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Need Information Regarding Physics Graduate School

  1. Jan 14, 2013 #1
    I am currently a sophomore attending Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) and majoring in physics. I am very studious and have maintained a 4.0 for the three semesters I have completed so far. I am hoping to graduate with a 4.0, which will be difficult but I think it is achievable. I am currently looking to get involved in some sort of research during the school year and internships over the summers but haven't had any luck so far. Once I graduate from IUP I want to get a masters or PHD in aerospace engineering or astrophysics from one of the best universities. I want to get a job that is in the space industry such as designing spacecrafts/missions or studying space. I know very little about graduate school or the job field so ill just put some of the big questions I have and hopefully you'll have some info to help me out.

    IUP is smaller state school and I am worried I will not be able to get into a high ranking graduate program such as MIT, Stanford or Caltech. So my question is if I maintain a 4.0 (or keep it above a 3.8) and get into some research will I have trouble getting into one of these high ranking schools? Also, would it be smarter to attend a lesser (but still widely recognized) school where my high grades might get me scholarships or some sort of reduced tuition and save me a lot of money?

    I am unsure how much graduate school is going to cost me. I have been searching online about it and I keep getting different answers when it comes to having tuition reduced. Some people talk about how the school pays for their tuition if they do research and stuff for them as they earn their degree. I can't seem to find anything on how common this is. Does this happen very often, and how do they pick who to give it to? and how much do these people usually get?

    Should I stop at a masters degree or go for the PHD? I love learning so the extra years of schooling don't bother me its, just id rather save the time and money if it is not going to increase my chances of getting a better higher paying job.

    As for research, IUP has nothing related to aerospace engineering or astrophysics so I was probably just going to go with the first opportunity I got. For internships, I am looking at SpaceX and NASA. I feel that these would be perfect to get my foot in the door with the space industry along with experience in the field.

    Any information or advise would be greatly appreciated, thank you so much for your time!

    "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go"
    T. S. Eliot
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 14, 2013 #2
    Getting in to graduate school depends on more than that. Additional requirements are a good Physics GRE score, letters of recommendation, and published work. Not having published work or research is necessary to get into graduate school, but certainly does not hurt. Remember, you are competing with students all over the nation (and even other nations) for a few spots. Having great grades and other requirements will not guarantee you a spot.

    From my understanding, graduate school (for Physics) is virtually free. The universities generally only offer enough spots to fill research and teaching assistants. You may actually end up making some money going to school.

    Here is an AWESOME site.


    For research opportunities:

    Get cracking, most of the applications are due mid February, some earlier.

    Enjoy, hope I could help.
  4. Jan 14, 2013 #3
    Thanks! Those links are very useful, ill get right on applying for some of those research programs.

    As for letters of recommendation letters, do they have to come from a physics professor? I have had the same math teacher for Calculus 1,2 and 3 and done exceptionally well in her classes. I was thinking since math and physics are interconnected I could possibly get one of my letters of recommendation from her?
  5. Jan 14, 2013 #4
    I would say one from a mathematics professor and one from a physics professor is perfectly fine.
  6. Jan 14, 2013 #5


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    As many letters as possible should come from research advisers. After you've exhausted those, then you ask professors who taught your upper level classes. Professors you had for intro level courses outside your field are not in a position to tell grad schools how promising a researcher you are (and that's what a PhD is all about) or how you will do in your graduate level coursework.
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