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Can we talk about graduate school?

by tolove
Tags: graduate, school, talk
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micromass
#37
Dec4-12, 08:19 AM
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P: 18,243
Quote Quote by dkotschessaa View Post
I don't know about the exact data as far as GPA he quoted, but in principal I agree.
So you're saying that a degree in science is better than a degree in business? But that's the opposite of what chill_factor said, so you disagree with him?
Moneer81
#38
Dec4-12, 08:46 AM
P: 155
We're hijacking the thread here....I'd rather talk about what fields of physics are in high demand (OP's initial question) instead of an obscure argument about what combination of degree + GPA is better...
gravenewworld
#39
Dec4-12, 09:28 AM
P: 1,408
Everything you need to know about grad school is here: http://whatshouldwecallgradschool.tumblr.com/
dkotschessaa
#40
Dec4-12, 11:15 AM
dkotschessaa's Avatar
P: 604
Quote Quote by micromass View Post
So you're saying that a degree in science is better than a degree in business? But that's the opposite of what chill_factor said, so you disagree with him?
Oh snap, I misread his sentence in a very dyslexic way.

I totally disagree with him. A low gpa science degree is much more impressive/useful than any kind of business degree.

Sorry for the confusion.
javaNut
#41
Dec11-12, 10:52 AM
P: 37
I don't understand some of what is being written here about physics grad school.

1) I am an older physics grad student at U Arizona and I make about $25k/year, I get tuition waived, and free health insurance. The only cost to me is a few hundred per semester for some course fees. You should expect to earn a decent salary such as mine from any decent physics grad program (say in the top 50), although you should be sure to check with current grads at a school to be sure you are not being bamboozled (ALWAYS check with current grads before accepting any offer). What is this word "scholarship"? Such a word has no meaning to a physics grad student since we don't ever pay any tuition.

2) The physics PhD is both for enlightenment AND job training. Programs are aware of this and evolve over time to keep pace with the market (smart ones do anyway). At UA, we have "PhD minors" which allow us to take the core courses from other departments (any department in fact, I think even creative writing though you should check first). This is good because UA has several top ranked science departments/programs: Lunar Planetary Lab (Mars landers), Steward Observatory (LSST mirrors), College of Optics (Tucson is "optics valley" and has many companies), Theoretical Astrophysics, Chemical Physics, Applied Math, Eller Business School, etc. Also, full time is 9-hours so you can take any class after that for no extra charge (grad or undergrad), so you don't even need to do the PhD minor to take something that interests you outside of physics (or to get job skills), and some even count toward your PhD. IMPORTANT: I have not seen many schools with rules like this, so you should be sure to check ahead of time with prospective programs if you want these kinds of opportunities.

3) Teaching -vs- business -vs- science. Though you are unlikely to land a professorship at an R1 school with your PhD unless it is from top 10, you can (with some teaching portfolio development), get a position at a 4-year college. And more and more physics PhDs are finding their homes at community colleges and getting good salaries and even good students (many people don't realize they are smart until after high school, and I know several PhDs that actually began at community colleges). In business there is financial analysis, risk management and actuarial pricing just to name a few. PhDs can no longer walk into Wall Street type jobs (because so many have already done so), but with some planning and effort, you can land a highly paying job (and be the one that sends pizza money back to your SPS club). Planning ahead might include taking some graduate finance courses or some professional exams like the CFA. Let me just say that as a PhD physicist, you are expected to be able to solve any question regarding the natural world. And I mean ANY. And "business" is made of fundamental particles so it is included in this. (Yes, physics PhDs are arrogant like this, but isn't this a club you want to join?) Science jobs really depend on your research experiences: which kinds of equipment did you setup/operate/repair, what programming languages did you use, what electronics did you learn? Do you think Fermi or Feynman never soldered two wires together? The greats enjoyed solving ALL puzzles and ANY problem. Model your learning after them: try to learn everything. Technically, as a PhD in physics, it is your job to try to know everything.

4) Three things are needed to land your placement in a well-ranked physics PhD program: 1) good PGRE scores, 2) quality undergrad research, 3) and good grades. They are equally important in value to acceptance committees because they show that you can 1) buckle down and master difficult material and thus survive your comps, 2) think and work independently which is the ultimate goal, and 3) survive difficult core courses (some schools will even want to know which undergrad texts you used!).

View the PGRE as a "mini-comp". Nothing helped prepare me for the rigors of the PhD core courses like studying for the PGRE (because I had been lame in my classes). By spending 4 solid months studying for this exam, I filled in many holes in my knowledge. This is not a test you must pass once, the PGRE represents a level of mastery you will need to maintain during grad school, so study hard for it (actually study the material please) and realize you are preparing for every day of grad school by doing so. If your classes have not gone perfect because you are smart but a little lazy (but learning to work hard), then this is your chance to make up for the past. But still you should never let another student outperform you in your classes. Trust me, they are not smarter than you, just harder working, so get to it. Didn't you want to know everything that has to do with physics, anyway?

I kept a cot in my office during my first year of grad school because I would do about two all-nighters per week (and sleep from 6-8am in the cot instead of bothering to go home). I loved loved loved every painful minute of it because every minute of it I was learning all the advanced physics I had ever dreamed of knowing. You can have your cake and eat it too (enlightenment) if you also build your skill sets as you go along (job skills). As a physicist, you should be smart enough to realize this and make it happen.

5) Don't be afraid to contact a physics department's grad secretary to find out if you can apply late after the official deadline. I was accepted to some schools even though I applied (very) late. Often, the acceptance committee isn't happy with the candidate pool, or maybe the best ones already accepted other offers. IT NEVER HURTS TO CHECK! Just say something like you just learned about what a wonderful program they have and were wondering blah blah blah.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
I have seen posts here in the past from some very bright people getting into top 10 schools. That is useful to that crowd, but it would be useful to many others to see more average PhD students posting (and thus I have).
H2Bro
#42
Dec11-12, 11:23 AM
P: 173
JavaNut,

thanks for the detailed post. I've heard really good things about UT Austin (as far as I know they are the only university to have sent a mission to another planet!). Is UT considered "top tier" ? And if so can I ask the PGRE / GPA / general application portfolio that landed you a spot?

I myself am considering getting into laser / optics. Lasers are a) way cool and b) way useful. But, that's at the M.s level I think.

Also, for graduate school, is it a disadvantage or advantage to do M.S before applying to a phd track? I'm in Europe where tuition is free but the degrees are 3 years, and I'm thinking that might not be enough time to built up a solid portfolio for admissions.

thanks!
javaNut
#43
Dec11-12, 12:20 PM
P: 37
(deleted and rewritten below. What is up with this mentor thing?)
javaNut
#44
Dec11-12, 01:14 PM
P: 37
Quote Quote by Moneer81 View Post
1. Accelerator physics:
2. Laser physics:
3. Medical physics:
4. Experimental particle physics:
One problem we have is that none of us are much exposed to physicists once they leave the university, just the few grads we knew who finished and the profs (profs are usually useless at helping with the non-academic career tracks). I knew one PhD who wanted to go to Wall Street, but he never prepped at all for it, and they just won't take newbies anymore. Another got frustrated and quit (the PhD can be hell at times), and now he's thrilled doing software development. Another failed the comps but finished an optics masters and now works in industry (here in "optics valley" Tucson).

#1) Accelerator physics sounds fun. I had a friend at Indiana studying accelerator physics, and another at CalTech looking into new accelerator technologies. Lots of E&M in that field. You should look into the US Particle Accelerator School (it is international, people from everywhere). 1-2 week training program. I would say you would need to know E&M pretty well (advanced undergrad at least). Then you would know if you want to do accelerator physics.

#2) Solid state physics experiment or theory will always enable you to work in industry. Our whole technology is based on this. Plan ahead a little and land a really good job. And I would venture that AMO physics is nearly as good. Here it is best to choose whatever you have the strongest passion for.

#3) Medical physics would involve working in hospitals and dealing with doctors, but it would be lucrative and maybe fun. U Arizona has a program in medical physics. I know many programs are extremely expensive, but right now our PSM students (professional science masters) are getting TAships so have the same deal as a regular PhD grad. I believe they still have some expensive summer expenses. I believe that field is becoming standardized, which is usually economically good for a career field, to have a professional organization with exams and members.

#4) There can be electronics and device construction, but right now with all the CERN data pouring in, you can bet you will be programming: object-oriented C++ and python for the most part. The learning curve is steep, and no you don't have to "master" quantum field theory to be an experimentalist, that is for the theoreticians.

Too bad so many undergrad programs do a poor job offering advanced courses to expose their undergrads to all the major physics fields. I bet you could have a "career" course that discussed: AMO, CM, PP, Q optics/info, etc.; exp vs theory in each.
javaNut
#45
Dec11-12, 01:35 PM
P: 37
Quote Quote by H2Bro View Post
JavaNut,

I've heard really good things about UT Austin (as far as I know they are the only university to have sent a mission to another planet!).

And if so can I ask the PGRE / GPA / general application portfolio that landed you a spot?

I myself am considering getting into laser / optics. Lasers are a) way cool and b) way useful. But, that's at the M.s level I think.

Also, for graduate school, is it a disadvantage or advantage to do M.S before
UT Austin is #14 on the usual rankings:
http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsa...ysics-rankings
which must be why they rejected me.

I believe you are incorrect. I think it is U Arizona with the Mars mission(s):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenix_(spacecraft)

The details on each US school are here (where most of us look):
http://www.gradschoolshopper.com/

I believe I had a 780 or 790 on PGRE, 3.4 GPA, and very good research. What I have been told by various professors (at various institution in the past) is that the PGRE is not all or nothing. Good undergrad research and/or course grades can overcome a bad GRE score, and they really do look at your entire application regardless of your score. So you should apply if you think you have something to offer, no matter how bad you did. One professor told me he had a friend that got a 0th percentile and she still eventually became an astronomy professor. There is always hope for the determined.

Even if all you want is an MS in physics, you should not tell them. You should go for a PhD, and drop out with a masters if that is what you decide to do. Schools with PhD programs want/need PhD students. Unless it is a specialty program like our professional science masters, you must apply to the PhD program or they won't except you (there are always special cases). This is what I was told many times in the past, anyway. You will be able to pick up the MS on the way to PhD. Here at U Arizona, once you pass your written comps and oral defense, you merely pay $35 to get the MS degree. Many of my friends don't think it is worth the money if you can believe that, but I was like, "$35? What the hell, why not?" So now I have my masters in physics.
Moneer81
#46
Dec13-12, 11:25 PM
P: 155
Quote Quote by javaNut View Post
One problem we have is that none of us are much exposed to physicists once they leave the university, just the few grads we knew who finished and the profs (profs are usually useless at helping with the non-academic career tracks). I knew one PhD who wanted to go to Wall Street, but he never prepped at all for it, and they just won't take newbies anymore. Another got frustrated and quit (the PhD can be hell at times), and now he's thrilled doing software development. Another failed the comps but finished an optics masters and now works in industry (here in "optics valley" Tucson).

#1) Accelerator physics sounds fun. I had a friend at Indiana studying accelerator physics, and another at CalTech looking into new accelerator technologies. Lots of E&M in that field. You should look into the US Particle Accelerator School (it is international, people from everywhere). 1-2 week training program. I would say you would need to know E&M pretty well (advanced undergrad at least). Then you would know if you want to do accelerator physics.

#2) Solid state physics experiment or theory will always enable you to work in industry. Our whole technology is based on this. Plan ahead a little and land a really good job. And I would venture that AMO physics is nearly as good. Here it is best to choose whatever you have the strongest passion for.

#3) Medical physics would involve working in hospitals and dealing with doctors, but it would be lucrative and maybe fun. U Arizona has a program in medical physics. I know many programs are extremely expensive, but right now our PSM students (professional science masters) are getting TAships so have the same deal as a regular PhD grad. I believe they still have some expensive summer expenses. I believe that field is becoming standardized, which is usually economically good for a career field, to have a professional organization with exams and members.

#4) There can be electronics and device construction, but right now with all the CERN data pouring in, you can bet you will be programming: object-oriented C++ and python for the most part. The learning curve is steep, and no you don't have to "master" quantum field theory to be an experimentalist, that is for the theoreticians.

Too bad so many undergrad programs do a poor job offering advanced courses to expose their undergrads to all the major physics fields. I bet you could have a "career" course that discussed: AMO, CM, PP, Q optics/info, etc.; exp vs theory in each.

Thank you for your insights! Yes Indiana is one of the few schools offering Accelerator Physics. That does sound like a fascinating field. I also want to say that the employment prospects seem very high, given how important accelerators will be in science, research, healthcare, industry, etc.

Is there any way you can put me in touch with one of your friends who is doing Accelerator physics? I have not been able to get in touch with anyone in that field. You can pm if you'd like. And yes I know about USPAS and they seem to have excellent supplemental programs that covers the gap and prepares students for this field.

I am also very interested in optics and laser physics. I had no idea that Tucson is considered the optics valley. I need to research the companies and the jobs down there in that area. I am actually debating optics vs. Accelerator physics. I have a feeling optics will have many job prospects in the industry. Do you know anything about that? There are programs in "beam physics" that might combine laser physics and accelerator physics, but I could be wrong about that. If that was the case, I would love to pursue a program in beam physics instead.

Again, thanks for your insight and best of luck in school!
javaNut
#47
Dec14-12, 05:10 AM
P: 37
Quote Quote by Moneer81 View Post
1) Is there any way you can put me in touch with one of your friends who is doing Accelerator physics?
2) And yes I know about USPAS and they seem to have excellent supplemental programs that covers the gap and prepares students for this field.
3) I am also very interested in optics and laser physics. I had no idea that Tucson is considered the optics valley.
4) There are programs in "beam physics" that might combine laser physics and accelerator physics, but I could be wrong about that. If that was the case, I would love to pursue a program in beam physics instead.
1) I'm afraid it's been too long so I can't offer any contacts.
2) You can often get the tuition waived to USPAS leaving only the cost of the hotel. Your interests are so high, you should apply now despite not possibly meeting all the criteria. You will meet people in the field by going!
3) Tucson=lasers+telescopes. There are two optics buildings (in addition to physics, astro, etc.).
4) Sounds to me that you need to investigate schools that do this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plasma_acceleration
Good luck!
Hercuflea
#48
Dec14-12, 08:23 PM
P: 338
What is considered "good research"? How many papers should you publish as an undergrad in order for it to be considered "good research"? The reason I ask is because with my math professor (who has written me a rec) I will be researching fourth order boundary value ODE's next semester describing cantilever beams, but the subject matter is so obscure that I am not sure if it would be considered "good research."
javaNut
#49
Dec15-12, 09:22 AM
P: 37
Quote Quote by Hercuflea View Post
What is considered "good research"? How many papers should you publish as an undergrad in order for it to be considered "good research"? The reason I ask is because with my math professor (who has written me a rec) I will be researching fourth order boundary value ODE's next semester describing cantilever beams, but the subject matter is so obscure that I am not sure if it would be considered "good research."
I thought quantum cantilevers were a big deal nowadays. Just google-search "quantum cantilever". I think I remember 1) seeing an experiment talk on this in our optics department, and 2) that we have a theory prof who has published on this (actually two profs I think, you would have to do your own research though, but I have heard of this topic). My guess is that your math guy picked cantilevers precisely because they were popping up in physics papers and were thus relevant. You might want to read up a little on quantum cantilevers and write a blurb in your statement relating your research to current physics research.


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