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Programs Math PhD student missing some background - what to do?

  1. Apr 4, 2012 #1
    Hi guys,

    After taking some time off after my undergraduate degree in Math (in Australia), I've decided to go back and do a PhD in Mathematics.

    I applied for a variety of postgrad programs in the US and Australia. Due to the break between undergrad and postgrad, and a few holes in my background, I was thinking the US programs would suit me better with the graduate coursework component. Unfortunately I was not accepted into any US programs and so am currently enrolled at a reasonably well ranked Australian university. My research interests are mostly in numerical analysis.

    However I am quickly realizing just how many holes there are in my background (PDE theory, Differential Geometry, Stochastics - I am not completely ignorant of these topics, but certainly lacking), and with the shorter time frame of the Australian PhD (3.5 years max for scholarship), I am worried I won't be able to gain a competent mathematical education.

    My career goals are not really to end up in an academic position, not because it isn't appealing, but because realistically I am not good enough. I would hope to possibly land a role in a national/commercial research lab though.

    What would people suggest I do from this point? Just try and do the best I can in the Australian program? Or reapply at US schools next year? I'm not 100% sure why I didn't get into any schools, but I didn't apply for that many and I probably should have retaken my math subject GRE. Or maybe just shift my focus so that these hole are less important.

  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 5, 2012 #2

    I think some important questions to ask yourself first are:
    -Are you generally happy with your current program?
    -You mention that you have some gaps in your background but are these gaps seriously impeding your progress on your research?

    If you answer yes to both questions then is it possible for you to go and sit in on some classes you feel may help fill the gaps? Just to be clear, by sit in I don't mean enrolling and formally taking the classes but just going and listening to the lectures. Also, do you have an academic advisor whom you can ask for guidance? They may be able to help with your situation. Even if you answer no to the second question this still may not be a bad idea if you are worried about the quality of your mathematics education.

    If you are very unhappy with your current program and would like to go to a US university, then reapplying next year might be something to consider although you will most likely have to justify why you are leaving your current program.

    Hope this helps and good luck with your decision.
  4. Apr 5, 2012 #3
    Hi someone, thanks for your input.

    Those are good questions to ask myself and I think the answers are:
    1) Yes
    2) To some extent yes

    I can (and am) sit in on courses to fill gaps here and there. I think talking to my adviser in more depth about this is a good idea.

    Is there anyone else here who went into a 3 year PhD program (Aus or UK) with what they felt like was a slightly flaky undergrad degree?

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