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Guidance on MsC/PhD

  1. Feb 15, 2014 #1
    Hello everyone, I wanted your opinion on my father pursuing the before-said degrees. He received his BsC and MsC in physics about 15 years ago. Then, we moved to another country and he was unable to find a job in physics so he worked in another field. Now, he wishes to pursue a MsC degree or PhD so he can receive a job again. He is over 40 by the way. The thing is, he has forgotten most of the math and physics (knows not much beyond precalc/alg 2 and basics of physics). He thinks he can relearn it and pursue a MsC from a college. Do you think it is feasible (given he is determined)?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 19, 2014 #2
    He should take the practice physics GRE under test conditions to see how he stands.
  4. Feb 19, 2014 #3
    Frankly, he would do quite bad. He seems to think he can relearn is within few months (since he already learnt it long ago), but it seems a bit far-fetched.
  5. Feb 19, 2014 #4
    Well, convince him to do it (after a few months of relearning) and then he can have a reality check or you can realize he knows more than you thought.
  6. Feb 19, 2014 #5
    Thanks. I have heard you say you have an MS in physics. Do you think, for someone who already learnt the material from a good university (with respect to difficulty) can be able to learn most of the BS curriculum, along with the math requisites?
  7. Feb 19, 2014 #6
    One would think so... But there are always exceptions and mental faculties do degrade with age.
  8. Feb 21, 2014 #7
    Have more confidence in your father! Of course he can breeze through this material again... he should just apply to do a PhD and start chewing on the old textbooks to refresh his memory. It's like riding a bike (and please don't ask him if he can still ride a bike :))

    The big question, however, is: does he *really* want to do it? Or is it just a mid-life whim?
  9. Feb 21, 2014 #8
    Thanks, but I am a bit sceptical... He will have to learn Algebra 2, Calculus, Diff. eq'n, analysis and CM/EM/QM. Given he learnt it before, that was 20 years from now. And he has only about a few months. He does want to do it though. He enjoyed physics (well, as much of it that he remembers).
  10. Feb 21, 2014 #9


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    I wouldn't worry too much about it. Yes he'll have to brush up on some stuff, but if he knew it before, it will likely just be a case of doing a little work with it to remember how to use it. It's not like he'll have to re-take the courses.

    And being over 40 isn't that much of a handicap.
  11. Feb 21, 2014 #10
    Im not sure how receiving second MSc in Physics will help his job prospects. I am pretty sure he would get a bigger return on investment if he spent that time networking.
  12. Feb 21, 2014 #11
    jesse73, I don't know how useful networking will be for a guy who has forgotten most of what he learnt.

    Choppy, he can go straight to MS/PhD and age isn't a worrying factor. However, it's that he has to basically relearn a lot of content (pretty much all of it). He did learn it, so that could make it easier but it's been almost 15-20 years.
  13. Feb 21, 2014 #12
    If it helps, I finished high school in 1999 and started my BSc in 2012 and went straight into math and physics that assumed understanding of year 12 specialist maths and physics (I suppose the USA equivalent would be senior calculus and physics). I struggled a bit at first and definitely had to work a little harder than the 18 yr olds in my classes, but it all came back surprisingly quickly and I got great grades from my first semester.

    I know its not quite the same as what you're talking about, but my point is that it may come back to him a little quicker than you think.
  14. Feb 22, 2014 #13
    Yes! If he wants to do a PhD , he should just contact a few people and say he wants to get back into research. If he got a good BSc (first or 2(i) in UK terms...), then he should be able to get back into it just by networking.

    Researchers/lecturers often encounter situations where they have to brush up what they learned twenty years ago, and know they can do it quickly. So they'll identify with his situation.

    The way I would play it, in the UK, is to look through PhD opportunities here:


    ... apply for those he fancies, and then review material appropriate to the PhD before interview. If he gets the position if might be suggested that he take another MSc, or at least the necessary courses, at the same time as proceeding to PhD.
  15. Feb 22, 2014 #14
    I sense you have been asking him some hard questions from the difficult parts of some quantum physics texts :) That might trip him up, but he should be able to get back to the stage where he can answer the questions much more quickly than anyone starting from scratch.
  16. Feb 22, 2014 #15
    He obviously doesn't have to relearn of all of it! Having gained an MSc, plus twenty years of adult work experience, research leads will expect him to have enough maturity to know what to relearn on a "need to know" basis, and that will be a small fraction of his BSc/MSc work. This idea that you have to be able to do everything from your BSc/MSc at the top of a hat, twenty years later, is unreasonable and shows a lack of maturity.
  17. Feb 22, 2014 #16

    Vanadium 50

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    WannaBeFeynman, what is the point of your asking this, if you tell everyone who answers that they are wrong? It sounds like you've made up your mind - your father can't do it - and you are really looking for validation.
  18. Feb 22, 2014 #17
  19. Feb 23, 2014 #18
    I apologize if you felt that way. I just wanted others opinion on whether my father can achieve this or not. It's just that I have read countless threads where you all state that it's not possible to learn physics thoroughly and quickly (especially not within a few months). Then again, you all have the better judgement though.
  20. Feb 23, 2014 #19
    There is a big difference between learn and relearn. It depends on how much your father actually learned to begin with, which you (and he) know better than we do.
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