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Apply to grad school for AMO exp or theory?

  1. Jun 13, 2015 #1
    Greetings all,

    I'll be applying to grad school in the fall, and I am uncertain on how to proceed. By the time I graduate, I will have done research with an AMO theory group for four years and will have four publications. However, all of these publications are on numerical work/methods, not pure theory (which as I understand, is common for an undergrad). I also will have had two internships, one at a national lab doing dark matter stuff (mostly experimental) and another at a university doing computational biophysics (CU-Boulder). I believe that I will have good recommendations from all three. I also have a 4.0, am a Goldwater scholar, blah blah blah... but I go to a very small school with an unknown physics department, and because a lot of classes aren't offered, my GRE scores will be rather low I predict (though I've been studying for a few months now, so we'll see).

    Anyway, my question is this. I would really like to study AMO in graduate school, however I'm torn on whether or not to apply for theory or experiment.

    On one hand, I believe theory would be better. I am fairly certain that I don't want to do experimental work, and since I have very little experimental experience, by applying to grad school in experimental stuff they would probably guess that I'll switch right away. I don't want to be joining a research group and then leaving right away; that's extremely disrespectful.

    On the other hand, getting into graduate school in theory is nearly impossible, and I simply can't afford to not go to graduate school, since I would have to pay back my Goldwater scholarship.

    My current plan is to wait it out and see how I do on the pGRE.

    What do you recommend? I'm not sure how grad school admissions view someone who has lots of research experience in numerical stuff as opposed to theory or experiment. Thoughts? Opinions? Sarcastic remarks?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 14, 2015 #2


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    I would just apply indicating you are interested in both. That is actually very common. There is some flexibility when it comes to switching at most places.
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