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Need Some Honest Feedback On late Bloomers.

  1. Aug 27, 2012 #1
    Need Some Honest Feedback On "late Bloomers."

    Ok, here's my current scenario. I am 34 and changing career paths to one in physics. I have always loved the sciences ever since I was a child, but a dysfunctional family upbringing stunted my life pursuits. I was never pushed to pursue college, and high school bored me. It lacked challenge, and 95% of the information I learned was just not interesting to me as it wasn't stimulating.

    After high school, I worked in the health and fitness industry. I never planned on it being a life-long pursuit, but opportunities kept coming up over the years that kept me involved in it. I never attained a degree since as a personal trainer, you typically get a certification and continue with C.E.U.'s (continuing education units) each year. I did, however, study business management, worked my way to the top of my field, and also ran two different (very small) businesses of my own. I continued to study physics off and on as time allowed, but didn't realize until recently that it is my calling.

    I know without a doubt that I want to be involved in physics research and possibly teach as a college professor as well. I have never been so passionate about anything in my life. However, I am discouraged by the fact that many of the most well recognized physicists knew this was their calling ever since they were children. Though I have always scored in the top 99% on aptitude tests, I still feel like it isn't enough; I feel like I wasted so many years not pursuing what I should have because life got in the way of my vision.

    To make matters worse, it seems like colleges favor the younger students. Financial assistance is much harder to receive as an adult, which makes it very difficult for me to juggle a full-time college schedule (I want to have my PhD before I'm 45), extracurriculars, co-ops, and still work enough to support the family. In addition, though I am not 100% certain on this as the information is conflicting, most sources seem to indicate that the younger students have a better chance at getting into the top schools.

    Now, I can't go back in time yet because I haven't developed time travel (I kid, or maybe not). However, I am just looking for some honest feedback. Has there been well known physicists who were late bloomers? Do I still have a chance to get into colleges like M.I.T. or Caltech? I have extremely high aspirations for myself, but after reading some biographies of some of the most well known physicists, I am feeling very disheartened. It's not that I have any doubt in my abilities. It's just that I have doubts that I will be able to catch up within my lifetime to be among the best in my field. I would appreciate any feedback any of you can give. Oh, and thanks for taking the time to read all of this, I sincerely appreciate it.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 27, 2012 #2
    Re: Need Some Honest Feedback On "late Bloomers."

    Why do you want to go to M.I.T. or CalTech? Just for prestige?

    Planning on getting a PhD from one of the worlds top institutions in just 11 years when you havent even started undergrad? Honestly, I think your expectations are not reasonable. You should spend some time doing undergrad research at your local institution before planning your graduate school. That doesnt mean you should forget physics. It just means you shouldn't let yourself get disheartened because you are not likely to be the next Feynman and are not likely to get into M.I.T.

    If you are hot **** and put out some awesome publications then you can have your pick of graduate school. Its just not likely for anyone, young or old.
  4. Aug 27, 2012 #3
    Re: Need Some Honest Feedback On "late Bloomers."

    Well, M.I.T. is the college I would prefer by far, but not for prestige. It is because I know they have some of the best of the best professors, lots of funding for research, and having a college like that on my resume will certainly help when I apply for positions. I want to be one of the best, and I want to work with the best. I am not insulting any other colleges, as I know there are many others out there that are great too, maybe even some with teachers that are better than the ones that I might meet at M.I.T. Nonetheless, I love M.I.T. I mentioned Caltech just to make a point of what I'm shooting for, though they don't seem to have as much there that I'm interested in.

    I have already started undergrad. Sorry if I didn't make that clear in my OP. Anyway, I have a 4.0 and will be sure to keep it all the way through, am enrolled in the honors program, am participating in at least 1 or 2 extracurriculars once fall semester starts, am looking into a co-op in the nuclear med department of my local hospital, and already have tons of community service under my belt because of my profession and other things I am still doing. Trust me, I am doing every single thing I can that advisors have suggested, but that doesn't mean that I am going to be able to catch up.

    Also, as far as the Feynman comment, I know my aspirations are extremely high. That is why I'm wondering if it is still possible, or if there is just too much to learn and not enough time to learn it? I mean Einstein had his whole life, and he still didn't have enough time to finish his work. Not comparing myself to Einstein of course, just saying that I know this takes years and years, and I feel like I am around 15-18 years behind some of those that are in the top of the field. I am just concerned that I may never be able to catch up to that head-start that others have had who started sooner.
  5. Aug 28, 2012 #4
    Re: Need Some Honest Feedback On "late Bloomers."

    There is one thing that I like about you -- you have a lot of ambition. That is a great personality trait. I can tell by what you did in your previous field, you are the type of person that if you do something you like to be the one of the best at it -- or at least the best that you can possibly be. There is nothing better than the willingness to push yourself to your limit. You also sound like you have a lot of perseverance, I think you will do pretty good -- just keep at it.
  6. Aug 28, 2012 #5


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    Re: Need Some Honest Feedback On "late Bloomers."

    Your aspirations aren't that unreasonable. Just keep an open mind about the schools you attend. MIT is great, but there are a lot of other wonderful schools out there.

    I wouldn't worry too much about being 34. You can't change that. And you also have to remember that historically things were quite different than they are today. Just look forward and do the best you can with the opportunities you have.
  7. Aug 28, 2012 #6
    Re: Need Some Honest Feedback On "late Bloomers."

    Well thanks for the reassurance. I am also open to other schools as well. I've just done more research into M.I.T. than anywhere else at this point cause that's the one I want to push for. But, who knows what opportunities may take me where.

    Anyway, hopefully I will be able to make up for lost time as well as implement my life skills I've acquired in other fields and apply it to physics as well.
  8. Aug 28, 2012 #7
    Re: Need Some Honest Feedback On "late Bloomers."

    Hi Ascendant78,

    I was 33 when I started my undergrad course. I'm not as bright as I was, but I'm more committed to the work than I would have been as a teenager which perhaps compensates for this a little. If nothing else I am enjoying the work like nothing before which makes returning to physics one of the best decisions I've made. However for me, life is about the journey not the destination. I'm still aiming for a Nobel Prize, though ;)

    Best wishes with your decision
  9. Aug 28, 2012 #8
    Re: Need Some Honest Feedback On "late Bloomers."

    Stay away from theory then, all of the nobel prizes are being handed out in the experimental side lol.
  10. Aug 29, 2012 #9
    Re: Need Some Honest Feedback On "late Bloomers."

    Interesting, I didn't know that. I've never really looked into those kind of details yet. Anyway, I still need to learn more about the differences between theory and applied positions. Theory sounds more interesting to me, but I definitely still have much to learn about both.
  11. Aug 29, 2012 #10
    Re: Need Some Honest Feedback On "late Bloomers."

    By applied do you mean applied by experiment or ?

    That is why you should do an internship. Usually, most of the internships for undergraduates are applied positions anyways. So from there you can either rule it out as your interest or find out that it is really what your passionate about.
  12. Aug 30, 2012 #11
    Re: Need Some Honest Feedback On "late Bloomers."

    I think Feynman got his for theory. But it's true that you're more likely to get it for applied science.
  13. Aug 30, 2012 #12
    Re: Need Some Honest Feedback On "late Bloomers."

    Yes, I meant applied by experiment. From what I've read of the two branches, theoretical pushes the envelope, and applied tests those theories that theoretical poses. I like the idea of bringing the ideas forth much more than I do testing other peoples ideas. Theory gives me a sense of being the front line in a sense. This is not to say that I necessarily want to be pure theory. I would love the opportunity to not only pose new theories, but to also have some level of involvement in how they are tested.

    Regretfully, the college I'm at for my AA doesn't have any physics research. I will not be able to participate in that until I finish my AA. From everything advisors from multiple colleges have told me, this shouldn't hurt my chances of getting into the top colleges so long as I immerse myself into research as soon as I begin my 3rd year (aka post-AA). However, it is frustrating that I will not be able to get a taste of it until then.

    Anyway, I am hoping I might have the opportunity to at least do something with another nearby college next summer, but I will have to see what happens. In the meantime, I am trying to get into a co-op where I can work with the nuclear med department of a hospital. Though it isn't research, it is at least in my field.
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2012
  14. Aug 30, 2012 #13
    Re: Need Some Honest Feedback On "late Bloomers."

    Don't worry about age. If you have the drive, and can keep the drive, you will make it.

    Besides, I expect we will soon have the ability to extend lives well past what they are today. If you have the money, start freezing your stem cells now, so that they can be replicated down the line to extend your life.
  15. Aug 30, 2012 #14
    Re: Need Some Honest Feedback On "late Bloomers."

    It isn't always that way. There have been times where experiment has pushed the boundaries. Take for example the observation of the accelerating universe. Theory wouldn't have went anywhere if it wasn't for experiment. But I can see where you are coming from, I think I am more interested in theory myself.

    I was in a community college as well but I was able to land an internship for one that is offered for community college students. Do a little bit of research and you can find a few.

    What will your experience in the nuclear med department consist of? It might be that your a bit too optimistic about its usefulness for your CV.
  16. Aug 30, 2012 #15
    Re: Need Some Honest Feedback On "late Bloomers."

    Great point about the experiment side. Anyway, that's why I don't particularly want to be limited to ONLY one side, but I would like my primary focus to be theory as far as I know now. Then again, I am only in my first year and still have much to learn, so we will see what happens.

    As far as the community college, if I knew then what I know now, I probably would've started in a bigger university. The only reason I started at this college was to save money, as this is very difficult for us financially. Financial aid seems to favor younger students when it comes to assistance, so we have so far been struggling on our own.

    As far as looking for internships, I seriously looked everywhere. I contacted the nearest large university, and none of the professors were willing to take me on since I am not a student. One said they might next summer, but that I'd have to apply and there's of course no guarantee. I'm assuming this is another of those things where high school students would get priority. I also talked to my honor's adviser, career services adviser, and even the physics department head at my school. Pretty much my best option at this point seems to be the hospital. As far as what the experience will consist of, I honestly have no idea. I am simply taking on the only option I have that is even remotely related to my field. Anyway, I'm starting to think it might be a good idea to try and post a thread about that and see what suggestions people might have. Maybe there is something online that I can reach out to, or something else not too far from me that I haven't heard of yet.
  17. Aug 30, 2012 #16
    Re: Need Some Honest Feedback On "late Bloomers."

    Good, most of the internships that you can contribute will be on the experimental side anyways. It is rather rare for an undergraduate to get an internship in theory.

    There is no problem with starting out in a community college. Many times they offer the same sort of tests if not harder from my experience. The only thing that I felt was less rigorous by far were the labs (very few labs actually). But either way, if the community college offers a great transition from high school to university level work if it is less rigorous in certain aspects because it lets you brush up on your skills.

    I did my research for CUNY at QCC (although commute will be required for this one), the internship was primarily for community college students. There is the CCI program in Brookhaven National laboratory and there is a brand new internship opportunity for community college students CCRP that just got started this particular summer. Those are the ones that I have found personally, but there might be others (or maybe I looked rather diligently and that is all to it). Either way, summer is pretty much done at this point and you have a lot of time to apply for an internship for the next summer.

    You said something about high school students having priority. This threw me off a little bit. REU (research experience for undergraduates) are generally for undergraduates, not high school students.
  18. Aug 30, 2012 #17
    Re: Need Some Honest Feedback On "late Bloomers."

    As far as the community college, this one has been great (not so much the first one I applied to and almost attended). There are some great advisors here, but my only issue is the lack of research to get involved in. Anyway, due to financial concerns, community college was my only option to get started.

    As far as the research, I am still continuing to look, but it seems like I have exhausted just about all resources in this area. In regards to the high school students, don't ask me why, but that is how they seem to do it here. I mean the first priority of course goes to students of that particular university, but then next is high school students referred to them by their guidance counselor. Coming from another college as an outsider, I didn't feel very welcomed by any of them, and felt shrugged off more than anything else. Two of them basically told me in their e-mails that if I ever ended up attending their school, they'd love to talk more, and left it at that.
  19. Aug 31, 2012 #18
    Re: Need Some Honest Feedback On "late Bloomers."

    MIT has some of the best teachers in the world. There are also a lot of teachers there that couldn't teach their way out of a paper bag. MIT is first and foremost a research institute, which means that teaching skill is secondary.

    One other thing is that because the student body is smart, you can get away with bad teachers. If you have someone that got 800 on the math SAT, teaching them calculus is going to be pretty simple. You can just give them the textbook and they'll learn most of the material anyway.

    If you have someone that doesn't have the right background or comes from a bad environment, then teaching is a *real* challenge, and I've found that as far as "teaching skill" most teachers at community colleges have MIT professors beat, because you don't need great teachers if you have great students.

    MIT is good at some things. *Terrible* at others.

    There's also the matter that it's too small.

    One of the good things that you learn at MIT is the relative unimportance of grades.

    Take things one step at a time. Find a good intro physics class, and take things from there.

    It' doesn't work that way. One thing that's going to be an acid question for how much "passion" (I hate that word) you have for physics is what you do once you realize that you will be working at it for two decades, and in the end, you aren't going to get much out of it except for satisfaction.

    Look at all of the people that have physics Ph.D.'s. It's not worth it if you care mainly about career or social prestige. When the same amount of energy you can get a lot more in the way of career and social prestige.

    Also the big limiting factor is family. If you plan to get married and have kids, then you have to figure out how that fits in. In my situation, I got my Ph.D. before I had kids so I could make the economics work.
  20. Aug 31, 2012 #19
    Re: Need Some Honest Feedback On "late Bloomers."

    You are young aren't you? Young people tend to worry less about age.

    And the second statement is not true. You have X spots, you have 10X people competing for those spots. At some point, you realize that you are one of the 90% of the people that aren't going to make it, and that's going to be true no matter how hard you try.

    Once you reach a certain age. The clock starts running down. Even if you are still relatively healthy, things start happening that remind you that your life on earth is limited.
  21. Aug 31, 2012 #20


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    Re: Need Some Honest Feedback On "late Bloomers."

    I especially disagree about this statement, although it should not be a topic to discuss here.
    Young people tend to worry too much about age, they want to do everything as fast as possible even if they ignore the basic foundations, and this is very evident to me.
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