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Graduate school help please

  1. Jan 1, 2007 #1
    I will be graduating next year from a German University with a physics degree and am toying around with the idea of entering a biophysics Phd program in the US.

    I'm a little overwhelmed at the whole process.
    Mostly, how do I choose the right school?
    I guess, I could just look at a ranking but I think I will need much more inside information about the schools and different programs. Where do I find this? There are so many programs, I really have no idea, where to start...

    Also, how do I find out, which school would realistically take me?
    (My grades are probably not comparable to the US system and I haven't taken my gre exam yet. when I have finished my degree I'll have a year of full time research experience under my belt, as it's required for my thesis anyway.) My plan right now is to go ahead and take the GRE and then evaluate my chances based on the score. Is there any better way?

    Another problem I have is the length of most Phd programs. 6 years are quite long, compared to 3 years in germany. Now, I understand, usually one enters a phd program after a four year bachelor program, but by the time I get my german degree I will have already spent 6 years at the university (typical is five years, I took an extra year to study abroad) and, frankly, I'm tired of studying and I finally want to do the one thing I have originally signed up for: research. Having to complete two more years of course work before I can see a lab does not sound too appealing to me right now. Do you know of any Phd programs where the course work is considerably smaller?

    Thank you, any help is appreciated. I really could use any piece of information...
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2007
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 1, 2007 #2
    About schools:
    A good place to start might be http://www.gradschoolshopper.com/
    Just select Biophysics from the Subject pull down menu, choose your type of PhD, and click Find It. The white box lists all schools that have a research area of biophysics. Clicking the link will open a pdf from the American Institute of Physics which contains a lot of information like average entering grades, GRE scores, faculty, etc. This should at least give you a list of schools that concentrate in an area you wish to study.

    Good luck!
  4. Jan 3, 2007 #3
    wow. thank you for the link, this helps a lot!

    Now, is anybody out there knowing, how much a german physics diploma is respected in the american university world?

    I will complete my thesis work at a max planck institue. How are they looked upon in the US? The reason I'm asking is they are very well respected here in Germany and I am trying to evaluate my ..um.. "worth" to an american university.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2007
  5. Jan 3, 2007 #4
    Where ever you are going to school, if it has a fancy name, we will respect it:rolleyes:
  6. Jan 3, 2007 #5
    That's great. Now my chances are sky rocketing: I went to Albert Einstein elementary school.
  7. Jan 3, 2007 #6


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    Well, ok. I'll stick my nose in here since I've done just something like this very recently with someone who is at Imperial College.

    1. Do you have a particular area (or a few areas) of physics that you want to specialize in? This need not be etched in stone, meaning that you can sorta change your mind later. However, it can give us some idea on which schools to recommend.

    2. How strong are your final results, as in would you think you'd be a viable candidate to apply to the top-notch brand-name schools?

    3. When do you wish to apply and would you be needing any financial assistantship? I think for most schools, applying for Fall 2007 might be a bit late.

    Most US schools, and certainly the major ones, fully recognize the German diploma program. What you have is probably similar to a M.Sc level in the US. I am guessing (but this is highly school-dependent) that you might get a few graduate transfer credit, but I would suggest you do not depend on that at this stage.

  8. Jan 3, 2007 #7
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 22, 2017
  9. Jan 3, 2007 #8
    1.want to get my PhD in biophysics. My (German) thesis work will be in cell biology, particularly the membrane of the cell. I might want to continue in that field for the PhD.

    2. We are not graded continuously on our work and our final grade is only determined by 4 oral exams and our thesis work. I just browsed through the official statistics and my grade will probably come out right about average compared to all physics students and pretty far on top compared to the whole student body. I will most likely graduate with the label “very good” (as is half of my physics class!), which is only inferior to “excellent” (straight A’s). What is weighing me down is my grade in theoretical physics, which is clearly below average, every other grade so far is almost perfect or perfect (probably comparable to A’s and A- ‘es)

    So, to answer your question, although I would be applying for an experimental subject, I don’t think any top-notch school would look past the fact that I almost failed theoretical physics.

    What I have going for me is that I could probably get a few very good letters of recommendation, as every internship at a laboratory I had, resulted in me getting offered thesis work (both diploma and PhD), so I think I might not be doing too bad in that kind of setting.

    3.I will get my diploma in December 2007, so fall 07 is too early for me anyways. I was thinking about spring `08 if possible or fall ’08 (although I have no idea yet how I would fill the gap in time). I will need financial assistantship, although I’m aware that this is lowering my chances. I will look around for scholarships, but as far as I know, there are not a lot (if any) out there supporting a stay throughout a whole program. All those I can come up with on the top of my head are only for part-time exchanges.
  10. Jan 3, 2007 #9
    I forgot to thank you all for taking the time to help me.
  11. Jan 4, 2007 #10
    Well I have been sticking my head into the topic of Biophysics, particularly membrane and theory driven, for some time, and had a thread going on earlier concerning grad schools. So after digging up some of the info in that thread I managed to come up with a search that led to this websithttp://www.biophysics.org/education/gradprogram.asp" [Broken]

    Its a search section to designed to find biophysics programs by a biophysics interest group.

    Hope this helps.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  12. Jan 6, 2007 #11
    Thank you all for your advice and the great links you provided.I feel like I have a little more direction now.
    I have decided to go ahead and take the GRE and see with what score I can up with. I think I should be able to see where I stand a little better afterwards. I have estimated the whole application process will probably cost me about 800 dollars, so it may not be worth continuing, if I can only get into crappy schools.
    Does this sound like a good plan to you?

    Also, should I take the subject test first, or the general?
    After all I’ve read, I’m leaning towards the subject one, because it seems like a better indicator of my chances.
  13. Jan 6, 2007 #12


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    At the risk of being tacky (which has never stopped me before), I would point to you what I've written on this matter before:


    And honestly, if a program offers a Ph.D degree in that subject area, and in particular, in the specific area of your interest, then chances are, it isn't that "crappy" of a school. The school may be small, and may not be that well-known at the world level, but you'll be surprised. I can give you one specific example that I know of. Most people do not know or have heard of the Illinois Institute of Technology, unless you are an architecture buff or an architecture major (Mies van deRohe was a faculty member there). And if you look at their program, you'd think they're small and don't do much. Yet, I can tell you that their biophysics program is quite dynamic because they run and administer at least 3 collaborative teams and beamlines at the Advanced Photon Source here at Argonne. Most of their biophysics majors get to perform their work at one of the most advanced and unique facility in the world.

    So be careful that you don't get seduced by a one-track focus on "brand-name" schools. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how much of an opportunity smaller schools can provide, especially if they're situated close to a US Nat'l Lab.

  14. Jan 10, 2007 #13
    That's funny. I actually know the Illinois Institute of Technology, I even walked around it's campus a couple of year ago when I was visiting a friend who attended it.
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