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Does Brian Greene recommend colleges?

  1. Feb 5, 2012 #1
    Hey everyone,

    I believe that Brian Greene earned his BS degree at Harvard, and then he specialized in string theory by earning his PhD degree Oxford which is not in the USA? Correct?

    I just have a question about Brian.

    Besides the colleges he went too. Did this man every come up with a list of colleges he prefers, or recommends to students? I mean did he write a list of colleges for what he does, and possibly for something good to earn a BS degree? I know he's teaching at Columbia University in NYC, and honestly, I sent him an email.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 5, 2012 #2
    It is unlikely that such a thing exists.
    It is unlikely as well that you will be getting an e-mail reply, see , professors hardly reply grad students, so the probability for outsiders to get a reply is even much less lower.
  4. Feb 5, 2012 #3
    Thank you!

    Can I ask you another question, please? Could you recommend a top list of ranking colleges for physics, and string theory, but public colleges? Or what college is similar to Columbia is one exists?
  5. Feb 5, 2012 #4
    If you live in the US, any of the top 50 (or even top 100, you know, there are thousands of colleges in the US alone) universities should have a decent physics programme.

    You shouldn't look only at whether have specialists in string theory or not, there is much more to be learned in physics.
    Also you never know, maybe the day you start studying string theory, you might end up hating it. So I emphasize, the whole physics curriculum is important.

    You may want to look at the following ranking:


    Bare in mind, all those listed are good schools. The physics undergrad curriculum is more or less standardized.

    I came across this list too, not sure its based on what criteria:
    http://www.pha.jhu.edu/~zbt/Physicsrankings.htm [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  6. Feb 5, 2012 #5
    I do live in the US. I live in Pennsylvania which is on the east coast.
  7. Feb 6, 2012 #6

    I'm back! LOL. It looks like Brian didn't email me back. It figures. With that type of level, I highly doubt I'll receive anything.

    Would Penn State University (PSU) be a good school to earn a BS, but transfer to a school more specialized for a PhD that offers string theorist? Am I understanding that right? Also, look for a well known school with very good faculty? Are those sites good schools for a string theory major? I'm not even sure of the stats to get into PSU. I was reading it is public, and also competive. PSU is in the same state I live.
  8. Feb 6, 2012 #7


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    You won't do your bachelors and masters/PhD at the same college anyway, so you can start pretty much anywhere. String theory is something you'd specialize in for a PhD, not a major. You'd be majoring in physics. String theory isn't even a course, nor is it generally accepted by physicists or a good plan for a research career. Penn State would be an excellent place to start.
  9. Feb 6, 2012 #8

    What are the stats getting into Penn State? Since it's a public college, does it mean it's easier to get into? Or would it be competive the same way a private as an Ivy league would be? I know Ivy leagues are hard to get into, and I was hoping that Penn State would be easy. I mean a branch campus for two years.

  10. Feb 6, 2012 #9


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    That information is on their website.

    http://admissions.psu.edu/facts/studentbody/ [Broken]

    Since you live in-state, it's easier for you to get in than someone out of state. Branch campuses tend to be much easier to get into. But they also don't tend to offer much in the way of physics classes.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  11. Feb 6, 2012 #10
    Do you mean it's easier to get in at the main campus? Or for the branch campuses?

    I was thinking it's easier for the main campus, but I could be wrong.
  12. Feb 6, 2012 #11
    I highly doubt the guy has a list of perferred universities to recommend.
  13. Feb 6, 2012 #12


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    Branch campuses have much higher admission rates than the main campus. Many branch campuses don't even offer bachelors degrees, and serve as feeder campuses for the main campus. Most don't offer more than just the introductory physics courses, so going there will set you back at year, and won't give you many, or even any, research opportunities - which you need to get into a top grad school.
  14. Feb 7, 2012 #13


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    This might come off as mean, but I'm only being honest: If you cannot come up with reasonable answers to some of your questions by yourself or find out some of the information you have asked for by yourself, I would be highly skeptical of your prospects for success in Physics.
  15. Feb 7, 2012 #14
    Imagine how many emails that guy must receive! He probably has a secretary who filters out email queries. Still, I admire your chutzpah. Why not write him an actual letter, that might get past the filter. Send a self addressed envelope with a stamp - such care *might* inspire a response (at least from the secretary!)

    I agree, though, that he probably doesn't have a list. And its not very inspiring to be asked for such a list! Why not ask him which colleges he would recommend based on his personal experience? Ask him who were his most inspiring teachers. Also ask him what books he would recommend.

    Try reading the biographies of other physicists to see where they went, what they read, and how they did it. For example:

    Last edited: Feb 7, 2012
  16. Feb 7, 2012 #15
    Well, it may get past the spam filter, but I wonder why one would think that Brian Greene has any special insights into the quality of undergrad education to begin with...

    Also, to base one's choice of college and major on a popular science depiction of string theory seems a bit risky to me. The reality of what doing string theory research, and more importantly a getting a physics degree beforehand, may be quite different than how it's portrayed to laypeople, and you may not like it at all.
  17. Feb 7, 2012 #16
    Brian Greene did reply to an email I sent him - but that was regarding decoherence. He replied within 24 hours.
  18. Feb 7, 2012 #17
    So, what your saying is he has no intentions of replying to me? I guess it wasn't an important question? I'm only guessing.
  19. Feb 7, 2012 #18
    Considering the fact that probably thousands of people send him a email asking him what they should do if they want to become a string theorist, I think it's reasonable to assume he wouldn't bother to reply...
  20. Feb 7, 2012 #19
    I won't ask Brian anymore questions. I know I shouldn't have sent him that email. Those kinds of questions should of been researched.

    Could I ask questions on here? I don't see why not since it's a public forum?

    I looked at this site that was posted in this thread.


    Do they have any professors from the USA, so I could see what colleges that went too? That link I posted is from Swedish I believe. I just want to see where they went. Would that be fine? I won't contact them with any questions.
  21. Feb 7, 2012 #20

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    Brian Greene does not owe you a reply, sorry. He has other responsibilities, and as pointed out, his area of expertise is not undergraduate education.

    You also should be aware that the number of jobs in string theory each year is some number around (at most) five. So if you're not one of the five best people at it, you're going to have to do something else. You need to ask yourself the question "if I am trying to find which Penn State Campus is easiest to get into, is it likely I will be one of the very best 5 people on the continent?"
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