How Can I Overcome Limited Research Experience for Grad School in Physics?

  • #1
TheGoobermensch
1
0
Alright so here's the deal: I graduated recently (spring '23) from Ohio State University with a BS in physics. I graduated with honors and magna cum laude (3.8 ish gpa). I took the general GRE and got 162 verbal, 165 quant, and 4.5 writing. I spent some time in a master program to pursue teaching physics at a high school level, but that really wasn't my speed. I have decided that I want to pursue my phd in physics after all. Here's where I need some help here; I have basically no real research experience from my undergraduate education. This worries me for two reasons: One, grad school is a LOT of research, so how will any institution I apply for have any confidence in me? Two, this limits my ability to get letters of recommendation, as I no longer have a research advisor as a shoe in for a great rec letter.

I feel confident that I can get two solid rec letters out of professors I had recently, but a third will be a little difficult, and will likely end up being something pretty generic from a prof who doesn't really remember me that well. What caliber of schools should I be looking into? Am I overrating the research thing, or am I screwed? Really any advice at all would be greatly appreciated, I am feeling a little bit on the outside looking in.
 
Physics news on Phys.org
  • #2
Not clear if these two pieces of what you say are in-line with eachother:

I spent some time in a master program to pursue teaching physics at a high school level, but that really wasn't my speed.

I have basically no real research experience from my undergraduate education.

Finished the Masters program? Was that not for Physics but instead for teaching physical sciences and therefore included no actual natural science research?
 
  • #3
I'd recommend starting with consideration of why you think a PhD is right for you now. You initially thought that the teaching MSc was the right path for you. What changed? A PhD is a big, long term commitment. What is the risk that you'll get six months into a PhD program and figure out that's not what you want to do either?

A lack of research experience itself is not necessarily a roadblock to graduate admissions. Lots of students get in with minimal research experience. But that said, if you haven't done much research to speak of, how do you know that spending the next 4-6 years eyeball deep in it the right path for you?

Before worrying about tier of school, you might want to think about the specific sub-field of physics you want to get into and why that's a good fit for you. What kinds of problems do you want to work on? What kinds of skills do you want to develop over the course of your PhD? What are your plans for afterward? If you're aiming for a career in academia, what will you do if those dice don't come up in your favour? What kinds of mentors do you learn best from? Once you have have some answers here, then you can look for schools/programs that will fit best with you, and then you can figure out which ones fall into the "reach, probable, and safety" groups.

Also, if you're looking at applying this cycle, i.e. for admission in Sept 2024, you need to get on it. Typically applications are due Dec - Jan. If that's not going to happen this cycle, then you've got a year to figure all of this out.
 
  • Like
Likes DeBangis21
  • #4
I would recommend looking into applying to be a research assistant at a university or to physics bridge /research master's programs to get exposure to the requisite research experience. Doing so can help to enhance your profile for applying to PhD programs, potentially provide you with additional letter writers, but more importantly, ensure that research is in fact the path you wish to follow. The down side is that it adds more time to completing the PhD.
 
  • #5
@Choppy has some good questions. However, I would say that admissions for Fall 2025 are unlikely - that train has left the station. You might be able to slap something together for the schools with late deadlines, but you are probably not able to do this without it looking slapped together.

What did you get on the PGRE? The General GRE is fairly useless. I think it is mostly used by deans to brag when they are playing golf.

Normally, one expects to move one notch down when going to graduate school. Also, normally there are three main pieces of information: GPA, PGRE, and letters. Your GPA is good. Your letters sound like they will be below average, which is not as good as above average, but not necessarily disqualifying. A good GRE will open doors; a bad one will close some. Applying to places that don't use it is saying "Please weigh my letters more heavily" which is probably not a winning strategy.
 
  • Like
Likes CalcNerd
  • #6
TheGoobermensch said:
Really any advice at all would be greatly appreciated, I am feeling a little bit on the outside looking in.
So where was the Master's program and why did it not suit you? Did you obtain a degree? Are you, in fact, a good teacher? (could be a plus) You will eventually need to give good answers to these, so it might as well be now!
Personally I had a very good experience in grad school and enjoyed it immensely, and had few lingering doubts.
If you meet an Ohio State Alumnus, your undergraduate degree is from The Ohio State University (they can be a touchy group about this)
 
  • Like
Likes Vanadium 50
  • #7
Vanadium 50 said:
would say that admissions for Fall 2025 are unlikely
I think you mean Fall 2024.
 
  • #8
2024 +/- 1. :wink:
 
  • Haha
  • Like
Likes CalcNerd and berkeman

Similar threads

  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
7
Views
1K
  • STEM Academic Advising
2
Replies
63
Views
5K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
3
Views
1K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
6
Views
673
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
2
Views
978
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
28
Views
2K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
8
Views
2K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
26
Views
1K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
32
Views
460
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
18
Views
2K
Back
Top