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Programs Advice on Graduate Studies in Mathematical Physics

  1. Feb 22, 2017 #1
    I recently completed my honours degree in Australia (4-year undergraduate with a year-long thesis and some grad-level subjects such as first courses in algebraic geometry, algebraic topology, GR, QFT and integrable systems) and am struggling to figure out what the best option for graduate study is.

    My honours thesis was on vertex and Zhu algebras and at the moment I have an interest in CFT and algebraic geometry , though am of course also interested in many other areas of math/phys and am open to other similar research areas. It seems split whether people in my situation go directly into a PhD program or do a masters first. I have a feeling doing the masters might be beneficial as it may make me more competitive for a good PhD program and of course increase my current level of education. In addition to this I'm quite keen on living somewhere other than Australia for several years.

    I really liked the idea of some of the masters programs in the UK (Oxford, Edinburgh, Cambridge, Imperial College, Kings College for example all had masters programs I liked the look of) however it appears there is -no- funding opportunities for these programs for Australians (only for PhDs). Does anyone know of any lesser known funding options I could apply for? It feels like such a shame to miss out on these for what is basically a logistical issue.

    If masters in the UK isn't an option - would it still be worth applying for PhD programs in the UK be a good idea? I am eligible, but it sounds as if the places I have mentioned are insanely competitive (and perhaps getting a masters elsehwere first would help applying later?)

    Beyond the UK I have also looked at mainland Europe. A lot of the masters programs I have found seemed a bit more bloated (the first year often requires subjects I have already done or are pretty far removed from what I am interested in pursuing). The two most suited programs I found where the mathematical/theoretical physics masters at LMU Munich and the math-phys masters at University of Hamburg.

    The former seems more well renowned but requires the math/physics GRE for non-EU citizens and at this stage I have not taken the GRE (I didn't want it to detract from my thesis work last year). Apparently the next sitting is in April, however I couldn't find information on Australian test centres for the math/phys tests so I'm not sure if this is an option yet (I have contacted the GRE administers to ask about this).

    Beyond this, does anyone know much about the Hamburg program and how well received it would be in applying for PhDs? I have not heard much about the university said around the place, but it looks like a good place to live for two years and the courses offered match what I'd like to learn.

    I have also looked at programs in France and Switzerland, however at a masters level these seem a bit too broad for my liking (though if others with experience can attest otherwise I'd be interested to hear!)

    Finally I have looked at some Canadian programs. I applied to the Perimeter Institute masters program, but as I have heard on the grapevine they had 600 applicants this year for 30 spots so I'm presuming I won't get into that. Beyond that I have looked at some of the major unis, though I didn't come across many which seemed as well suited to my interests as the UK or German options.

    Does anyone have any further suggestions on places to look or options I should consider? I'm feeling quite overwhelmed and unsure what the best option for me would be.

    Sorry for the long post but I felt like I should include information on what I have looked at so far to give an indication of what I am looking for. Thank you for any advice!
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 22, 2017 #2
    I wouldn't waste time or money trying to improve your application to go to a fancy program in mathematical physics; just go wherever you get in, with the full understanding that either way your odds of becoming a tenured faculty member in this largely non-funded, highly popular research area are somewhere on the order of zero either way.

    I think math departments are easier to get jobs at though (in the United States anyway) since they are service departments that exist primarily to teach people calculus or algebra (aside from applied math and statistics), but your main job will be teaching linear algebra, calculus, differential equations, etc, not doing research.
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