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No experience (yet) in physics: MS in Physics? Research?

  1. Sep 19, 2008 #1
    I got my B.S. in mathematics from a no-name university, thought that engineering would whet my appetite for physics, took a few chemical engineering and materials science courses, and am now in the non-thesis no-research M.S. materials science program at the University of Florida. I have no research experience. This is a problem.

    I am going to start a career in physics by first obtaining a master's degree. However, I was just told today that PhD programs would look at an earned M.S. in physics and wonder "Why didn't he get his PhD?" (Because most people get PhD's in physics, not M.S.'s, but then again, most people have SOME qualification in physics, whereas I am presently taking my first physics course at the graduate level since 2003).

    Anyway, blah-de-de-blah-blah. Bottom line is the following two questions:

    1) How the heck do I get research experience right now? (Most research experience short of being in a formal degree program is reserved for undergraduates!)

    2) Should I get my M.S. in physics or not? (Does it really look bad on a PhD application??)

    I am pretty confused about what the heck I should do. (Ultimately, I want to go to a tippity-top school for theoretical condensed matter physics, like University of Illinois-Champaign).

    SIDE QUESTION: Also, does anyone know how the Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, ranks for condensed matter physics, in comparison to other schools?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 19, 2008 #2
    An M.S. doesn't look so bad - in fact it looks great if you did a great job on it and a not-so-great job as an undergrad. A lot of students who think they have the chops but not the proof that they can cut it at a tippity-top Ph.D. program do an M.S. at a less prestigious school to obtain that proof. So the answer to question 2 is yes. UIUC isn't going to accept you with only a B.S. math unless you ace the physics GRE and have some pretty solid letters of recommendation regarding your physics preparation (I assume you don't have such, or you'd already be at UIUC, no?)... With the M.S., you might at least get the second look.

    Of course, I would think students who plan to "move up" after a masters usually would not want to take the non-thesis route!

    As far as getting research experience, why don't you just ask? There are professors at UF, I'm pretty sure. Professors with problems. Problems you can solve by consulting the literature, making astute observations, and eventually contributing new knowledge to the world.
  4. Sep 19, 2008 #3
    : ) Thanks, Will. I feel reassured of getting my M.S. right now. (Just today, I was told that getting my M.S. was not a good idea! Of course, my mind was like "WTF, mate?")

    I guess another question: I took the Physics GRE on just my as-is engineering knowledge, and got a 640. I know my score is permanently kept. Should I take it again, as I plan to?
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