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research experience on CV


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Hi all,

I am currently applying for Ph.Ds. I have contacted a professor from my current (Masters) University about helping out with research and boosting the experience on my application. I have met with her once and we agreed to do a project together. Obviously by the time I send off applications (soon) I will not have accomplished much with her. How should I present this experience on my CV? I have put something under my research experience heading saying something like "Sep 2010 - Research Assistant at XX Lab, currently planning a project with Prof. X regarding....". I am worried that this is slightly disingenuous as I haven't started the research yet. I wasn't planning to add this to my SOP - do you guys think it would look conspicuous if I left out this information on my SOP but added it in my cv?


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There are still three months before most applications deadlines so you might have more to report by then, but I don't think it'll raise any red flags if you choose to talk about more meaningful experiences in your SOP than one that just started and hasn't reached any reportable conclusion yet. You definitely should add this project to your CV, and if you get a LOR from this professor then this experience would also be mentioned in one of your letters. A professor can talk about your initiative and skills without there already being a significant finding from the project, and that report will still be very helpful to you.

What it is exactly that you do in this project? The way you described me think that you might be doing an independent project supervised by professor X, but your description was "RA in lab ..."; if you're joining an existing project then there should already be a description of it somewhere or other and you can use that. Otherwise I'd say something like "working on a project in [field Y], with/supervised by (as the case may be) [Prof X]". Hopefully you will be able to refine that statement to a more concrete research question or set of experiments that you will be working on by the time you have to submit your application. I think that "planning a project" makes it sound like you're not actually doing anything yet, and you want to avoid that implication. Don't worry about seeming disingenuous-- everybody knows that there's only so much you can do in a new project in just a few weeks, and it's not like you're reporting false findings or anything. Once you get involved in a project, even if it's only in the brainstorming stage, I think it's entirely legitimate to say you're working on that project.

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