1. Not finding help here? Sign up for a free 30min tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Math major applying to physics Ph.D. Program

  1. Feb 1, 2016 #1
    Hello all,

    I'm a junior math major at uc Berkeley. And I'll be applying to physics Ph.D. programs. I have taken almost all required physics undergraduate courses, and have already finished about six graduate physics courses. And I got A on all of these classes. I expect myself to finish more graduate physics courses later on.

    Besides that, I've done plenty of math undergrad and grad courses with special focus on geometry, with A on all these.

    But I haven't done any lab courses, and I don't think I'll have time to take these courses in the future. Also, I haven't really worked in a research group before.

    I'm just wondering if all these graduate courses help my grad school application. And will I be able to get into a decent physics program with only a math major?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 1, 2016 #2

    WWGD

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Hi, why don't you try e-mailing profs . in departments you are interested in and ask them? It usually helps if you know the specific area you are interested in. Maybe you can take the Physics GRE and get a good grade to improve your case --which it seems you are able to do given your grades in the Physics classes you have taken.
     
  4. Feb 1, 2016 #3
    Are you looking to do experimental work?
     
  5. Feb 1, 2016 #4
    Well research experience is one of the most important aspects of a grad school application, so this will definitely hurt you.
     
  6. Feb 1, 2016 #5

    WWGD

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Maybe he can make up for it by taking undergrad lab classes. Or maybe Ivor wants to do more theoretical work and having done lab work may not be that hurtful. Still, I will give Ivor a 'Like' so that he does not have division by 0 : (6/0 ) :).
     
  7. Feb 1, 2016 #6
    No, I'm looking for theoretical work; possibly on quantum gravity
     
  8. Feb 1, 2016 #7
    Thanks for the reply. So if I can get some research experience for this semester and this summer, would it help?
     
  9. Feb 1, 2016 #8

    WWGD

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    It may be worth asking people in departments you are interested in: look for someone in your area of interest and ask them. I don't want you to make the effort for nothing. Ask too, about the Physics GRE. Even better, you may be able to start coming up with ideas ffor thesis work with a prof. Good luck!
     
  10. Feb 1, 2016 #9

    WWGD

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I am suggesting something along these lines:

    Write an email:
    Dear professor X: I am an undergraduate Math student interested in doing graduate work in Physics in the area of.... My situation is this:....
    Would it be helpful towards my admission if I were to take lab classes? Would a high score in the Physics GRE help improve my chances?

    You may be redirected to the department chair, but this can help, and will not hurt.

    Maybe you can also drop by your own Physics department there at Berkeley.
     
  11. Feb 1, 2016 #10

    radium

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    You absolutely need some form of research experience. It doesn't need to be in your exact field, but it is one of if not the most important parts of your application.

    I know a lot of students from Berkeley at my current institution. They all had extensive research experience. There seems to be a lot of opportunities for undergrad there so not having to taken advantage of them will definitely hurt your. It is possible to do some form of research in theory (or you could even work in an experimental group if you eventually want to do theory), so applying as a theorist will not make up for having less of a research background.
     
  12. Feb 1, 2016 #11
    Thanks a lot, it's really helpful
     
  13. Feb 1, 2016 #12
    Thanks a lot. And a follow up question. Does math research project help? Because I have applied to several summer math programs and summer physics programs (for example, I've applied to the Williams college REU program, the Perimeter Institute summer program, the Caltech LIGO program and others), just wondering should I go for the physics ones or the math ones?

    Thank you so much!
     
  14. Feb 1, 2016 #13

    I'm an international student, so I find that a vast majority of REU programs (even some of my school's program) do not admit students from foreign countries. Will this be considered as a weakness when I apply to Ph.D. programs?
     
  15. Feb 1, 2016 #14

    radium

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    No, as long as you show promise as a researcher and get good letters I don't think it makes a difference. If you want to apply for physics, you should choose research experience in physics unless the math project has some application in physics.

    Why don't you talk to professors at Berkeley? You're already at one of the top physics departments in the world so working with someone there would put you in a good position. There are probably ways to apply for funding for you to stay over the summer.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook