Easiest Physics PhD fields to get into in the US?

In summary, biophysics is a field with a higher probability of admission than other physics fields, but it's not guaranteed.
  • #1
Jose Diaz
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Hello, I am ready to apply to grad schools and would like to have a few insurance schools just in case. What are the easiest physics fields (biophysics,nuclear physics...etc) to get into a PhD for?
Regards,
 
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  • #2
You don't want those ! And if you do, you don't deserve them !

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  • #3
I agree. The entire question seems misguided.
 
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  • #4
Vanadium 50 said:
I agree. The entire question seems misguided.
I believe so, too. A more useful question would be, "Which field for PhD in Physics is most likely to lead to stable, long term employment?" The topic question itself as asked shows (which may be arguable) that @Jose Diaz is not ready for graduate school. But is the posted question actually a language problem, or is it an academic maturity problem?
 
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  • #5
Jose Diaz said:
Hello, I am ready to apply to grad schools and would like to have a few insurance schools just in case. What are the easiest physics fields (biophysics,nuclear physics...etc) to get into a PhD for?
Regards,
It's not clear what you're after. Are you asking whether if you indicate somewhere in your application that you are interested in doing your dissertation in e.g. biophysics vs. plasma physics, you're more likely to be accepted? Or are you asking, once you have been admitted into grad school and have completed necessary courses and exams, what field will take the least effort to complete a dissertation in? Or, ...?
 
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  • #6
BvU said:
You don't want those ! And if you do, you don't deserve them !
Well, that was a bit harsh. A (too) spontaneous first reaction. Bowsed your earlier threads and understand you have doubts now and then and are not afraid to share them. That in itself is recommendable !
Interested in quantum, high energy, and nuclear physics (the latter already in 2018!).

Jose Diaz said:
What are the easiest physics fields (biophysics,nuclear physics...etc) to get into a PhD for?
That triggered the first response. Perhaps unintentionally your way of putting it comes across as insulting; as if there were easy fields that can serve as insurance.

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  • #7
There's this notion that floats about in the undergraduate ether that there are "safety" schools out there, or perhaps in this case "safety" sub-fields that one can select when applying to be a graduate student, and this is often misinterpreted as including such options will guarantee acceptance "somewhere" or that acceptance into such programs is "easy."

What "safety" really refers to in my experience is that based on the student's own personal research, profile and background, these are the programs for which the probability of admission is highest. Conversely, because the "most desired" program does not necessarily overlap with the "highest probability of admission", the most desired program is often referred to as a "stretch" or a "reach," particularly when the probability of admission is relatively low for that particular student.

So how does one identify the program and subfield where the probability of admission is highest?

This is not an exact science. But here are a few tips:
  • Take stock of your academic profile, i.e. GPA, Physics GRE scores, research experience, awards, etc. A site like physicsgre.com can help to give a relative reference of where you stand against other candidates.
  • Establish your specific interests and goals. This can take a lot of personal reflection. And it doesn't mean you have to close doors, but if you keep things too general, i.e. "I want to get in anywhere" it's quite possible you won't like where you end up.
  • Talk to your academic advisor. Usually this person will have a good idea of what programs are reasonable for you to apply to based on where other students from your program have gone.
  • Put a lot of effort into investigating potential programs you're interested in, and even supervisors you may have an interest in working with. This generally means more than reading a web page. If possible visit the campus, speak to professors, current graduate students, etc.
    • Try to get some statistics on things like median GPA of accepted students.
    • Try to get an idea of how many students they are expecting to offer admission to, and what groups they are offering admission for.
    • Figure out how well the program aligns with your personal interests and goals.
  • Remember in most cases admission is a competitive process. Roughly speaking, M candidates apply for N < M spaces. Candidates are ranked and the top N are offered admission. If you have a program that's really trying to expand its condensed matter group for this year and they're looking at taking in 20 students, then those who express an interest in that field are more likely to be offered admission than those expressing an interest in say plasma physics where there's really only one position available and that's contingent on the applicant coming in with external funding.
 
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  • #8
Are you asking which subfields of Physics research are the most active and therefore accept the greatest number of graduate students?
 
  • #9
gwnorth said:
Are you asking which subfields of Physics research are the most active and therefore accept the greatest number of graduate students?
Yes!
 
  • #10
Possibly useful: https://gradschoolshopper.com/

When I first applied for grad school,
I visited some institutions that accepted many grad students [apparently because they needed teaching assistants].
However, support for future years was not guaranteed... one needed to quickly find an advisor for support or compete for the few available teaching assistantships.

So, acceptance can get one in the door...
but more (possibly much more) work is needed to stay.

So, I think it is important to see how many grad students are supported by the various research specialties in each institution. Unfortunately, it seems,
these days, https://gradschoolshopper.com/ doesn't carry this information
like the paper-version of the (AIP)book, "Graduate Programs in Physics, Astronomy, and Related Fields" did.

Also possibly useful: https://www.aapt.org/Resources/schchoice.cfm
https://gradschoolshopper.com/grad-school-resources.html

update:
this may be useful
https://www.aip.org/sites/default/files/statistics/rosters/phyrost20.2.pdf
although there isn't a breakdown according to research specialties.
 
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  • #11
One of the problems with gradschoolshopper is that the schools listed pay to be so the "top" programs (Harvard, MIT, Stanford etc.) aren't there because they don't need the additional advertisement.

From the listings however the broad categories with the greatest number of programs appear to be in the areas of Condensed Matter Physics, Atomic/Molecular/Optical Physics, Astrophysics, and Biophysics.

I actually find USNEWS to be a better resource. You can disregard the rankings if you want, but it allows you to narrow down schools based on broad area of study and you can further refine your search based on location if that's a factor that's important to you.
 
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  • #12
gwnorth said:
One of the problems with gradschoolshopper is that the schools listed pay to be so the "top" programs (Harvard, MIT, Stanford etc.) aren't there because they don't need the additional advertisement.

From the listings however the broad categories with the greatest number of programs appear to be in the areas of Condensed Matter Physics, Atomic/Molecular/Optical Physics, Astrophysics, and Biophysics.

I actually find USNEWS to be a better resource. You can disregard the rankings if you want, but it allows you to narrow down schools based on broad area of study and you can further refine your search based on location if that's a factor that's important to you.

This thread isn’t really about rankings.
It’s about “fit”, hopefully supported by data.If one is interested in rankings like USNews
(which has its share of funny business,
e.g. https://www.insidehighered.com/admissions/article/2019/07/29/reed-students-challenge-us-news-formula ), one might be interested in old “Gourman Reports” https://www.worldcat.org/title/gour...5228050/editions?referer=di&editionsView=true .
 
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  • #13
robphy said:
This thread isn’t really about rankings.
It’s about “fit”, hopefully supported by data.If one is interested in rankings like USNews
(which has its share of funny business,
e.g. https://www.insidehighered.com/admissions/article/2019/07/29/reed-students-challenge-us-news-formula ), one might be interested in old “Gourman Reports” https://www.worldcat.org/title/gour...5228050/editions?referer=di&editionsView=true .
As I said, you can disregard the rankings and use it to narrow down schools by the sub-fields of Physics research they engage in.
 
  • #14
gwnorth said:
One of the problems with gradschoolshopper is that the schools listed pay to be so the "top" programs (Harvard, MIT, Stanford etc.) aren't there because they don't need the additional advertisement.
This claim was puzzling since the
original paper American Institute of Physics (AIP) book "Graduate Programs in Physics, Astronomy, and Related Fields" included all graduate physics programs, based on data collected by the AIP.

So, from a closer look, it appears that
  • https://gradschoolshopper.com/ is "presented by the AIP American Institute of Physics"
  • Schools can pay to effectively advertise their programs ( https://gradschoolshopper.com/advertise )
  • [bolding mine]
    https://gradschoolshopper.com/about.html says "GSS features several hundred graduate programs in the physical sciences and engineering. Many have elevated themselves above the rest by creating profiles that feature a wealth of information valuable to both prospective students and academic departments, including information on degrees offered, tuition costs, acceptance rates, admissions deadlines, financial aid, degree requirements, department and faculty research specialties, department culture, and special equipment, facilities or programs."
  • A search for "physics" in geographic area "Stanford, California" ( https://gradschoolshopper.com/stanford/k:physics )
    yields an entry for Stanford University that is not-"claim"ed.

    Similarly, "physics" near "Cambridge, Massachusetts" ( https://gradschoolshopper.com/cambridge/k:physics ) yields unclaimed entries for Harvard and MIT.

    An example of a school that was claimed is https://gradschoolshopper.com/browse/the-university-of-chicago-department-of-physics.html
  • All of the schools (claimed or unclaimed) have various specialties associated with them, and will appear in a search for a particular specialty ... with the claimed entries appearing first, followed by the unclaimed ones.

    That is,... Harvard, MIT, Stanford will show up in searches, but will be at the bottom since they did not pay to be featured.
 
  • #15
I should clarify that when I said that the "top programs aren't there" what I meant is that no actual information regarding their programs is provided. If you want to know which specific fields of study they offer, you have to do further investigation beyond that site since they haven't paid to create "profiles that feature a wealth of information valuable to...prospective students". From that perspective you can get more details from USNEWS' site.

I did a program searches on Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Yale, and Princeton and nothing came up.
 
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  • #16
From https://archive.org/details/2010graduateprog0000amer
1641420798662.png

here is an example of what information used to be available...
on page 69,
1641420713346.png


so... one can see, for each graduate program in physics in the United States,
the distribution of faculty, graduate students, and degrees-granted in the various research specialties.
So, one can compare such data from various graduate programs.
 
  • #17
robphy said:
so... one can see, for each graduate program in physics in the United States,
the distribution of faculty, graduate students, and degrees-granted in the various research specialties.
So, one can compare such data from various graduate programs.
But that information by itself is not sufficient to determine what field is easiest to get into (which is the OP's underlying question). So, for University X, we know how many grad students in each field are currently enrolled. But we don't know the number of grad students interested in each field that applied.

Decades ago, when I applied to grad school, I knew I wanted to specialize in solid-state physics (before it was subsumed under condensed-matter physics). So I narrowed my list of candidate grad schools to those that had strong research programs in solid-state physics. But I'm sure that other students that wanted to specialize in solid-state physics likely did the same thing.
 
  • #18
CrysPhys said:
But that information by itself is not sufficient to determine what field is easiest to get into (which is the OP's underlying question).

Sure. Hopefully that’s obvious.
(Who made the claim that this is sufficient information?)

Is there any (publicly available) information by itself that would answer the question?

I would think that having real data, especially collected by the AIP, is certainly useful to have. Then one can follow up and do more research on possibilities.

As a physicist, I like to have data that I can analyze and spur more questions.
 
  • #19
I don't think the OP is going to be able to find a concise source of information that provides total number of students enrolled by subfield. The closest they may get is the number of programs offered. It may at least give an indication of which specific fields of research are the most popular (or at least get the most funding).

As a side note I personally don't think this is the best way of going about choosing what programs to apply to.
 
  • #20
gwnorth said:
I don't think the OP is going to be able to find a concise source of information that provides total number of students enrolled by subfield. The closest they may get is the number of programs offered. It may at least give an indication of which specific fields of research are the most popular (or at least get the most funding).

As a side note I personally don't think this is the best way of going about choosing what programs to apply to.
<<Emphasis added.>> Yes. A PhD in Physics requires about 6 yrs of intense effort, while putting many other aspects of your life on hold. For this, you should have a calling ... strong drive, motivation, passion. Asking the question "What's the easiest field to get into (in the context of an insurance or safety school)?" indicates the lack of a calling.
 
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  • #21
Hi everyone.

It's worth noting that @Jose Diaz (the OP) has not responded at all to this thread (in fact, the OP has only a total of 9 posts in total here on PF) since December 29.

I'm wondering if this discussion has run its course and that we should close this thread.
 
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  • #22
Good call. Any objections?
 
  • #23
Enough advice given; go ahead; give a few more hours or maybe up to 1 day.
 
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  • #24
My summary:

(1) The OP's question cannot be answered based on publically available info alone.

(2) A student who will succeed in a Physics PhD program would not ask the question in the first place.
 
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  • #25
Poster has been reminded that insults are not permitted at PF
CrysPhys said:
My summary:

(1) The OP's question cannot be answered based on publically available info alone.

(2) A student who will succeed in a Physics PhD program would not ask the question in the first place.
Lol be mad I have the highest grades of all students in the class in EM1,EM2, QM1,QM2,CM1,Stat MEch and a bunch of math classes. If you dm me your phone number I can send you the proof. Cry with your mediocre IQ. LOL.
Edit: I am in a top 20 Undergrad Institution.
 
  • #26
Poster has been reminded that insults are not permitted at PF
symbolipoint said:
Enough advice given; go ahead; give a few more hours or maybe up to 1 day.
Biophysicist that coudlnt get into harvard? LOL.
 
  • #27
Jose Diaz said:
Lol be mad I have the highest grades of all students in the class in EM1,EM2, QM1,QM2,CM1,Stat MEch and a bunch of math classes. If you dm me your phone number I can send you the proof. Cry with your mediocre IQ. LOL.
Edit: I am in a top 20 Undergrad Institution.
I did my undergrad at a top 5 or so, did my PhD at a top 5 or so in my specialty, and got hired by what was then one of the top 2 or so industrial R&D labs for physicists. I never hunted around for insurance or safety schools, either as an undergrad or grad. In fact, I was accepted to Harvard for both undergrad and grad, and turned them down both times. So, I'm not impressed with you, and I'm not crying. And I'm done with your arrogance..
 
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  • #28
Yeah, this thread is done and the OP's account is under review.

Update -- OP is on a 10-day vacation from PF, and has been reminded to be civil in discussions at PF (and to appreciate the efforts of other users who have been trying to help him).
 
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Related to Easiest Physics PhD fields to get into in the US?

1. What makes a physics PhD field "easiest" to get into in the US?

There are a few factors that determine the ease of getting into a physics PhD program in the US. These include the specific research interests of the program's faculty, the competitiveness of the program, and the funding and resources available for graduate students.

2. Are there any specific subfields of physics that are considered easier to get into?

There is no one specific subfield that can be considered universally easier to get into for a physics PhD program. However, some subfields may have more open spots or funding available, making it easier to get accepted into a program in that particular area.

3. Is it easier to get into a physics PhD program if I have a specific undergraduate degree?

While having a relevant undergraduate degree can certainly strengthen your application, it is not a guarantee of acceptance into a physics PhD program. What matters most is your aptitude and interest in the specific research areas of the program, as well as your academic achievements and research experience.

4. Are there any specific schools or regions in the US that have easier physics PhD programs?

It is difficult to pinpoint specific schools or regions that have easier physics PhD programs, as the competitiveness of programs can vary greatly even within the same region. It is important to research and target programs that align with your research interests and strengths.

5. Can I increase my chances of getting into an "easier" physics PhD program by taking certain courses or exams?

Taking relevant courses and exams, such as the GRE Physics Subject Test, can certainly strengthen your application and demonstrate your knowledge and skills in physics. However, ultimately, the most important factor in getting accepted into a physics PhD program is your research experience and potential for success in the program.

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