• Support PF! Buy your school textbooks, materials and every day products Here!

Masters then PhD in theoretical physics: Cambridge vs EU?

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

Hello, this is my first post. So sorry for the long read in advance.

I will graduate from Part II mathematical tripos this year, and I'm currently having a hard time deciding where to go for my Master:

For now, I'm definite that I want to do theoretical physics PhD (gravity, cosmology, or dark matter, I guess I need more time to decide on the details).
And I'm also highly certain that I want to go to the EU for my PhD (e.g. MPG, ETH or US but I don't think I'm *that* good), anywhere but the UK basically (due to personal reasons that I don't want to expand here)

The question that I have is: will the 1 year Master program in the UK prepare me enough for EU PhD?

I can stay in Cambridge and do a part III (1 year purely taught course leading to a Master), I know the part III is highly respected, and I will have a good time learning the things I want. But I'm now having second thoughts regarding its short period (so difficulty in PhD applications to elsewhere, also it might not meet the requirement for the credits in the Bologna process). Also, I heard that people only do part III for entry into Cambridge PhD, and since that's out of my question, I don't know what's left of it.

Or to do a typical 2 year Master in EU (currently on the top of my list is LMU's TMP)? The TMP program is relatively new and I don't quite know the quality of teaching there (i.e. will it be up to the standards of part III?), it leads to a better transition (language, materials, people etc.) to PhD, but requires 1 more year (which I'm OK with, but I know I will regret missing the part III).

The third option could be me doing part III then do an extra year of Master to meet the Bologna criteria, but in reality, I know very little how to proceed with this.

Any advice is highly appreciated!
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
11,483
5,009
I don't know about the one year part but I always thought it was better to go the distance of graduate work at the same school. Basically switching schools will mean retesting or retaking courses and thus delaying your start into the PhD part of your degree program.

So I'd get your math skills in place in the undergrad time and then prepare for the increased workload of the graduate level student.
 
  • #3
3
6
Re your concerns about whether Part III will be accepted - I think any reasonable PhD program would know and respect Part III and accept it as equivalent to a Masters, but there is always the option for you to contact them right now and actually ask. You don't have to try to guess on this, you can really just ask them. I did Honours in Australia which is a pretty similar deal, and the rules were that I could apply to a PhD but would need to take an extra year at the start for coursework and learning the ropes of a new language, so that's an option too.

I think a 2-year Masters would be beneficial for you though, and since you want to do your PhD outside of the UK, it might be a good idea to do your Masters elsewhere. Given that you're at Cambridge, I can pretty safely assume that you don't have much, if any, research experience. The 1-year Part III course is intense in terms of coursework, but to be honest, the thesis/research component leaves something to be desired with many students submitting a thesis only 40 pages long at the end. Even the equivalent 1-year courses in Australia expect something closer to 80-100 pages with significant research throughout the year. The coursework is just too demanding at Cambridge and the Part III students really are not present within the department because they're always studying - we barely ever see them and they very much act like (and are treated like) undergraduates instead of researchers.

A full 2 years in Europe will let you do more research and possibly give you a higher chance of getting publications.
 
  • #4
Thank you for the replies!

I don't know about the one year part but I always thought it was better to go the distance of graduate work at the same school. Basically switching schools will mean retesting or retaking courses and thus delaying your start into the PhD part of your degree program.

So I'd get your math skills in place in the undergrad time and then prepare for the increased workload of the graduate level student.
That's what I thought as well, since I have to change school anyway,
I'd rather change it at BA -> MSc instead of at MSc -> PhD, since the former requires mostly grade, the latter is more complicated I suppose.

Re your concerns about whether Part III will be accepted - I think any reasonable PhD program would know and respect Part III and accept it as equivalent to a Masters, but there is always the option for you to contact them right now and actually ask. You don't have to try to guess on this, you can really just ask them. I did Honours in Australia which is a pretty similar deal, and the rules were that I could apply to a PhD but would need to take an extra year at the start for coursework and learning the ropes of a new language, so that's an option too.

I think a 2-year Masters would be beneficial for you though, and since you want to do your PhD outside of the UK, it might be a good idea to do your Masters elsewhere. Given that you're at Cambridge, I can pretty safely assume that you don't have much, if any, research experience. The 1-year Part III course is intense in terms of coursework, but to be honest, the thesis/research component leaves something to be desired with many students submitting a thesis only 40 pages long at the end. Even the equivalent 1-year courses in Australia expect something closer to 80-100 pages with significant research throughout the year. The coursework is just too demanding at Cambridge and the Part III students really are not present within the department because they're always studying - we barely ever see them and they very much act like (and are treated like) undergraduates instead of researchers.

A full 2 years in Europe will let you do more research and possibly give you a higher chance of getting publications.
Wow, thank you for the insight. Yes, I absolutely agree I didn't do any research other than CATAM (which even for that, doesn't involve any sophisticated algorithm writing/coding).

But when I am looking for Master courses online and their schedules, I always tend to find content (sometimes even full modules) that I already learned in Part II or even Part IB, it really gives me mixed feelings. Is it normal for courses to overlap like this?

On the other hand, for theorists at Master level, I feel there isn't much to write about even I want to take part in research. For theorists, does Master thesis matter much?
 
  • #5
haushofer
Science Advisor
Insights Author
2,278
634
Well, your master thesis/research can be regarded as a preparation for a phd thesis/research, and not necessarily topicwise. Think developing research skills and critical thinking. So yes, I'd say it matters.
 

Related Threads on Masters then PhD in theoretical physics: Cambridge vs EU?

Replies
9
Views
7K
  • Last Post
Replies
1
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
5
Views
5K
  • Last Post
Replies
6
Views
3K
Replies
3
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
9
Views
14K
  • Last Post
Replies
3
Views
4K
Replies
7
Views
3K
Replies
2
Views
4K
Top