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Grad schools in US and Canada

  1. Jun 22, 2014 #1
    I am currently studying Physics BS in UK, I just finished my third year and planning to apply for Ms/PhD programs in USA or Canada.

    I think all that is relevant about me when applying:
    I work hard at school, have mostly A's and likely to graduate with 1'st class degree, I think I'm somewhere at top 10% of my class, but I have no research experience so far, no publications. Currently I am doing summer internship in nuclear institute, but my work mostly involves programming and has very little physics. I am going to attend 2-week Particle Physics summer school soon (is this something to enhance my chances when applying to grad school?) I also did TA this year in my institution. I also have a lot of programming experience.

    I don't think I am especially strong candidate for grad school, because of lack of research experience I have no deeper understanding in any field, all I know is basics. (Although I do study outside the class things like GR, number theory, differential geometry - but only at elementary level)

    I am also more attracted to HEP theory, which makes it harder to get in.

    Throughout the summer I'll be preparing for PGRE and reading Griffiths Introduction to Elementary Particles, I think that's best I can do at this time to succeed at grad school.

    I have a few questions regarding grad school:

    What do you think are my chances of getting into a decent program? Also, how do you know which program is decent, are school subject rankings adequately reflect the program?

    I hear all the time that good adviser is more important than ranking of the school, but for international student it's very difficult to meet prospective advisers. Do you think I should contact some professors via email and find out more about the them and department itself?

    Thank you,
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 25, 2014 #2
    I'm sorry you are not generating any responses at the moment. Is there any additional information you can share with us? Any new findings?
  4. Jun 25, 2014 #3


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    As you get towards the end of your undergraduate studies it's important to start thinking seriously about the field(s) that you might want to pursue graduate studies in. There's no single best way to learn about them, but things that certainly help include: attending departmental seminars, reading review articles (check out Nature or Physics Today, for example), attending or volunteering to help out with conferences, volunteering in labs, doing a senior thesis-project, talking with graduate students and listening to what your peers have found out.

    The best way to learn about a school or a program is to visit, but I know that can be difficult or even impossible - particularly for an international student. Once you've got a subject area that you're interested in though, one option might be to talk with some of your professors who work in the field, if not the specific project. They could have some suggestions. You can also figure it out by reading. Even if you don't understand everything in every paper yet, it can help to see which groups keep coming up.

    If you have a particular department in mind, it's entirely acceptable to email professors and initiate a discussion. They may not always get back to you, but sometimes they can give you some really valuable insight.
  5. Jun 26, 2014 #4
    Yes you should contact departments and meet people and get a feel for different programs because they are all very different.

    I'll be honest with you and I think you realize, no research experience after your 3rd year is going to be a caution flag on your applications to top schools in US and probably at home for you in the UK too. In my experience having gone through the grad school application process in the US last year successfully, research is quite important.

    If you are set on particle physics, it will be tough. Lots of people want to do it. Are you dead set on particle physics? How did you decide that? These are things you'll want to think about and exemplify on your applications.

    Just a side note, one of the things that undergrad research is good for, not just in finding what you like, is what you don't like. I learned from my research in X physics as an undergrad that I would hate doing it as a grad. That was just as valuable as learning what I want to do. Because of that, I would recommend you still try to find undergrad research even if it's only for less than a year. It would look good on applications too if you found one.
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2014
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