Attention all graduate math students

  1. Ok so I've finally decided to pursue obtaining a phd in applied math. Before I go into the questions that I have I should probably talk about my background.

    I recently graduated with a degree in econ./math. (it wasn't a double major). My overall g.p.a. isn't too bad (3.4) but my math grades are not so good (I received about a 2.0 in math classes taken at a major out of state university but got a 4.0 in the classes at a 2 year college). In my defense I've taken some of what I've heard as being "the hardest math and econ classes as an undergrad". Also during my senior year I had to deal with a few problems outside of school which really conflicted with my ability to learn, study, etc.

    I plan on taking about 7 more upperdivision undergrad math courses in order to help prepare myself for grad school not to mention boost my g.p.a.

    What I want to know is the following:

    1. Can anyone give me an opinion as to how I would be looked at by an admission's commitee given my situation?

    2. I keep hearing how difficult getting a math phd is. I believe with hard work, discipline, a love for the subject, and a strong will not to give up getting a phd is more than possible. But what do you all feel about the rigors of a mathematics grad program ?

    3. Can anyone share with me any outside books I could possibly buy that would ease the transition to grad school?

    4. What are the major steps I would need to take in order to even begin a phd program?

    Any thoughts or shared accounts about this subject is more than appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. matt grime

    matt grime 9,395
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Be warned the gap between grad school and a good undergraduate background in maths at an American College is huge, but it is not life threatening.

    Firstly, exactly what do you mean by applied mathematics. There is a lot of scope for getting an applied PhD through experiments and modelling that will be easier than doing, say, n-categories with John Baez.

    Which grad school are you thinking of applying to; they vary a great deal.

    The best thing in your favour is that actual research mathematics has little to do with undergraduate mathematics, so, depending on experience and aims, you might not be as badly off as you think, and the main thing is that you can pass the prelims/qualifier courses which are taught.

    Don't be afraid to go and speak to the faculty; they want students (often only to teach crappy courses no one else wants, so you've been warned), and will welcome interest and applications. And if in doing so you find some potential advisor that you get on with then so much the better.
  4. I've heard that math is mainly spit into 2 categories: applied and pure. From what I've read pure mathematics is for people who plan on doing just research and applied is for those who wish to apply mathematics towards real life problems. If these categories are correct then I'm defintely interested in applied mathematics but something tells me there is more to it than that.

    As for the type of graduate school, I'm still not sure. My biggest concern is my undergrad g.p.a. I'm pretty concerned that it could hold me back. If i can make it into a halfway decent program then I'm more than satisfied.

    Again thank you for the information. I appreciate it alot.
  5. matt grime

    matt grime 9,395
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    There is certainly far more than that distinction, which isn't even true. There is absolutely no experimental evidence to show that certain parts of what are called applied maths are actually true. Lots of pure mathematics is useful. You're typing this on a computer, the language that the programs were written in is (equivalent to) predicate calculus, an object of study for (very) pure people as well as computer scientists. The distinction is actually completely arbitrary. It is usually not about *usefulness* and application to the real world that counts.
  6. That's what I figured. I knew that distinction was somewhat shortsided. I'd imaginine that math is too big a field to be broken up into just 2 areas. Just out of curiousity what particular field in math do you study? As for myself I was considering learning more about pde's.
  7. matt grime

    matt grime 9,395
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    I am an abstract algebra and category theorist.

    As an indication of the very arbitrary nature of labels, statisitics traditionally in the UK is thought of as being pure, or at least lumped in with that school. In the States it seemed to be viewed as an applied subject.
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