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Programs Applying for summer programs and picking a field.

  1. Nov 5, 2016 #1
    I am a third year physics major doing my undergrad. First, let me give you an idea on my academic background. We just picked our majors this year, meaning before we had to take other courses like courses from Biology, Chemistry, etc. This year I'll be taking courses like Classical mech, Quantum Mechanics, Electrodynamics, Stat. Mech, Mathematical physics and some lab courses including computational ones. So at the end of my third year when summer programs start, I'll have these in my tool-set.

    I know for sure that I will be doing theoretical physics as I'm not so much interested in experiments. Now that I have started 3rd year, I can apply for lots of scholarships/ summer programs etc. But the biggest problem is I am not so sure about what field of physics I'll be going into. This becomes a problem because most of the applications require us to pick a field/ specific department. On top of that they expect us to write a description of interest in the preferred field of study.
    So far, I haven't developed an interest in a particular field. I feel like I don't have the required prerequisites for carrying out a project. But I really want to apply so I can get some exposure outside of my coursework.
    Some of the fields on the application included-
    Astrophysical Relativity
    Statistical Physics and Condensed Matter
    String Theory and Quantum Gravity

    Now just going by the names, I find String theory and Quantum Gravity interesting. But then again I can't justify my interest as I don't know anything about them and they are just mere buzzwords to me.

    Not knowing my interests will make my application weak but then I'm stuck in an endless cycle.I am utterly confused and lost. This is so stressful that it's giving me anxieties! I would appreciate any help or advice. Even if it is to inform me that I'm completely going about it the wrong way!
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 5, 2016 #2
    I recommend reviewing the interests of the scientists in the department to which you are applying and making sure they have several active scientists in the fields you pick.
  4. Nov 5, 2016 #3
    Well, active scientists isn't really the problem. At this stage I am confused about which field to pick because I have no preference and maybe want to explore. The problem is these program applications demand for very specific interests which I don't have at the moment. And so filling up the application becomes difficult.
  5. Nov 5, 2016 #4
    I always listed atomic, molecular, and optical physics, because AMO was my main interest. I did get an offer for a nuclear physics internship at a national lab, because the scientist there liked my application. So you need to pick something per the application requirements, but that may not completely shut the door to other areas if your application is appealing enough to a scientist in a different field. My application was appealing due to 1) high GPA 2) lots of research experience 3) solid recommendation letters speaking to a good work ethic 4) strong programming skills and a record of success using them in a research environment.

    Most students would do well building and improving on application strengths rather than what they list for interests. Scientists understand that undergrads may not have solidified interests yet.
  6. Nov 5, 2016 #5
    I see what you mean. You had a starting point and that was AMO. But for me I don't really have anything to start with and well I don't have any previous research experience either. I kind of want to explore "String theory and Quantum Gravity" but I don't think I have the required skill set for it. I don't know, filling up application forms at this stage is proving to be very difficult for me!
  7. Nov 5, 2016 #6
    Summer internships are often about discovering what you like. I did internships in particle physics and biophysics and learned that I didn't particularly care for either of them... pick something that sounds interesting,and then that's one more data point that you'll have to decide what you want to study in grad school.
  8. Nov 5, 2016 #7
    You are right. I will eventually have to pick something. Though what do you suggest writing in the description part of the application where I need to address "specific area in this subject that appeals to you, specific problems, if any, that you would like to work on, your background and motivation in working on the specific area, useful skills, etc." All I see is the word "specific"! which scares me because that's what I can't be right now!
  9. Nov 5, 2016 #8
    Be honest! Why do you want to work in these areas?
  10. Nov 6, 2016 #9
    I just wanted to say thank you for this thread, I feel as though I could have written it and just reading through the conversation really helped me get an idea of how to tackle my internship applications. Great responses as always Dishsoap, thanks!
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