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Physics Accelerator Physics PhD Competitivity and study in the USA

  1. Jul 19, 2015 #1
    Hello, I have just graduated from university with a decent (but not outstanding) result: 2:1, not far off of a first, with good references. I did my final year project on accelerator physics and I am currently working at the same university over the summer doing similar work on an accelerator physics projects, I have no PhD/Masters lined up in the Autumn because I did not apply, and instead am looking for a job. However,a PhD is something I would ultimately like to do. I like accelerators, EM, programming and statistics so I think this is something I'd really like to do.

    With this in mind I have a couple of questions. How competitive are accelerator physics PhD programs? Some subjects such as condensed matter are easier PhD programs to get onto than say theoretical physics, which appears to be the hardest field to get into. Where abouts is accelerator physics on this scale? Would I struggle to get onto such a program or is this quite a reasonable goal for someone with my results and so on?

    Secondly how difficult is it in general to go to graduate school in the USA given that I am British, living in Britain and did my undergraduate degree in Britain? It's not the be all and end all but I suppose I should consider all my options. I am by no means well off so funding would also a necessity (true anywhere though for me). Funding + graduate school in the USA as a foreigner, feasible or only for the cream of the crop? I am not the cream of the crop but I do work hard and I am enthustiastic, so that is something.

    Thank you reading, and sorry if this is a boring/tired question, but it is of course very important to me so I greatly appreciate any insight.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 19, 2015 #2
    How can you delay a PhD. The whole idea behind a PhD is that they teach you to do their research and you get back a minimum wage and a PhD.

    Why start building a career, then go to a low paying job, and then start all over building a different career?
    I also suppose it will be much harder to get a position.
  4. Jul 19, 2015 #3
    >How can you delay a PhD

    It's quite simple, you just don't apply for one and then apply for one at a later date. I want to do a PhD.

    >The whole idea behind a PhD is that they teach you to do their research and you get back a minimum wage and a PhD

    I know what a PhD is.

    >Why start building a career, then go to a low paying job, and then start all over building a different career?

    Because I want to do a PhD.

    Thanks for your advice but really it is of little use to me. You're preaching to the quoir in telling me that ideally I would have done a PhD straight after my undergraduate degree. I know, but we don't live in an ideal world. I struggle to believe that taking a year our before a PhD is an insurmountable obstacle however.
  5. Jul 22, 2015 #4


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    For what it's worth, I don't think you being British will negatively impact you when you apply for a PhD in the USA. At one point in my own graduate career my lab-mates and I realized I was the only US-born student in my research lab of 12 students. The others were from China, India, Korea, Ireland, Turkey, and Afghanistan. That situation only lasted for less then a year before another American citizen joined but my point is US graduate programs are HIGHLY open to foreign students.
  6. Jul 22, 2015 #5
    Much appreciated, thank you for sharing your experiences with me. I think I'll at least apply, I have nothing to lose (except money). Thank you.
  7. Jul 22, 2015 #6
    It is common that half tot one quarter of all people in a research group are of a different nationality than the nation it is based in.

    There's a lot of good reasons to look world-wide for a PhD or postdoc spot.
  8. Aug 1, 2016 #7
    Where did you apply? Did you get in? How is it?

    I am currently in exactly the same position, any advice would be greatly appreciated!
  9. Aug 18, 2016 #8
    I don't know how I missed this the first time. A lot of the questions about coming to the USA to do accelerator work are colored by immigration stuff which I can't speak on at all. Right now, Michigan State is hiring a lot of people (by accelerator physics standards) for FRIB, SLAC is doing a bit of hiring for LCLS-II as well. At the bachelor's level, they don't really care if you know accelerator physics and want you to do something more applied, like mechanical engineering of support stands, electronics development for detectors and that sort. More than likely, you won't have anything to do with figuring out how to make the beam do what you want. That said, I can't think of a better way to improve your chances at getting in to grad school, because who you know often trumps what you know.

    FACET-II is looking for students, but I have no idea how you'd work that, because you'd have to be accepted at Stanford and that is... hard.

    Failing that, maybe email some professors studying what you want to study and chat about their work. Harder than it sounds, I know.
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