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Grad school after long hiatus. Advice?

  1. Dec 6, 2014 #1
    I graduated with my BS in physics in 2005 with a 3.75 GPA. Now I'm teaching high school physics and find myself wanting to get an advanced degree. I'd like to get a PhD eventually, but I'm not really sure how to get back into that world. I figured going through my upper-level textbooks and getting a strong score on the physics GRE would be a good place to start. I don't have any research experience since 2005, though, and the only classes I've taken recently were on teaching methods, so I'm not really sure who I would really want to write recommendations.
    Would I stand much of a chance as is or would I need to get some more relevant, more recent experience (take a class or do some research over the summer)?
    Would it be a better idea for me to earn a master's somewhere before applying to a PhD program?
    Thanks for the advice!
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 6, 2014 #2
    You should contact profs at your undergraduate institution, especially the ones you have done research with! You should remind them who you are in your email. Maybe attach your CV or something too. Ask them if they can write rec letters. LORs from people you have done research with will be the strongest. I think it's that you have plenty of teaching experience because most grad programs would require you to TA ( unless if you win a fellowship).

    You should spend some time researching on what kind of research you want to do! Convince admissions why you want the PhD. So, I really think it is important you get in touch with your undergrad profs. Maybe you can reach out to profs at a local university too? You can maybe enroll for summer classes or get some additional research experience?

    Study hard for the pgre and really aim for high score! Although low scores does not mean rejections, high scores open more doors.

    I would not recommend applying to only master's programs, but having them as a back up is a good idea. Good luck!
  4. Dec 7, 2014 #3
    Thank you! I think you're right about contacting my old professors. Unfortunately, many of them (including the one I did research for) have moved on. I'm sure I'll be able to find a way to contact him, though. The thing I'm concerned about there is that it would be a recommendation based on work I did a decade ago. Would that really count for much with admissions? I'm really thinking some additional (more recent) research experience would be in order. I guess now is as good a time as any to start looking. Any ideas where I should ask? Professors at the nearest university maybe?
  5. Dec 7, 2014 #4
    If your undergraduate professors have good things to say about your research, then it certainly counts! It would be nice to get more research experience, and I encourage you to look for some opportunities. Do you know what you are interested in? If you live by a local university, consider sending an email to a professor there. Especially to someone you might be interested in working with. BTW, if you live near a local university do you know anyone who works there? If yes, have that person set you up with a physics prof that they know. A prof is more likely to meet you this way instead of you waiting for him/her to reply to your email. This worked out for me many times. *Networking is key*
  6. Dec 13, 2014 #5
    I don't know anyone who works there, unfortunately, but one of my students just told me she has an aunt who earned her PhD in physics at ASU 20 minutes away. I think I'll talk to her and send out a couple e-mails to professors with interesting-sounding research. I'm not really sure how it will work out since I do work full time during the school year, but I'm sure I can work something out with someone.
    I haven't really picked any one focused, specific interest, but I do think most topics having to do with plasma, big magnetic fields, cosmic rays, and nuclear reactions are pretty awesome.
    Thanks again for the advice!
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