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Material Science vs Condensed Matter PhD & Admission Req

  1. May 21, 2015 #1
    Hi all again, I started a post earlier and it was buried somewhere by now. I really need more input and information and hope you all can help.

    How are admission process different, CM vs MS&E? CM belongs to Physics department while MS&E is usually on the engineering side.

    I got my Physics degree from a big public school with good reputation in physics. However, I wasn't able to get into the competitive programs for CM Experiment (those 17 listed on US News). I sort of understand what I screwed up and now I am trying to correct it. I have received many advice from various people, including people from physicsforum, my professors, admission committee, my PI and etc...

    It basically comes down to 3 options...
    1.) Find opportunity and work hard to gain authorship on a publication, then apply again for CM programs (Fall, 2016) (advice from one of my PI.)
    2.) Re-apply again but don't go for top 20, basically apply anywhere between 20~50th ranking school this Fall, 2015. (advice from another one of my PI.)
    3.) Don't go into Condensed Matter, switch field to Material Science. Get more research experience in the engineering and applied physics field and then apply Fall, 2016.

    (My GPA is 3.6 upper div and 3.55 cumulative, pretty much 50/50 A's and B's evenly distributed. I tend to get A's in solid state/CM courses, E&M, and Quantum.)
    My Quant GRE is 90th percentile at 165/170, and Physics GRE at 83th percentile at 880/990
    2 academic research experience and 1 internship in material characterization industry.

    I love learning more about solid state theories, but when it comes to research I think I prefer application side of solid state theories. The problem with me is that I didn't have an opportunity to work in a solid state experimental lab. I worked for a theorist and I wasn't able to gain a lot of hands on experience.

    Is material science more difficult for physics major to get into or is it easier? What are the major factors that contribute to the successful admission to good programs? Can I submit my physics GRE to Engineering department?

    My ultimate goal in science is to go into industry. It may seem counter-intuitive to go for PhD if I just want to work in industry. Well I really love the subject, I just want to learn more. I am aware of the fact that academic jobs are way too competitive for me and also it isn't exactly my lifestyle.

    So Which advice should I listen to? Go to a lower ranked CM school or try to aim high by working harder? Or completely switch field to Material Science? (Perhaps MS&E is a better fit for my career goal)

    Thank you very much for helping me out.
    Last edited: May 21, 2015
  2. jcsd
  3. May 27, 2015 #2
    Thanks for the post! This is an automated courtesy bump. Sorry you aren't generating responses at the moment. Do you have any further information, come to any new conclusions or is it possible to reword the post?
  4. May 28, 2015 #3
    So a lot of the detail of your questions are beyond me, but I can answer some of the simpler aspects of your questions.

    Physics majors are generally well received applicants to materials science programs - especially if you have focussed on condensed matter in your undergraduate studies. I would say that the physics degree won't hurt your chances at all. What may hurt your chances is the fact that you were rejected to condensed matter programs previously. Make sure to avoid this fact in your application process. Not only does it raise questions about your abilities, but perhaps more importantly is shows that materials science is your second choice. This is probably a deal breaker for a lot of schools because they are looking for only the most passionate people. As far as the physics subject GRE goes, no materials science programs will require that or anything like it. 83rd percentile is pretty good so if you chose to send it anyway it would probably neither help nor hurt you. Regardless of what you choose to do, materials science is a great field that is almost identical to CM. I think that most people interested in one will be interested in the other.
  5. Jun 10, 2015 #4
    Thank you gsmith for the advice and information, it certainly helps a lot.
    I know I probably had asked too many questions.
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