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No correlation between goals(cosmology) and work(materials sci)-Grad school chances?

  1. Dec 12, 2012 #1
    Hi all,

    I think this is probably the only decent question I've come up with about how to handle my future.

    I really, really want to study cosmology.

    I am a recent graduate (graduated in May) with a BA in physics. My GPA is mediocre - 3.5 in the major and overall. I'm sort of banking on (stupid, I know) killing the PGRE to shine. Or at least not bombing it. I will take it next fall (I have already begun studying).

    My only research experience is the work I do now - I work in R&D for a company where most of my work pertains to optics and materials science. I committed to be here until late summer of next year, and I will not break my word. I will be applying to schools in the next fall.

    I am intimidated by the perception that there isn't actually a lot of work to be had for those interested in cosmology (not after my graduate degree - I accept that, and it doesn't change what I want to study - I mean work I could get right now). I wonder if I am hurting myself by not actively pursuing work closer to my goals before applying to graduate school. I want to demonstrate my interest, but I don't know how!

    What am I to do?!?!

    Any advice is appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 15, 2012 #2
    Re: No correlation between goals(cosmology) and work(materials sci)-Grad school chanc

    This seems a very unique situation, and I can only make a guess at an opinion (phrased as some questions even). But why not use your optics & mat sci experiences to get into a physics grad program that has both these "more practical" fields of study as well as the cosmology you want to learn for yourself? Would you be happy enough to learn cosmology at the graduate level, perhaps doing some independent studies (intro research) with some cosmology profs, while your dissertation was in your more practical field?

    My program has a breadth requirement, and so a course in GR was one of my "breadths". I don't have a lot of free time in my research, but I do have enough time to take an "interest" course if I want. (At my school you are free to take any course offered at the university, but you need to check each school for this privilege. Some of our grads study French, others astronomy, optics, finance, whatever.)

    In your practical field, you will most likely be on RA, and that would give you the advantage to study something else on the side (though that would make your PhD take longer). There is always a trade off, but maybe there is a way to have your cake and eat it too. You should check on the "rigidity" of the program before you apply, though.

    I have always personally found it difficult to choose between the fields because they are all so "juicy", each in its own way. But no matter what, I would think you should take some astrophysics course(s) while you are an undergrad in order to be ready.

    Anyway, just thinking out loud really. Good luck!
  4. Dec 15, 2012 #3
    Re: No correlation between goals(cosmology) and work(materials sci)-Grad school chanc

    It's ok to have your research experience not be in the field you want to do. For the most part, it just goes to show that you are motivated to do work in the field, and that you aren't completely incompetent at actual science. A simple example is that most theorists have lab experience in undergrad, which doesn't say much about their actual ability to do their intended research. But more generally, grad schools don't expect you to know exactly what you want to do when you are an undergrad, so they can't expect you to get experience in that field. Besides, working in one field can convince you that a different field is what you actually want to do.
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