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Programs Anyone want to offer me a Phd in Theoretical Physics?

  1. May 30, 2010 #1
    Anyone want to offer me a Phd in Theoretical Physics??

    So here's the thing: I'm just about to graduate with an MSci in Physics and I desperately want to keep studying. I found this website (PF) earlier in the week and have thoroughly enjoyed reading and contributing to various threads. My purpose for starting this one is somewhat of a plea for advice (or an actual offer!) on how I can start a Phd this October rather than having to wait for next year.

    I anticipate that I will graduate with an upper second class degree, narrowly missing a first by a percent or two. The reason being due to complacency / laziness in my earlier years. Although my degree has been at a top London University I would happily relocated almost anywhere in the world to have the opportunity to study for a Phd.

    This year I have had the opportunity to study some really enthralling courses including but not limited to: QFT, advanced QM, advanced Particle Physics and the Standard Model. I would absolutely love to continue my studies with a Phd relating to any of Quantum Gravity, Dark Matter, GUTs, Symmetries in Physics, Cosmic Strings or some other area within the umbrella of theoretical particle Physics and Cosmology.

    Any and all advice would be greatly appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 30, 2010 #2
    Re: Anyone want to offer me a Phd in Theoretical Physics??

    Nobody here is going to offer you the chance to do a PhD; members of graduate applications committees have enough on their plates with, you know, dealing with graduate applications without trawling the internet for even more applicants.

    If you're at a decent London university - Imperial, Kings, or QMUL - then you should already have been instructed on how to continue in physics by applying for graduate study wherever you want. This would be your best course of action. (The 2H degree might very well be a serious disadvantage if you want to end up at a top theory department in the UK though.)
  4. May 30, 2010 #3
    Re: Anyone want to offer me a Phd in Theoretical Physics??

    Well, it sounds to me like you don't have a firm idea of what you want to be doing (in terms of what department, where,...) so I will give you a general overview of what I would do in your situation. I'll be specific, but take my advice with a grain of salt and apply it as appropriate.

    A general piece of advice: Research is different to learning. Make sure you understand this before you go into a PhD and make sure research is what you want to do. In particular research is narrower and deeper - you will be spending a lot of time on one very specific field, keeping up to date with recent progress in the field and contributing brand new research.

    Assuming you want to apply for a PhD...

    First: act now. The longer you wait the more opportunities you might miss and the longer you will have to wait. At least find out deadlines as early as possible.

    What universities interest you most (by reputation, by location, etc)? Make a list. Look at what research they're doing - is there anything in theoretical particles physics or cosmology that interests you. (Look at all the individual researchers pages - Does their research look exciting? Do they have any suggested projects that interest you? Have a scan through their papers - don't expect to understand them but get the gist - does it seem interesting?).

    Using this you should get a fair knowledge of what universities have departments that match your interests. Cross all the ones that don't off your list.If you need some more options, look up more universities - at this stage you're just trying to build a big list of options.

    You should also talk to people - your peers, your supervisors and lecturers, telling them what you're interested in and asking if there's anywhere they can recommend and anyone they know who can tell you more about what you want to study.

    Next you want to start looking at things like application deadlines, enrolments (these will differ dramatically between countries and even within countries), things you need for applications (letters of reference, test results, application fees, etc). That gives you targets - while it is sometimes possible to work around these it's easiest to work with them if you can (if you've missed a deadline contact people as soon as possible).

    Also, if you haven't, think a little about funding and scholarship - what scholarships or tutoring positions or whatever are on offer? What are their deadlines?

    Now your list of universities should have some sort of order - which universities are doing research that you like that most, that will let you start your PhD soonest, are affordable, geographically preferable, etc?

    Start working through your list contacting various people in these departments (particularly people whom you have been referred to by friends and lecturers, but also people you haven't), ask them about their research, how you can find out more about their research, if there are other people in their field you can contact and if they would be interested in supervising you for a PhD (often they will want you to email them a copy of your academic transcripts and/or academic CV, so make sure you have these handy).

    It's also very valuable to contact PhD students, and ask them their opinions of their supervisors. (Some places you will have to choose a supervisor in advance, some places you will not). Find out if a potential supervisors style matches you (Do they give very strict targets they expect you to make each week, or just guidelines? Which do you want? Do they give a lot of time to their research students? You'll be working under this person for 3 years + so find out). If you want to start out of synch with the university year ask if this is possible.

    Then start applying.

    Be appreciative of anyone who gives you their time.

    Go to your current university's library and look for books that give you advice on postgraduate education in physics, choosing a university, choosing a supervisor, etc. (there are quite a few of them).

    Also now is a good time to start thinking about your overall career path if you haven't - where do you want to be after your PhD?

    Good luck!
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