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Internship debate Astro theory/Hep-Exp

  1. Feb 21, 2012 #1
    Hi guys,

    So I have a little bit of a dilemma right now. I got into two internship programs, one for computational/theoretical astrophysics and the other at Fermilab. I want to go to graduate school for theoretical particle physics. So the question is, what looks better when you're applying with an interest in theory: an internship in theory in an unrelated/tangentially related field (there might be some astroparticle work) or work in that field but possibly more experimental? I won't know what I'm doing at Fermi, but it seems that it leans towards experimental or computational work.

    So the question is what looks better, experimental work in that field or computational work in a different field? My best hope right now is computational work in particle physics I guess.

  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 21, 2012 #2
  4. Feb 21, 2012 #3
    Take the Fermilab intern, pass me the astro one! I'd think taking the one which you feel is most relevant to your research interests/grad school is the best idea.
  5. Feb 21, 2012 #4
    Lavabug- I would if i could, but thanks for the advice
    Redrum419_7- Thanks for your...succinctness.

    Yea I did some more research into the astro research and it doesnt seem like my thing.
  6. Feb 22, 2012 #5
    Fermi sounds better.

    Also, with respect to theory/experiment. I'd actually think that you'd be better off in the long run if you do the "opposite" of what you plan to do in grad school. A good theorist needs to understand experimental work, and a good experimentalist needs to understand theory.
  7. Feb 22, 2012 #6
    Thanks for the advice twofish. I have gotten experience with experimental physics, but so far only in AMO actually. I've been trying to keep my interests broad.

    I did get an offer for a research project with a particle theorist anyway, so it looks like I'll be doing that. Fermilab would have been cool though...
  8. Feb 23, 2012 #7
    If I may bump this thread with one more question, there was something else on my mind. This time the question is: for a summer internship, is it better to go to a lower ranked schools (~40) and do work in particle theory or a higher ranked school/Fermi (~10s and 20s) and do work on the more experimental/computational side.

    As twofish pointed out, its good to get experience in the experimental side. On the other hand I'm lacking any research in theory. Its also a question of do grad schools care more about what the research was in or where you did it? That is it might look better if you did it at a school with a better department.

    Thanks again!
  9. Feb 23, 2012 #8
    Generalized school rankings mean nothing in physics in the United States (other countries are different). Reputation in physics attach to the researcher rather than to the school, so what you want is recommendation letters from someone that is well-respected in the field. You want to get an internship in a place where you think you can get good recommendation letters.

    Also, it doesn't necessarily have to be in the exact field that you are going into. People in astrophysics theory know who the good experimentalists are and vice versa, so what you want is to get a letter from someone that the admissions committee has heard about and respects (which isn't difficult since the physics community is small).

    I don't think that matters a huge amount. Also, you need to be careful about "better departments", since no name schools have excellent departments in some areas, whereas big name schools can be weak in some areas. People in the field know where the good stuff comes from.

    One thing that you should start doing is that by junior year you should start keeping track of the research in the field that you are interested in. You should have enough knowledge to at least start skimming papers, and once you start doing that, you can make your own judgments about quality.
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