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What advice can you provide?

by Physics_UG
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Physics_UG
#1
Jan30-13, 11:31 AM
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I have a dual BS in EE and physics that I obtained about 4 years ago. I attended a PhD program in EE and I was not particularly content with the research I was doing and I had some kind of a breakdown out there (across the country). I have decided that I will never be satisfied with my life unless I obtain a PhD. I have decided to go back to grad school for a PhD in physics but I have no idea where I want to go or what I want to research. I plan on going back in the Fall of 2014 (I will apply Fall of 2013). I am getting old and will not get my PhD until I am around 34 and by the time I get a permanent position I will be around 40. However, this path is likely the only thing I will be happy with in life. Since leacing grad school back in 2010 I have had a smattering of various EE jobs in the auto industry that I am not interested in in the least and I know I will not be happy in industry (at least not the auto industry)

I am going to get a part time job somewhere (such as at Starbucks), work on my health (I need to lose some weight), study for the PGRE, and decide where I want to go and what to do for my research between now and the Fall. I would like to start spring of 2014 if possible but I know that is unlikely.

I am thinking around maybe beam physics or experimental particle physics but I am thinking that traditional particle accelerators will be out of date when the ultrafast high power lasers are used to accelerate particles.

I think I might be interested in ultracold atomic physics or maybe general relativity but I don't know much about these things.

What advice can you provide to someone in my situation?

Thanks!
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ZapperZ
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Jan30-13, 11:43 AM
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Quote Quote by Physics_UG View Post
I am thinking around maybe beam physics or experimental particle physics but I am thinking that traditional particle accelerators will be out of date when the ultrafast high power lasers are used to accelerate particles.

I think I might be interested in ultracold atomic physics or maybe general relativity but I don't know much about these things.

What advice can you provide to someone in my situation?

Thanks!
First of all, note that "beam physics" and "experimental particle physics" are two very separate field of study. "beam physics" is typically in Accelerator physics. "experimental particle physics" is part of high energy physics.

Secondly, I wouldn't put all my marbles in those laser accelerators just yet. They have a tremendous set of problems yet to overcome for it to be practical and to be able to accelerator a reasonable size bunch. For example, if you look at CLIC, you'll notice that they are not putting emphasis on such scheme.

Furthermore, accelerator physics, if this is the area you are considering, has a lot more variety than what you think. Someone with an EE background has a tremendous advantage going into accelerator physics.

http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=410271

Thirdly, there's nothing here that says that you HAVE to make a decision now. While you do have to indicate a field of interest when applying to a graduate school, you are not bound to it. If and when you do get into a school, do what I did - shop around!. Figure out who's doing what, and who has the money to support students. After you pass the qualifier, then visit each of the research program, talk to the students in those programs, and then make your selection.

Zz.
Physics_UG
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Jan30-13, 11:55 AM
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Quote Quote by ZapperZ View Post
First of all, note that "beam physics" and "experimental particle physics" are two very separate field of study. "beam physics" is typically in Accelerator physics. "experimental particle physics" is part of high energy physics.

Secondly, I wouldn't put all my marbles in those laser accelerators just yet. They have a tremendous set of problems yet to overcome for it to be practical and to be able to accelerator a reasonable size bunch. For example, if you look at CLIC, you'll notice that they are not putting emphasis on such scheme.

Furthermore, accelerator physics, if this is the area you are considering, has a lot more variety than what you think. Someone with an EE background has a tremendous advantage going into accelerator physics.

http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=410271



Thirdly, there's nothing here that says that you HAVE to make a decision now. While you do have to indicate a field of interest when applying to a graduate school, you are not bound to it. If and when you do get into a school, do what I did - shop around!. Figure out who's doing what, and who has the money to support students. After you pass the qualifier, then visit each of the research program, talk to the students in those programs, and then make your selection.

Zz.
Great! Thanks for your advice Zz. I am glad my EE background will give me an advantage in accelerator physics. I am aware of the differences between accelerator physics and experimental particle physics but they are both areas I may be interested in.

I know I spoke with you before about possibly getting into accelerator physics and were helpful. Can you recommend some good schools that aren't super competitive to get into and have ample funding to provide to a new grad student? (I don't have money to fund myself). You mentioned IIT and Vanderbilt before. Are there any others? I spoke with the department chair at IIT before and the funding was not good considering I would be living in chicago which is expensive.

I had a 3.44 GPA as an undergrad (double major in EE and physics) from a small little know school outside of Michigan. My ugrad research was in molecular beam epitaxy where I spent 7 months in research. I spent a year in grad school for EE and have 2 coauthor publications and a first place award for a presentation I gave at a conference/competition. I know my advisors at this program will give me very good recommendations. I also assume my PGRE score will be better (I hope). I got a 760Q 370V on the regular GRE. I didn't take the writing part as I took it two times before that and got a 4.0 both times so I didn't think it was necessary to take it again.

ZapperZ
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Jan30-13, 12:14 PM
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What advice can you provide?

I'm not sure how not "super competitive" these are, but in your neck of the woods, I would recommend Michigan State and U. of Indiana for good accelerator physics programs. I don't know if Western Michigan has any. You can always check if there is a professor who is willing to be your advisor and let you pursue an accelerator physics program (look for someone whose expertise is in classical E&M or charged beam physics). You could take a few classes from the Accelerator school to supplement your curriculum.

Zz.
Physics_UG
#5
Jan30-13, 12:25 PM
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Quote Quote by ZapperZ View Post
I'm not sure how not "super competitive" these are, but in your neck of the woods, I would recommend Michigan State and U. of Indiana for good accelerator physics programs. I don't know if Western Michigan has any. You can always check if there is a professor who is willing to be your advisor and let you pursue an accelerator physics program (look for someone whose expertise is in classical E&M or charged beam physics). You could take a few classes from the Accelerator school to supplement your curriculum.

Zz.
To be honest, I contacted a professor at Michigan State who offered to show me around and said I would be fairly competitive and set up a day for me to visit. I did not show up (shame on me, I know) and I probably burned a bridge with Michigan State there. I know Mich State is one of the best for nuclear physics (if not THE best). What about IIT and vanderbilt?

Are you still at Argonne? Do IIT students get RA positions through Argonne?
Choppy
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Jan30-13, 02:25 PM
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Quote Quote by Physics_UG View Post
To be honest, I contacted a professor at Michigan State who offered to show me around and said I would be fairly competitive and set up a day for me to visit. I did not show up (shame on me, I know) and I probably burned a bridge with Michigan State there.
Why assume that the bridge is burned? Professors don't normally sit around and wait for students to show up. There's not an unreasonable chance you'd show up at the guy's office, he'd look up and say, "Oh, that was today?"

If you didn't show up, that's fine. Apologize and see if you can make it up. It would be a shame to miss out on a good opportunity simply because of an assumption.
Physics_UG
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Jan30-13, 04:06 PM
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Quote Quote by Choppy View Post
Why assume that the bridge is burned? Professors don't normally sit around and wait for students to show up. There's not an unreasonable chance you'd show up at the guy's office, he'd look up and say, "Oh, that was today?"

If you didn't show up, that's fine. Apologize and see if you can make it up. It would be a shame to miss out on a good opportunity simply because of an assumption.
I make that assumption because he emailed me and asked why I didn't show up. Oh well, I am sure he doesn't even remember it.
[Quadratic]
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Jan30-13, 04:10 PM
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Quote Quote by Physics_UG View Post
I make that assumption because he emailed me and asked why I didn't show up. Oh well, I am sure he doesn't even remember it.
Well, why didn't you show up?
Physics_UG
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Jan30-13, 04:14 PM
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Quote Quote by [Quadratic] View Post
Well, why didn't you show up?
I didn't respond to the email. I think it was just because I decided I didn't want to make the 3 hr drive to get there.
[Quadratic]
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Jan30-13, 04:32 PM
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Quote Quote by Physics_UG View Post
I didn't respond to the email. I think it was just because I decided I didn't want to make the 3 hr drive to get there.
I don't know you but judging from your OP I'm going to take a wild guess that you're trying to break through a bout of depression. In my experience with that (which is extensive) I say the only way is by building good habits. One habit you need to start building is taking care of your business. If you decide to bail on an appointment you need to email the other party and let them know. Email this professor now and apologize for not emailing him sooner. Make up an excuse if you have to. Like Choppy said I don't think it's completely reasonable to assume you've burned a bridge by not going, but show some courtesy and let this person know that you appreciate him offering you his time.
Physics_UG
#11
Jan30-13, 04:39 PM
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Quote Quote by [Quadratic] View Post
I don't know you but judging from your OP I'm going to take a wild guess that you're trying to break through a bout of depression. In my experience with that (which is extensive) I say the only way is by building good habits. One habit you need to start building is taking care of your business. If you decide to bail on an appointment you need to email the other party and let them know. Email this professor now and apologize for not emailing him sooner. Make up an excuse if you have to. Like Choppy said I don't think it's completely reasonable to assume you've burned a bridge by not going, but show some courtesy and let this person know that you appreciate him offering you his time.
I am going through depression and schizoaffective disorder (hence dropping out of grad school in the first place, which I see a psychiatrist for and take meds.

I requested to visit the prof over a year ago so it would be odd to contact him now about it. But I guess I could follow up with him and apologie and tell him that I am still interested in the program.
[Quadratic]
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Jan30-13, 04:44 PM
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Quote Quote by Physics_UG View Post
I am going through depression and schizoaffective disorder (hence dropping out of grad school in the first place, which I see a psychiatrist for and take meds.

I requested to visit the prof over a year ago so it would be odd to contact him now about it. But I guess I could follow up with him and apologie and tell him that I am still interested in the program.
Ah, I didn't realize it had been so long. If you decide you are still interested then I wouldn't hesitate to contact him or another professor there.

Also, don't worry about your age. I did poorly in my first few semesters as an undergrad because of depression and other personal problems I had going on at the time. I took a long layoff to get myself straightened out and decided to take advantage of a program my university has that allows me to start completely from scratch. I'm 30 years old and in my second semester as a freshman, and my goal is a Ph.D in physics. I'd give my left bean to have the credentials you have right now.
Physics_UG
#13
Jan30-13, 04:57 PM
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Quote Quote by [Quadratic] View Post
Ah, I didn't realize it had been so long. If you decide you are still interested then I wouldn't hesitate to contact him or another professor there.

Also, don't worry about your age. I did poorly in my first few semesters as an undergrad because of depression and other personal problems I had going on at the time. I took a long layoff to get myself straightened out and decided to take advantage of a program my university has that allows me to start completely from scratch. I'm 30 years old and in my second semester as a freshman, and my goal is a Ph.D in physics. I'd give my left bean to have the credentials you have right now.
Thanks Quadratic. The prof was the department chair so he is likely involved in admissions decisions. Do you think I should email him and tell him I blew him off and I apologize and that I am still interested?

Also, I am very thankful that my mental health issues started AFTER I finished my BS. Unfortunately though, it is the reason I had to leave grad school. I am also having trouble holding down jobs. I have had 4 different jobs in the last 1.5 yrs. I was also fired/laid off from my last job after being there a month because I lacked initiate. They hardly gave me anything to work on to prove myself. They said the engineers were spending too much time guiding me and that I should be more self directed for someone at my level. I was extremely overpaid there though which is probably part of te reason I was let go.


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