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Admissions Double majoring in Mech E and Physics - Grad school

  1. Oct 7, 2016 #1
    I'm currently an undergraduate sophomore at Rutgers double majoring in Physics and Mechanical Engineering. I've recently made the decision that I want to go for a master's degree in physics and then potentially a PhD. However, I'm doing research in mechanical engineering right now and I don't think I'll have a strong enough physics background by next Fall to undertake physics research. My GPA is very high and I'm confident I can do well on the GRE, but the research aspect is concerning.

    My goal is to get into a top 10 school for Physics. Is that achievable without having done research? I'm planning on continuing doing research in mechanical engineering related to some branch of physics (maybe thermal) and do research in physics my senior year, but I feel like I'm behind competitors. I also won't be able to take many graduate classes in physics (only 1-2). Will this hinder my chances of being able to attend a school like Princeton or Berkeley or MIT?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 7, 2016 #2


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    Physics research can sometimes be indistinguishable from Mechanical Engineering research, and vice versa - there is no sharp delineation.

    In any event, I personally would focus less on the ranking of the prospective graduate school and more on the type of research you eventually want to do in graduate school.
  4. Oct 7, 2016 #3
    What sort of research are you doing in mechanical engineering? Thermodynamics or Fluid Dynamics research is pretty physics and math heavy, I doubt a physics professor would fault you on that if that's what you were doing; lots of people switch what they research from undergrad to graduate anyway; but the general skills like programming, electronics, data analysis, or machining are pretty transferable from discipline to discipline.
  5. Oct 7, 2016 #4


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    Maybe you should consider applying to applied physics programs. They are very interdisciplinary, you can do research in many different departments. Some of the best programs are Stanford, Harvard, Caltech, and Cornell.
  6. Oct 8, 2016 #5
    A lot depends on the hard numbers. Some students think a 3.5-3.7 GPA is "very high." With a goal of a top 10 grad school in physics, 3.9-4.0 is high. I would not be confident in a Physics GRE score until it is in hand.

    Mech E research can contribute as strongly to entrance into a top 10 Physics PhD program as research in a Physics department. It depends on what it is, what your mentor writes in his recommendation letter, and what your work products have been (posters, publications, computer programs, etc.)

    My recommendations for getting into a top 10 school: 3.9-4.0 GPA, PGRE score at 90th percentile of above (940), high quality research yielding publications and excellent letters of recommendation (best undergrad ever rather than best undergrad this year).

    Sure, there is some wiggle room if all areas are not that strong.

    Also consider that the gatekeepers to most physics research opportunities care more about your work ethic than your physics prowess.
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