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Grad programs for computational science

  1. Sep 3, 2010 #1
    I graduated last year with BS degrees in physics and applied math. I also took heat transfer and fluid mechanics courses which helped me land a job at an aerospace company before getting terminated recently due to a clearance issue. I'm not too disappointed with that as I didn't see myself working there long-term. The work seemed dull and I missed learning new things in school and working on research projects. I could continue looking for another engineering job or just apply for grad schools. I'm leaning towards getting a phD much more now than in the past. The problem is I have no idea where to apply as i have a broad range of interests but nothing in passion

    Based on my undergrad research experiences, i'm certain that i want to avoid experimental work and instead work on computational simulations of physical systems. I am certain that I want to do modeling/simulation research for my career, whether it be in academia or industry.

    The programs I'm considering are:
    1. materials engineering - Two of my undergrad research projects were related to materials modeling, which were pretty interesting. I thought quantum mech was ok, but I wasn't too excited by it. Also, I've read some interesting articles related to lasers in online magazines. I also never got to take solid-state physics but it seems interesting. However, the few job listings I've seen that look for this background do work I'm not interested in, such as working with solar cells, semiconductors and electronics, etc

    2. mechanical/aerospace - I liked the theory covered in heat transfer, such as the heat equation, but didn't like using it to solve electronics cooling problems. Also, the aerospace industry may not be for me as evidenced by my clearance denial. But I would love to work on weapons, missiles, rockets, etc. I'm not interested at all in the other fields that MEs go into. CFD also looks interesting but I haven't taken an advanced fluids class

    3. applied math/ computational math and science - I liked most of my math classes especially linear algebra, numerical analysis, real analysis, math modeling, ODEs, and PDEs. But I didn't really like fourier analysis and abstract algebra for being too abstract. I don't think I would like programs that require alot of CS. I would like to use applied math for physical problems, so I thought materials modeling or CFD would be good fits for me

    can anyone help me with this?

    On a side note, I had planned on doing my MS in ME/AE part-time while having my company pay for it until I suddenly lost my job. Now, I probably won't attend that MS program.
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2010
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 3, 2010 #2
    1. Denial of security clearance is a big concern for your career planning if you want to work in aerospace/defense. If you can't get it the first time, it almost means you won't get it ever. The same issue is also somewhat a problem if you want to do research work in national lab or government. So, make sure you choose something you can find jobs don't need clearance.

    2. In case you don't know it yet, US DOE support computational science through a fellowship program CSGF. The website is http://www.krellinst.org/csgf/. Take a look and you will find a lot more areas that might inspire you.
  4. Sep 3, 2010 #3
    I should've been more specific. My INTERIM was denied. Thus, my company let me go, so there was no investigation to see if I would get the final secret clearance. I heard alot of people get their interim denied, but still get granted the final clearance. Does that still mean I will have a very hard time getting hired in the aerospace industry?
  5. Sep 3, 2010 #4
    I would say that CFD suits your background very much. All you need is to read about the Navier-Stokes equations, the mathematical algorithms used to discretize it and solve it, and the physical models used to model turbulence. For your mathematical background, this doesn't seem a problem. you would also need to learn some commercial CFD codes, like Ansys Fluent or CFX.

    I would personally advise you to take this route. IMO, the CFD business is almost saturated by mechanical engineers, and your background in mathematics would probably help you excel in this field.
  6. Sep 3, 2010 #5
    thanks for your suggestion. I'm most interested in its applications to the aerospace/defense industry. But not only is it cyclical, but if that denial of my interim is a sign of things to come, then I can't even work in that industry. I'm not interested in using CFD for automobiles, environment forecasting, etc.

    Why do you suggest i pursue CFD instead of something else?
  7. Sep 3, 2010 #6
    well, if you're aiming to get a Ph.D. CFD is a field that suits your background, has a lot of academic/industrial prospects. It's not like CFD is used in aerospace and automobiles industry only, almost every research that deals with fluid flow is heavily involved in CFD. Thus, having a Ph.D in it will open a lot of doors.

    Anyway, if you're not that interested in it, then it will be a bad idea to spend 4 or 5 years studying it to earn your Ph.D. you'd better search for something you have a firm passion about.
  8. Sep 3, 2010 #7

    From what I've seen of the applications of CFD, the only one that interests me is its application to aerospace. The problem is I can't find something I have a firm passion for
  9. Sep 3, 2010 #8
    would it be a good idea to apply to computational math/science/physics programs, so that way while studying there I can get a better idea if I like to simulations in CFD or materials, or doing something else such as numerical analysis and PDEs? How do I find out which ones are the best fits for me? Should I ask one of the previous professors I worked for for advice?
  10. Sep 3, 2010 #9
    I don't know much about the interim clearance process, I guess the important question is whether you find out why you are denied, and whether that reason is going to be a issue if you need to get another one again. I personally have not seen anyone who didn't get interim, but I bet past denial will definitely come up as a question when they investigate your background.

    Also, don't be fixated on CFD yet, computational science is a lot bigger than that. If you just jump in without a full consideration, you might find 5 years of graduate school is really long and not enjoyable. Go to the link I sent you to see what are the projects people have been doing, and follow the links to the school/program they work in.
  11. Sep 4, 2010 #10
    After looking at that link in more detail and looking at all the profiles, I can see that not many students were in applied or computational math programs, other than for doing projects related to biology. So most of the ones I found interesting were from engineering programs, in particular mechanical/aerospace/nuclear
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