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Other Is it difficult to apply for a PhD in physics without experience?

  • Thread starter Haorong Wu
  • Start date
90
12
Hi. I’m currently self-learning physics and hopefully will apply for a PhD in physics, but there are some problems troubling me.

I received my BS. and MS. degrees in EE in China. I’ve been working for five years since then.

From high school, my two major interests are physics and computer science. I always regret that I did not opt physics. Fortunately, my passion for physics does not fade. I started to study physics courses last year following the MIT open course. I’ve finished (unfortunately, without a exam) classical mechanics, electrodynamics, wave, mathematical method for physics. I’m currently learning Griffiths’ QM. I find QM fascinating and hope to pursue a relevant degree.

I still have some questions:

1. Since I have zero experience of any areas in physics, and my degrees are not physics, how difficult will it be if I apply for a physics PhD in US, ranking about 10th to 30th? (my GRE is 153/170/3.5; I haven’t taken TOEFL and GRE sub yet; my GPA of undergraduate school is about 3.5)

2. What are the possible interesting directions in QM? I’m currently thinking about quantum computation, but I wonder there are some other better choices.

3. Griffiths’ book is great, and easy to learn. What should I study next? The Shankar’s book or Dirac’s?

4. Are there any journals or bibliographic I should follow?

I’m looking forward for any other suggestions or tips from you.

Thank you!
 
10,953
4,456
This is a really hard question and is best answered by some prospective university admissions office.

Do you have a former prof that is familiar with graduate school in the US? They could provide valuable insight on how to apply and where.

I'm sure some of your courses would apply however my feeling is that the school would want you to go through a BS in Physics to properly prepare you for graduate school especially since you've been away from academics for five years and you're coming from another country/culture/language.

I know when I went back to graduate school after six years away, I found myself competing with other grad students who just got their BS a few months earlier. This meant they were on top of their math much more so than I was and I had to really struggle through things. In QM I ran into new math I was totally unfamiliar with specifically Laguerre, Bessel and Legendre polynomials. We were expected to know them well enough to take a test without any study aids/cheat sheets.
 
90
12
This is a really hard question and is best answered by some prospective university admissions office.

Do you have a former prof that is familiar with graduate school in the US? They could provide valuable insight on how to apply and where.

I'm sure some of your courses would apply however my feeling is that the school would want you to go through a BS in Physics to properly prepare you for graduate school especially since you've been away from academics for five years and you're coming from another country/culture/language.

I know when I went back to graduate school after six years away, I found myself competing with other grad students who just got their BS a few months earlier. This meant they were on top of their math much more so than I was and I had to really struggle through things. In QM I ran into new math I was totally unfamiliar with specifically Laguerre, Bessel and Legendre polynomials. We were expected to know them well enough to take a test without any study aids/cheat sheets.
Thank you for you advice, jedishrfu.

I think it will be a difficult challenge to apply for a PhD. Unfortunatelly, the professors I know are serving in the navy, and they hardly know people in US.

But, anyway, I will try to find another way and fight for it.

Thank you again.
 
10,953
4,456
How about looking for other students surely some of them have come here?
 

ZapperZ

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Hi. I’m currently self-learning physics and hopefully will apply for a PhD in physics, but there are some problems troubling me.

I received my BS. and MS. degrees in EE in China. I’ve been working for five years since then.

From high school, my two major interests are physics and computer science. I always regret that I did not opt physics. Fortunately, my passion for physics does not fade. I started to study physics courses last year following the MIT open course. I’ve finished (unfortunately, without a exam) classical mechanics, electrodynamics, wave, mathematical method for physics. I’m currently learning Griffiths’ QM. I find QM fascinating and hope to pursue a relevant degree.

I still have some questions:

1. Since I have zero experience of any areas in physics, and my degrees are not physics, how difficult will it be if I apply for a physics PhD in US, ranking about 10th to 30th? (my GRE is 153/170/3.5; I haven’t taken TOEFL and GRE sub yet; my GPA of undergraduate school is about 3.5)

2. What are the possible interesting directions in QM? I’m currently thinking about quantum computation, but I wonder there are some other better choices.

3. Griffiths’ book is great, and easy to learn. What should I study next? The Shankar’s book or Dirac’s?

4. Are there any journals or bibliographic I should follow?

I’m looking forward for any other suggestions or tips from you.

Thank you!
Try this:


Zz.
 
90
12
How about looking for other students surely some of them have come here?
That's a possible solution. I'll try that. Thank you again, jedishrfu.
 
90
12
Try this:


Zz.
Glad to hear your advice, ZapperZ. That thread is on of the first threads I read when I came here. I'll take a formal GRE sub test later this year.

I hope I will get a nice score.
 

ZapperZ

Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
Insights Author
2018 Award
35,127
3,927
Glad to hear your advice, ZapperZ. That thread is on of the first threads I read when I came here. I'll take a formal GRE sub test later this year.

I hope I will get a nice score.
What about the second part of my suggestion?

Zz.
 
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54
Your previous degrees are in a related field. You need to score exceptionally well on the GRE subject test. My old office mate from China had a BS in meteorology, aced the physics GRE, and got admitted to a very good program.
 
90
12
What about the second part of my suggestion?

Zz.
Hello, Zz.

Sorry I've neglected the second part of your suggestion which I now find to be much more valuable than the GRE sub.

Well, I feel terrifying after I skimed a qualifying exam of the UCSD. Those undergraduate part problems are too simple, while I have no clues for the graduate parts. Is that meaning I'm not well prepared for appyling for a PhD?
 
90
12
Your previous degrees are in a related field. You need to score exceptionally well on the GRE subject test. My old office mate from China had a BS in meteorology, aced the physics GRE, and got admitted to a very good program.
Thank you for your advice, alan.

I'll try my best on the GRE Sub. I'm not too worry about the test cause I heard it is not difficult. :P
 

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