Get on a Research Project Right Away
"As soon as I realized I was interested in astronomy, I went to the undergraduate advisor and asked to get on a research project. I was pretty naïve at the time and don’t think I said anything more specific than that. But it was ok; he connected me with Professor Jon Miller, and we got right to work. That’s how I realized I could do this as a career.
At some places this might be intimidating, but not at Michigan. The department is very small, friendly, and helpful toward undergraduates — and they really encourage you to get involved in research since that’s what you’ll ultimately be doing. Also, the program is small enough that students don’t have to compete for research projects; there are more than enough choices.
Doing research is essential for getting into graduate school, and it’s even better to have a publication come out of it. It shows you can be given a project and go through the entire research process from the beginning through playing around with the data to finding something, assessing the implications, and writing it up in a way someone else could repeat. That’s very hard, and I couldn’t have done it alone. But my advisor walked me through it, making it clear how important this was for getting into graduate school and winning fellowships.”
— Greg Salvesen, BS/Michigan Astro '09