Applying to PhD programs after a few years out of academia

  • #1
jrh1380649
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So I graduated in 2019 from a smaller state university with 2 honors BAs in physics and applied math. 3.83 GPA, all A's in my 400 level classes, few years of computational research and some independent honors projects, and I was involved with tutoring, TA'ing, led the SPS chapter, etc. Didn't do an REU and wasn't able to publish a paper from my research. Applied to grad schools in 2019 but the first batch got rejected and I pulled all my remaining apps when I realized Covid was going to be a huge problem. Since then I've worked at a biotech startup, I did everything from running PCR's to developing analytic software, and currently I'm in a leading role for projects in next generation sequencing and I'm the in-house automations engineer, all of which is to say I've done a ton of programming in the past couple years, and a lot of it is analysis and computation heavy. I've kept up with my physics by tutoring the local undergrads, and my old profs tend to refer students from their 300 and 400 level classes to me, which I interpret as trust that I won't screw up their students. I miss doing physics full time. I want to apply to another state school (middle of the road reputation, not UCSB but not no-where either) with a sweet research group doing GW theory and cosmology. I know all of those programs and positions get insane competition, and I want to know 2 things:

1. Am I screwed from the jump?
2. How do I spin my time outside of school on my applications and emphasize that I have kept my math and physics sharp? Writing an SoP was the worst part of the first application process and where I place the blame for my early rejections, and I feel like it's only going to be harder now.

Thanks
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
bob012345
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1. Am I screwed from the jump?

To paraphrase Henry Ford, Whether you think you're screwed or think you're not screwed, you're right.
2. How do I spin my time outside of school on my applications and emphasize that I have kept my math and physics sharp? Writing an SoP was the worst part of the first application process and where I place the blame for my early rejections, and I feel like it's only going to be harder now.
What you have done in the last few years sounds very impressive to me. It should to schools too. Just tell the truth.

Also, as an aside, consider than you may do a lot better career wise in biotech than theoretical physics. At least as far as pay and possibly impacting the world goes.
 
  • #3
Vanadium 50
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Well, yes, a better SOP can't hurt.

But are you applying to schools at the same level as the ones that all rejected you?
 
  • #4
hutchphd
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What you have done in the last few years sounds very impressive to me. It should to schools too. Just tell the truth.
I agree.
There is no "spin" that the admissions folks want here. Be positive and well informed. Consider what you can supply of value to their community of scholars (Academical Village to quote Mr Jefferson in this sad time) and what they can supply, in return, to you. Put in a little fluff (humor, praise, anecdote, or other) and send it.
If you know your references you could coordinate with them a bit. Good Luck.
 
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  • #5
CrysPhys
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1. Am I screwed from the jump?
2. How do I spin my time outside of school on my applications and emphasize that I have kept my math and physics sharp? Writing an SoP was the worst part of the first application process and where I place the blame for my early rejections, and I feel like it's only going to be harder now.
<<Emphasis added>> Interesting choice of words. I'm also a member of figure skating forums. For a moment, I thought I was in one of those. Are you a figure skater too?
 
  • #6
gmax137
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I guess railing against use of "wanna" and "gonna" in written prose is just a sign of impending decrepitude.
 
  • #7
hutchphd
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I'm going to say it makes it kinda folksy. Waddaya think?
 
  • #8
gmax137
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You forgot "amirite?"

Lol
 

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