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Programs Nano-Bio-Physics? Phd or Md? warning, very long and complicated

  1. May 16, 2008 #1
    [SOLVED] Nano-Bio-Physics? Phd or Md? warning, very long and complicated...

    Hey,

    SO first off I am going to be a little frustrated by the fact that I cannot seem to use the tab button in this forum.

    Secondly this will be a long post so if you are not up for it then I suggest you flee.

    IT WILL BE VERY LONG. I am warning you... really really really long...and detailed ...

    But if you skip to the last three paragraphs you will be able to still help, and you could just jump back and forth among the article to obtain the details and such as needed. ;)


    On to the issues I have in real life......

    I don't know where to start.

    I am a senior in college. I will graduated next fall with a degree in History (north east asian concentration...random I know). I will have also completed about 2/3s of a physics major and 1/2 of a Chem major. The story goes that I was accepted into my school as a econ and engineering physics major but I changed it to history and PE and then decided I did not want to transfer to UCB (I was in a special and highly selective program) and chose physics/history as a double major (end of junior year). So I never really expected to graduate on time, but apparently at the end of fall quarter in my senior year the school realized that I could graduate "on time" (they include till the fall of the next year as on time) if I did not continue with a physics major (because it would add another year and a quarter and I would have completed all the general eds so I would pretty much be part timing it). I was cut out of the physics program and put into a history only program and am set to finish it in about six months. This was done because i could finish the history most quickly (no preqs for most classes so I can double or triple up on upper divs).

    Now I have a unique background as well which has influenced my life a lot. First I am an American raised overseas (private/elite american curriculum/IB high school), second my parents still live overseas, third I was diagnosed with ADHD and a math LD in the summer before my senior year and my gf is a pain in the .....

    Anyway. Having changed my major about four times, working a part time job (sometimes two) for 4 years to help pay for tuition, being an RA for two years (uh I didn't include that as a job for some reason), being on a college swim team for two years and having a very colorful love life, oh an never receiving any accommodations for what were seen as somewhat serious ailments did not in anyway make my college experience easy.

    Most people think it is a miracle I am graduating "on time". I don't want to graduate. I want a Physics degree. But I don't really have a choice cause my initial approval for extended time was revoked and I was limited to next fall to finish my senior thesis/research.

    Onwards...

    My gpa is not too hot. It is okay but it is very sporadic. I have high scores in everything at some point and then again I have Cs, Ds and Fs in every subject as well. I do well enough in most classes that I have acceptable GPA. Granted history is so much easier than physics and math and chem that those scores tend to be higher. Regardless I am unimpressed overall and rather disappointed with myself because I know if I had cut out all of the jobs and sports and took the advice from my freshman calc teacher to get tested for LD and such I would have done much better overall.

    I talked to an advisor. I was told that grad school would be no problem for me to get into, that I could easily get in anywhere in history if I had the desire and physics, chem or Bimolecular Engineering would take more work once I got there but were doable.
    I was given the suggestion of applying in the area (cause there is a lot of cross campus work among all the universities in the Bay Area) and finding a program I was interested in and talking to the profs I wanted to work with before I applied.

    I was also told that in rare cases it is sometimes permitted to have a person accepted into a grad program in one subject while they finish building experience in another and then after completing the first going into a second.

    I am a smart kid. I got my high school physics award twice in high school once as a sophomore (I was permitted to skip soph science and go into the IB classes right off cause I was the top frosh science student). I have done reasonably well in everything even though I have constantly been overextended well beyond my capabilities. I sleep maybe 3-5 hours most nights, 8hrs is sleeping in, sometimes I get 10hrs (like on my birthday or holidays) and that is a god sent. I haven't failed out of college and I should have by now.

    Now I mentioned math earlier. I do have an LD in it and it was not diagnosed till my senior year so when I went through single and then multi var calc, linear algebra and differential equations and then math methods pt.1 I never was given accommodations such as extra time on exams, a separate room for exams and a tutor. A lot of people think such treatment is cheating the system to get unfair advantages but really it is not and its not like I got diagnoses in HS and carried it forward, I was put up against one of the few independent psychiatrists that the university's disability resources department will take advice from, a clean cut no BS professional basically. I was a special case apparently because I have a really high iq (ever questioned on accuracy and reliability, I know, spare me) but I had relatively low scores in some areas as opposed to others giving me a net intellectual advantage over most people but technically still below my capability. Really honestly I did not go into testing thinking I would have anything, I was asked so often to be tested that I just broke under the pressure and took it and then was shocked at the results. I was glad I got accommodations eventually.

    The lack of accommodations for 3 years +summer school every year did take its toll and I had to repeat many math classes. Usually would fail then come out with a B or C the second time around.

    Math is important to physics and it is a weakness of mine but not one that I let get to me. I taught myself algebra, geometry, advanced algebra and trig every summer before i took them in high school and was given a test and offered the option to skip each and every one of those classes into the next level. I didn't cause my dad is a math teacher and he demanded I take everything but geo (whatever easy As were nice). Likewise my physics scores suffered in the first 3 years of college, as well, when I needed advanced maths.

    My basic interests in physics lies in its application to new energy sources and I really want to pursue Bimolecular Engineering with a nano tech focus or Nano-BioPhysics to help explore some possibilities along these lines (looking at both macro and microscopic...well nano technically... applications).I don't know. It is just what I always think about and I have talked to a couple BME professors who told me to go into a BME program (theirs maybe) despite my lack of experience in bio and my multiple poor scores because ambition, dedication, and creative ideas were good starting point as long as I learn the tools and skills along the way.


    I warned you this was long.


    What is the best course to go about obtaining this dream?

    In a grad school application is it appropriate to talk about how your ever hectic life hindered your academic success? I mean I had to pay for multiple quarters on my own from part time jobs, been stressed to hell and back when my parents are put in life threatening situations (such as the recent cyclone in myanmar) and everything else on top of it.

    Those all cannot fully justify failing grades but they played a bigger part than anything else in my opinion. Do you really think it is possible to go into a masters program in say history (I could go pretty much anywhere) and build up , simultaneously, the remaining experience needed in physics to enter a physics program and then transfer to the physics department after finishing history? (Has anyone done that? I was assured by multiple people (2 Profs and One academic advisor) that it was very possible.)

    I read on your forums that it is better to shoot for a PhD program over a masters because of the time involved and it being encompassing in a sort of way. Is this harder to do than getting into a master program? Is nano-bio-physics a good place to make a career or is it a dead end? I am also interested in some micro fluid dynamics stuff and wouldn't mind looking into it. I read a lot of science journals, btw. Lastly could really good interview get me into a grad program despite poor scores?

    I am ever so persuasive in person, I have no idea why, it is uncanny.

    I tend to interview very well and have gotten so many jobs I had no experience in that it is unbelievable. For ex. last year i was given a small research grant to design and build a prototype next gen-biodiesel reactor and write a large construction grant proposal to have someone build a real one for the university's service fleets basically because I gave a good 5 min spiel as to why we needed one and how one should go about it with about 10 minutes notice that i was even going to present an idea to anyone.


    So in the end I am a student who is super (duper!) over extended, with average scores, a wild crazy and incredibly diverse life and background and some really specific interests namely north east asian history (1800s on) and what I have been told is nano-biophysics and sometimes bimolecular engineering. I don't give up. I work hard. What will it take for me to get into grad school? Should I best just take a year off and study my butt off in physics and bio and then just ace the GRE? It can't be that hard, I usually do well on standardized tests without prep. Should I try to get in on some research as a post grad in that year off to get experience and study and recs? Should I go for a Phd or Master program? Will there be anywhere on this planet where I could get a job when I am done with it all? If I am flat out rejected from everywhere would it be possible to come back in a couple years and try again with extra study experience or something, how many years? Lastly will not having a physics or chem or bio degree make all of my pursuits out of the question or were the profs and advisor actually knowledgeable and honest with me?
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2008
  2. jcsd
  3. May 16, 2008 #2
    I will not lie to you. Having a LD in maths when you want to do physics is like missing a leg and wanting to be a sprinter. It is possible, but "normal" people will outrun you.

    I think that you should try to reach your goal. Because you are probably one of those that will be asking "what if" all the time if you don't.

    But you my good sir, need contingency plans. With the second best you can get and stuff like that. I would propose getting your Chem-major instead, it is less of physics/maths and more of book-learning if you take the right courses.

    I understand that you don't want to get a job with history as your major. But have it as a third option.
     
  4. May 16, 2008 #3
    Still, even with LD I have learned more math than most people ever will. It takes me longer to grasp a concept but I do grasp them. I am not worried about learning the maths, I am more curious about the grad school aspect.
     
  5. May 17, 2008 #4
    Just don't say anything about your LD in your application. But you will probably have to use up a lot of free time to do physics. Simple as that. Get some good reference letters and you are set to go.

    Besides, if you mind is set and you really want to try it out, you should. Leaving out the LD can get you into trouble though. Just so you are prepared for that.
     
  6. May 17, 2008 #5

    cristo

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    I think you should learn how to write in a concise way. Can you summarise, in a paragraph, what choice you are having to make? Plus, what's an LD?
     
  7. May 17, 2008 #6

    hage567

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    Homework Helper

    LD means Learning Disability.
     
  8. May 17, 2008 #7
    I read that yesterday in Zz's thread about being an physicist that writing is a very good skill for grad students.

    Cristo: I think he means LD = Learning disability. That is what I interpreted it as.

    I can summarise it a bit; He has been struggling through his undergrad. His university forced him to take another undergrad than physics, so he would take his Bsc in history and then get kicked out? (He was a bit blurry on this bit). He finished with 2/3 of a physics and 1/2 of a Chem undergrad. He wants to do research in biophysics. He also said that he has a harder time than most in the math courses because of a LD. He wonders if he is still eligible to go to gradschool in biophysics.
     
  9. May 17, 2008 #8

    Choppy

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    It sounds to me like you're trying to tackle too many issues all at once.

    My advice would be to continue to look into the various graduate programs you are intersted in. (It sounds like you're in the process of doing this.) Talk to the professors in those programs and learn what the entrance requirements are. Then orient your undergraduate program to meeting those requirements. Don't try to cut any corners (such as trying to gain entrance with sub-par qualifications on the basis of extenuating circumstances) as you'll likely end up having to make up for any missed material anyway.

    As for future outlook, contact current students enrolled in the programs that interest you and/or recent graduates. Many schools will list recent grads on their web pages along with a "where are they now" statement.
     
  10. May 17, 2008 #9
    I'm with cristo. You could have said everything you said in your post in less than two paragraphs. We don't have much to judge you on, but for me your lack of focus in your OP outweighs everything else you wrote. Your background doesn't sound "wild and crazy and diverse" to me, it sounds unfocused and largely irrelevant.

    The fact that you felt you needed to make this post is reason enough for me to warn you strongly against graduate school in physics.

    As for whether nano-bio has a future, nobody knows, and anyone who claims to is trying to sell you something.

    You keep saying that you work hard, but it doesn't sound like you've demonstrated it. Go get a job, prove you work hard there and then maybe reconsider. At least there you'll get paid while you find out what you've got in you.
     
  11. May 19, 2008 #10
     
  12. Jan 7, 2010 #11
    Re: [SOLVED] Nano-Bio-Physics? Phd or Md? warning, very long and complicated...

    I know your thread says "solved", but I thought maybe you'd still want input.

    A common theme among replies to your post is the need to focus your writing. This will be a necessity if you want to pursue research in any field. Recruiters for graduate school will be mostly interested in what you have done to prepare yourself for graduate school, and how you can contribute to their program.

    As to your graduate school aspirations, let me share some of my own experiences in the grad school application process, perhaps that might help direct you?

    A graduate school looks for three major qualities in every graduate student it accepts.

    1. Undergraduate Transcript/GPA (advanced coursework in quantum mechanics, electricity and magnetism, classical mechanics and solid state physics are all good)
    2. Performance on the Physics Subject GRE
    3. Experience in physics research as an undergraduate.

    A weakness in one of these areas can be compensated for by excellence in another. As a personal example, my physics GPA was only 3.0, but I had extensive undergraduate research experience.

    I don't think its too late for you to consider a graduate student career. However, graduate school is a completely different experience than undergraduate. You will have to put in long hours, entirely devoted to studying (some times 40-50 hours a week). The work you do must be entirely self-motivated. If you do not have an external fellowship, you will have to also work for the university as a teaching assistant until you start your research.

    A great way to start thinking about grad school is to start calling different physics departments, sending emails, and reading up on current research. Do a Google search for the research topic that interests you and then contact faculty members in schools that pursue that research interest. being published in journals like the Physical Review Letters, Science magazine, or get involved with organizations like the American Physical Society.

    I wish you the best of luck!
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2010
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