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Grad School Decisions

  1. Jan 3, 2005 #1
    I am getting near the end of my undergrad career, and slowly I am becoming more and more stressed about grad school.

    Here is what I know:

    I want to get my PhD in Physics, and work at a University afterwards. Im equally excited about doing research as well as teaching.

    I did a summer REU this past summer doing Astrophysics research, and I have come to the conclusion that it is not what I want to focus my career on.

    What I need help with:

    I am not at all sure what area oh physics I want to focus in, and I don't know how to figure out without having direct exposure to research in the various fields. I have looked over some papers in Arxiv, but of course most are very specific and hard to understand for amateurs.

    I have always loved computers, and have thought if my research in physics could go along this route as well, it could be very rewarding. Is research related to quantum computing something I want to look into?

    I also think a lot of the AMO research seems very interesting, and I am trying to find some good overviews of the general work going on in AMO physics currently, does anyone have any suggestions of what I can read?

    Finally, I live in Texas, and I am so tired of the miserable climate here :). I would like to try and find a good University, that is in an equally ideal location. I have been looking at the University of Colorado - Boulder, as the location seems stellar of course. I also know they are doing very good things in AMO research there, can anyone speak more of this Univ? Can anyone suggest some other Universities in good locations with generally good overall Physics grad programs.

    Thanks in advance,
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 5, 2005 #2
    Hello JasonZ, I don't know what to say and it would be ashamed of me if I am mistaken..
    I have a friend (supposingly) who used to graduate from Trinity college,
    Do you have any friends who also studied in that school? If you do plz tell me something more, my friend didn't want to tell me because he said he wanted to catch more other fish. (I don't understand what he ment by that either)...

    By the way, I also like quantum computing and I am very honest when speaking with you...and that I also dont care about rumors or by-producks of alpha male problem (I once heard it from a Chinese called himeself Steve) because I could ask my friend to solve it for me... :blushing: :redface:
  4. Jan 5, 2005 #3
    Hey atrec,

    I'm sorry, I read your post several times, and I just can't understand what you are trying to say. If you are speaking of Trinity Univ. in San Antonio, then I know of it, but do not know anyone that goes there.

  5. Jan 6, 2005 #4

  6. Jan 6, 2005 #5
    If you're looking for a University with a decent climate, I know University of Washington has a decent physics department. I'm not completely sure of the research in physics that they are doing there mainly because I got my BS in Materials Science and Engineering; however I had a friend who graduated from there with a BS in physics. You could go onto their website and check out their research topics they have, and also you might look at Oregon State Univ. If you're looking for top schools in physics, I couldn't begin to tell you where to look due to what I graduated in. Hope this helps a bit.
  7. Jan 6, 2005 #6


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    atrec's friend may be from the UK. The most famous Trinity College is in Dublin, Ireland. The only other Trinitys I've heard of are the ones in Cambridge and London.


    Research related to quantum computing has little if anything to do with computers. It currently falls almost entirely with the realm of theoretical condensed matter physics, though some experimental work is happening too.

    So, you've ruled out Astrophysics. Do you have an inclination towards either theoretical or experimental work yet ? That would probably be the first decision to make. Then you want to look at the choices : Condensed Matter, AMO, Nuclear, High Energy, Biophysics. Any of these sound interesting to you ?

    I strongly suggest (in fact, insist) you read up ZapperZ's journal or the "So you want to be a physicist" sticky. Here it is :

    As for UC-Boulder; that is a very good school, but I've heard some stories that it's a very research oriented place, and so the education suffers a little, as a result. This may be old news, or it may be just plain wrong, but I'd suggest you consider some of the other good programs around the country as well. I recommend U Md. (College Park), UCSD, UCSB, Illinois, Chicago, U Wash, U Mich, U Minn, CMU, Purdue and UCLA. And if you do decide to stay in Texas after all, U Texas - Austin has an excellent program.
  8. Jan 6, 2005 #7
    Hey, thanks for the reply.

    Yeah, I realize the quantum computing research is in the very early on stages (there was some going on in OU when i was there this summer), but I thought id just see what everyone knew of it anyhow.

    I wouldn't say I have 100% ruled out Astro, but as far as I can tell, and for what I've done, it just doesn't seem terribly interesting to me.

    I have thought about the other major fields a good deal. I think I have ruled out High Energy, as I don't think I want to spend my time working at the particle accelerators trying to get time.

    The AMO research that was going on at OU seemed pretty interesting, as did the condensed matter research, so I am trying to narrow it down between those two I think.

    As for theoretical vs. experimental. Sure theoretical would be cool, but I think experimental is more realistic and just as fun/interesting.

    Ok, as for the different schools. Forgive me for asking this, but for grad school shouldn't I be looking for somewhere that is very research focused, like colorado? I've looked at a few of the other schools you mentioned, mainly UCSB and UT. I know both are excellent schools, but pretty difficult to get into. I guess the best bet would just be to look at all of them, and the different research going on, and see how i feel about all of it. Then apply to the ones I like the most, and see who accepts me eh?

    Well, thanks for the informative response Goku.
  9. Jan 7, 2005 #8


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    Typically more than half of any physics department works on Condensed Matter (currently the biggest area in physics) and AMO.

    As for research; yes most grad schools are focused on research anyway. But the early part of your Grad School experience involves taking the courses that will provide you the necessary skills to understand more complex ideas and to apply them to your area of reasearch. This is a very important first step, and unless you have an environment that requires strong coursework and professors that will put in the time to prepare a good course, you could start off on the wrong foot.

    Once more, I ask that you read ZapperZ's sticky series.
  10. Jan 7, 2005 #9
    Thanks for the info, and yeah I have read about half of his series already, abut I am going to continue on now.

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