Every year dozens of students from the University of Toronto, elsewhere in Canada, and around the world write to ask me to hire them for undergraduate summer research work in my group. The majority of them are quite naïve, in that they have not done any homework to find out what skills a professor like me might expect. I got sufficiently tired of repeating myself answering these emails every year that I wrote this web page to help clarify my expectations of candidates.
First and foremost: like particle theory, string theory is a graduate level enterprise that does not lend itself well to projects for undergraduates. It is extremely rare for an undergraduate student to be able to co-author a publication in our field. The reason is that string theory is a very large theoretical animal, incorporating a lot of components which are big complex machines in their own right, such as Quantum Field Theory (QFT) and General Relativity (GR). Prior experience with QFT and GR is necessary preparation for learning string theory, and both QFT and advanced GR are graduate-level topics. Very few universities offer string theory courses to undergraduates; it is usually only offered at graduate level and even then only as an advanced subject. So the vast majority of undergraduates simply do not have the tools to contribute to working in my group.
I therefore send all undergrads interested in doing summer research with me in the direction of experimental particle physics or astrophysics, especially those who want a publication on their record before they graduate. There are tons of positions available in these experimental fields and, even if a student really wants to be a theorist, they gain invaluable experience doing experimental research in the same field or a closely related one. Here is a compilation of various research, employment and summer opportunities in our Department of Physics, put together by the Undergraduate Chair's office.
For a few local undergraduates, I am willing to offer reading courses at third or fourth year level. I require excellent performance in core physics and mathematics courses from the regular curriculum, and I am not willing to re-teach material available elsewhere in the university's offerings (such as graduate QFT). I also expect intense curiosity about physics, a willingness to work hard, and a decent degree of academic nous. If you think this sounds like you, then please be prepared to produce an excellent transcript and to tell me in person about why you want to do research with me when you contact me. I am open to well thought out proposals! Please just ensure that you have read this entire page before contacting me.
Reading course topics I have previously offered to bright UofT undergrads:-