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Complicated Grad School Decision Help

  1. Jul 29, 2011 #1
    After years of diligence, my undergraduate program will be ending after this year. I have yet to decide on any graduate schools to apply to and don't really think it is worth applying to schools I am sure I won't be accepted to. My problems are as follows:
    -My GPA is at a 3.23 entering my senior year (too many B's) though I am at a decent private university.
    -I am not the best test taker so expect my GRE score to be in about the same percentile (probably a bit lower) than my 29 on the ACT.
    -Majoring in Physics, Minoring in Chemistry and Mathematics
    -I've done decent research for three summers but have not done any REUs or anything like that.
    -My interests in research and future plans are always overlapping Physics and Chemistry. I am becoming very interested in Nanotechnology like piezoelectric nanogenerators and other physics based chemistry topics (or vice versa).

    It is here that my problems lie. Firstly, finding a program that will focus on something I am interested in (maybe not a physics or chemistry graduate program, I have read about Nanotechnology Masters degrees but they are few and far between) seems very difficult as I don't really know how to look without going to each university's website and reading what research each of the professors are doing. I need a way to narrow it down without searching the schools based on ranking or location, but instead by searching the research done there... is it possible?
    More importantly, without an outstanding GPA, GRE, or Research experience (though I really hope 3 summers of research is nothing to shake a finger at), what kind of chances do I have for getting into grad school. More specifically, is it more realistic to apply to grad schools that aren't ranked in the top 25 or 50 or whatever; By doing so hopefully having better chances of acceptance and a RA or TA job. It is of the utmost importance that, in getting accepted to a school, I have some form of living stipend on top of paid tuition. I know that is a lot to shoot for, but with a less prestigious school as a goal, is it unlikely?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 29, 2011 #2


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    At this stage of the game you should be reading as much as you can about the fields that interest you. You may not understand everything, but you should be able to make your way through review articles or articles in magzines like Nature or Physics Today. Look at who's publishing the research that you're interested in and look them up to see if they have any graduate positions available.

    Too many people seem to worry about the 'presitige' of the program they apply to, when it makes a lot more sense to worry about the type and quality of research coming out of the programs.

    There's no way to really make the search for a graduate position that much easier. You have to do some legwork or you essentially end up relying on someone else's opinion of a program.

    I'm not sure why you seem to think you need an REU program to have 'research experience.' Three summers of research is the same thing, except you haven't done it through a formal program.

    Also, just about all graduate programs support their students through combination of RAs or TAs and stipends.
  4. Jul 29, 2011 #3
    I guess I may be underestimating my research done on my campus because our advisers are always pushing REUs for the summer. A lot of people in our physics department have ended up at CalTech, MIT, and University of Chicago physics programs, so I just assumed that going to a "prestigious" school was better even if the research isn't of exactly what you are looking for.

    As I make my way through reading abstracts and articles I think may interest me, I have come across some papers that were written out of the authors usual research realm. Is it worth contacting a graduate faculty member if they only have one paper published on the interesting topic if the rest of their research doesn't seem to continue with that topic?

    As for Nanotechnology Masters and the like, I read a couple of times today that these are more of a conglomerate Masters program used to focus and train specific topics, whereas a physics masters or something would be far reaching and seems like it wouldn't prepare you quite as well (at the masters level), even for physics related jobs. If I knew I wanted to do research in the field of nanotechnology, wouldn't a more specific Nanotech Masters program be a better option (including later down the road) than a physics Ph.D that leads me to similar Nanotech research or jobs? Or would the Ph.D make me that much more hireable and qualified for those jobs..

    To Ph.D, or Not to Ph.D. That is the question...
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