Steps (2): Honors, Masters…
Your Honors or Master project should be your first contact with real research (if you don’t like it, it may be the last). This is not always obvious, for at least two reasons:
- At this stage, your initial enthusiasm has probably disappeared. The only thing you know, like good Socrates of old, is that you don’t know anything. Whence the tendency towards “filling gaps” in your knowledge, rather than setting for research and discoveries.
- There is a fear that the choice of research project may orient your career forever, whence the hesitation in going for something too specific.
These are valid concerns. My answers are:
- Some gaps will indeed be filled at some point: practice in research is actually one of the best ways to become acquainted with the basics as well. Some other gaps will sadly never be filled. In any case, the happy time where you were only asked to solve well-defined exercises is gently fading: your Honors or Master project may well be the last of such exercises.
- The choice of these projects does NOT orient your career forever.
Personal experience: my Master was in mathematical physics, my Ph.D. in experimental solid state physics, after that I became an “applied theorist” in quantum information science. Not that my career is exemplary in any way. But it shows that, with some effort and the good amount of luck, one can re-orient it.