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Grad School Selection

  1. Mar 20, 2009 #1
    I got accepted to three grad schools: University of Minnesota, Georgia Tech, and NC State. What have you heard about these schools? Which has the best reputation and in which areas of study? I am still flexible in my concentration but I think I'd like to stick with theory rather than experiment.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 20, 2009 #2


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    Congrats! I don't know much about the individual departments, but out of the three, I'd say Georgia Tech has the best reputation for a great physics program.
  4. Mar 21, 2009 #3
    For what it's worth, I was very impressed when I visited N.C. State's department - nice people, nice facilities, and $$. Having said that, I'm headed to Chapel Hill. :D

  5. Mar 21, 2009 #4
    According to many of the rankings that I've seen Georgia Tech aren't quite as good as I would have expected. Maybe they are strong in more applied areas like Condensed Matter/Optics and Photonics, etc? Can anyone confirm this? I haven't been able to find any rankings that are for specific concentrations, does anyone know where to find something like this?
  6. Mar 22, 2009 #5
    Georgia Tech's physics department is quite small - only 30ish faculty. Their key area is Condensed Matter, in which they are quite respected, but they recently hired some biophysics and astrophysics people and as far as I know the faculty spans every major subarea of physics. It's probably the best department out there given its size, but I think they're expanding somewhat.

    I will also say that the NRC rankings are pretty outdated so don't go by them. If they ever release an updated ranking I suspect Georgia Tech would be significantly higher.
  7. Mar 22, 2009 #6
    Georgia Tech is mostly focused on condensed matter, AMO, and nonlinear dynamics. We also just got a couple of astrophysicists, but those are the main areas of research here. The one guy who does sub-atomic physics mostly focuses on nonlinear dynamics from what I can tell from personal experience. I couldn't tell you anything about the other schools.
  8. Mar 23, 2009 #7
    Without knowing what areas of interest you have, it would be impossible to rank them... but...

    The University of Minnesota has a larger number of "non-specialized" grad students, which worries me a little (37/127), but Georgia has 20/109, so it's not a huge difference there. UofMinn and North Carolina State have an average of 6 years for PhD, compared to Georgia's 5.5 (both numbers are pretty standard though).

    If you are undecided, UofMinn has a larger faculty than Georgia or North Carolina, so at least you'd have more research options, but going to a department without a more narrowed scope is definitely not wise.

    While it's hard to compare grades, for course work, UMinn requires a graduate cpga of 3.3/4.0, North Carolina a 3.0/4.0, and Georgia a 2.9/4.0... Personally, I think Georgia has some weirdly low standards there.
  9. Mar 23, 2009 #8
    Georgia Tech is well-known to grade harshly (relative to other schools) even at the graduate level. Classes are curved around a 3.1 or 3.2 (take quantum I for example http://www.sga.gatech.edu/~critique/Course.php?Command=Search&txtCourseID=PHYS6105 [Broken] ). Plug in 610X instead of 6105 to see the other courses in the 8-course sequence you take your first year. If Georgia Tech adhered to the same standards as UMN, they would flunk over half their students.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  10. Mar 24, 2009 #9
    Yeah, while a C in a graduate level class is a failing grade at most schools, GT assigns them to grad students quite regularly.
  11. Mar 24, 2009 #10
    Ah, good to know. For my course work, anything under a 3.0/4.0 was a fail.
  12. Mar 25, 2009 #11


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    I guess that settles it...

    Remember to buy a jacket, you'll need it by October!, and maybe some good boots. It can snow quite a bit here in Minnesota.

    For the other places, you'll be just fine in the winter, hehe.
  13. Apr 1, 2009 #12
    When I was sending out my applications my main interest was High Energy theory but the more job statistics I look at the more hesitant I am to commit to that area. What, in your opinion, is a field of theoretical physics which both presents good employment opportunities and is well-represented at the schools I mentioned?
  14. Apr 2, 2009 #13
    Probably the most employable area of theoretical physics is condensed matter. Even industry employs condensed matter theorists. If you don't know much about it, then it may be much more deep and interesting than you expect. For example, did you know that the discovery of the Higgs boson came out of superconductor research?
  15. Apr 2, 2009 #14
    I did my undergrad at the University of Minnesota. It's got a pretty large physics department. Obviously they've got a large program in condensed matter (who doesn't these days?). Other areas in which they are good are high energy physics (they even have neutrino experiments with MINOS), space plasma physics, and cosmology. They've got both theoretical and experimental physicists in all of these areas, so you'd be pretty safe going there. But watch out for their qualifier. I could be mistaken, but I think that you have to pass it at the end of your first year in order to continue in the PhD program.

    As for the weather...yeah it sucks. But don't worry, there's a tunnel system. You can get around quite a bit of the campus without ever going outside. And when you have to cross the river, they even have a covered bridge!
  16. Apr 2, 2009 #15


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    Yes arunma, but it's cold inside the bridge anyway!!!, hahahaha. The Gopherway though is climate controlled.

    Btw, I am doing my Grad at UMN.
  17. Apr 4, 2009 #16
    NC State are really trying to lure me to them (extra money, professors calling me, etc.). I feel like if I went there I would be in for a much smoother ride financially and stress-wise. I have also heard from neutral parties that it is an ambitious school that is improving fast and has a strong faculty. I read this in another thread discussing undergrad school selection(from user lubuntu):

    "Okay, so you have brand name schools that will get you ahead based on name , there are maybe 10 of these.

    Way down at the bottom there are religious schools that don't teach proper science and online colleges.

    But there is a vast gap in between where the difference between which college you go to makes little to no difference. I think all 3 of your choices fall into this category. They are all good schools, comes down to personal preference."

    Is this still true for grad schools? Is it more about your research or your school? Deadline is approaching fast I want to make sure I don't screw up.
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