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Is persuing undergrad research with my father a good idea?

EustruriaEustruria 21 replies15 threads Junior Member
Hello, I am currently a sophomore undergrad double majoring in applied mathematics (BS) and economics (BS). I intend on pursuing an economics PhD after right after college. I have been conducting research with an environmental engineering professor for a multi-year interdisciplinary project since the very start of my freshman year and finished a research assistantship with an economics professor the second semester of my freshman year. I know that undergraduate research experience is crucial for my graduate school application. My mother and father work at my university as a geography department head and research professor, respectively. My dad offered to work with me on a research project, but I am not sure how grad school admissions will look at this. After all, he is my father.
If I do work with him, will my efforts and publication be less valued by the admins because of our relationship? In other words, do you think that I should pursue research with other professors instead?
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Replies to: Is persuing undergrad research with my father a good idea?

  • happymomof1happymomof1 29997 replies181 threads Senior Member
    Have you asked your dad about this?
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  • CheddarcheeseMNCheddarcheeseMN 3543 replies11 threads Senior Member
    It sounds like you will have multiple research projects with various researchers, so one experience with your dad won't be a concern. For econ PhD programs, "some" research experience is desired but they care more about your math background, GPA and GREs, and letters in this order.
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  • astrotempastrotemp 12 replies1 threads New Member
    If you have the option to work with others then you should work with others.

    Your father simply cannot write you a letter of recommendation, so that's a big reason to put off working with him or make it a minor side gig. Plus, if your last name isn't a hugely common one and the department you apply to sees your last name in a paper author list twice (or even just on your CV where you list the experience), they will be suspicious. The problem is that your father is obviously going to be biased towards you, so even if you were kinda terrible he might chuck your name on some papers and write you a glowing letter. And it is something that undergrads do - some students do get added to papers by their parents that they haven't earned. So the committee has to be pretty wary of it.

    Aim to work with others first. You ideally want 3 people who aren't your father, all from separate projects, because that's the common number of letters you need and a research letter is better than one from a class. You can't have letters from family members, even if you work with them, so he's out.
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  • vanvalenvanvalen 39 replies6 threads Junior Member
    Agree with @astrotemp
    Aim to work with others first.
    Kind of surprised your parents are not telling you this themselves.

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  • HamurtleHamurtle 2722 replies36 threads Senior Member
    Nepotism is not a good look...
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  • juilletjuillet 12722 replies162 threads Super Moderator
    Strongly agree with astrotemp here.

    I occasionally serve as a reviewer for national fellowships, and occasionally applications come through from graduate students who have worked with their professor parents (in some cases, the professors are big names). It's difficult to fairly evaluate these submissions, because when they're working with their parents it's hard to tell how much of their accomplishments are their own and how much is their parent helping them, or representing their work as more influential than it actually is.

    This is especially true when it's undergraduates doing something that would normally be quite impressive and unusual in an undergrad (like a first-authored paper in a really big name journal). You wonder whether they got that by dint of their own work/talent or whether, as someone else put it, their parent just chucked their name on it.

    It's better to avoid casting doubt on your record by working with people who aren't related to you. And, as mentioned, your father cannot write you a letter of recommendation.
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