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I am a first-year undergraduate student and I am looking to do summer research in physics. By the time I finish this year I will have completed intro courses in Mechanics, Electricity and Magnetism, Optics and Thermodynamics. I will also have finished a rigorous sequence of single and multivariable calculus (basically an intro course to Real Analysis). What areas of physics have a decent amount of ongoing research in them but that I can develop a "working knowledge" fairly easily. I do not mind at all learning this on my own or learning additional math that is needed.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Norbert Schuch, Qmechanic Dec 30 '18 at 20:23

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ There's a lot of research in the study of the atomic nucleus. Some parts of nuclear physics can be understood easily. Others require lots of QM and more advanced things. My advice is: don't try to run. If you want to be a researcher, you need good marks and lots of knowledge. Start from the beginning: algebra, calculus... $\endgroup$ – FGSUZ Dec 30 '18 at 20:16
  • $\begingroup$ Realistically, if you insist on doing research that early, the area doesn't actually matter -- you will end up programming or being an experimentalist's assistant. Just about all fields have such opportunities, so just go for what interests you. $\endgroup$ – knzhou Dec 30 '18 at 20:22
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    $\begingroup$ If there were easy lines of inquiring someone would already be working on them. That said, there are things that students can do in experimental and observational science. Scut work: Repetitive work that requires some understanding but does not require a fully skilled researcher. Calibration: many (but not all) calibration tasks can be done by a trusted student on the basis of physics handed to them by a supervisor. Programing: Most tasks need lots of domain specific knowledge, but there are always a few odds and ends if you are already a competent programmer. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Dec 30 '18 at 20:31
  • $\begingroup$ @dmckee too many people repeatedly forget your point. $\endgroup$ – ZeroTheHero Dec 30 '18 at 20:33
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    $\begingroup$ I would suggest" researching" your second year subjects, assuming you pass first year. Or simply try to understand some everyday things you see in terms of what you know. Pick something you see at random everyday and try and explain it and model it using what you know. Forget research. $\endgroup$ – StephenG Dec 30 '18 at 20:43