)
- McNair Scholars Program
- NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs
International students wishing to conduct on-campus research need to satisfy additional requirements in order to be eligible to conduct research outside of the normal term-time schedule. Consult with International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS).