Each summer, MSI hosts undergraduate research students from McGill and universities across the world. Thanks to the friendly community and welcoming environment of the MSI, summer undergraduate researchers gain exposure to many different research areas well beyond their own group. We also run a series of team-building events and professional development discussions during the summer. The schedule for Summer 2021 is given below (see also the 2020 Summer Program Topics).
A unique feature of the MSI summer undergraduate research program is a weekly seminar series for the undergraduate interns. The format of these weekly seminars is a casual discussion, organized by MSI Coordinator Carolina Cruz-Vinaccia and MSI postdocs, with immense help from various other MSI members. Discussion topics centre primarily around professional development, such as 'how to give effective talks', ‘how to write scientific papers’, 'applying to graduate school', and ‘pursuing non-academic careers’. We also emphasize non-academic topics that impact researchers, such as dealing with frustration, how to tackle impostor syndrome, and a workshop on diversity and inclusion in STEM (co-led by the McGill’s Women in Physics Committee).
The primary goal of this weekly seminar series is to provide guidance and mentorship for students at the earliest stage of their research careers, when they often feel lost and isolated in their work. However, an important secondary benefit of these weekly lunch seminars is to foster a sense of community amongst the undergraduate summer researchers, and ensure that they become familiar with their peers.
At the end of the summer, we organize a Summer Undergraduate Research Showcase, where undergraduate summer researchers are given the opportunity to present the results of their project to the entire MSI and Physics department. The undergraduate research projects cover a wide range of topics that reflected the diverse and interdisciplinary nature of the MSI. For example, recent projects have included algorithms to mitigate radio interference in detecting fast radio bursts using the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, optical imaging of the first merger between a neutron star and a black hole detected through gravitational waves, and methods to reconstruct maps of the surfaces of exoplanets.