PhD guidance for lower Masters grades

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  • #1
LTS
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First of all, some background:

I am currently on the QFFF MSc at Imperial College, I received my preliminary exam results a few days ago and it doesn’t look good, I failed a few courses, though I am still currently at a pass level.

At present I am working on a dissertation with a well respected member of the department on noncommutative geometry and it’s applications to string theory.

My BSc is 1st Class Honours from Royal Holloway (theoretical physics).

I’m looking for advice:

I had intended to apply for mathematical focused theory PhDs in string theory but obviously I am aware my examination results will be a severe limitation. I am pretty much restricted to the South/Midlands, UK only. In relation to this I have the following queries:

Is my dissertation (to any degree) a way of demonstrating aptitude for research in the field?

Are there any universities that would consider me seriously in spite of my results? I have some ideas but I need other opinions.

Would any more pure mathematics research groups consider me?

Research interests include but not limited to: Algebraic geometry (e.g. mirror symmetry), exceptional field theory, doubled field theory, generalised geometry, noncommutative and nonassociative geometry, M-Theory, F-Theory.

There are a couple of no-gos for me: AdS/CFT and anything scattering amplitude/perturbation theory focused.

Any advice would be appreciated, thank you in advance.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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Strong recommendations beat good theses, and these beat courses. If there are formal requirements for courses you should meet these, however (but if you have really good recommendations, then exceptions can be made even there).
I am pretty much restricted to the South/Midlands, UK only.
That is a pretty strong limitation. Will it stay that way? Then you should really consider if you want to stay in academia or leave as soon as there is a good opportunity for it.
 
  • #3
LTS
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That is a pretty strong limitation. Will it stay that way? Then you should really consider if you want to stay in academia or leave as soon as there is a good opportunity for it.

It certainly is going to stay that way for the next few years, I am dead set on academia unfortunately! Obviously I accept that from my position I may not get a choice...
 
  • #4
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That is a pretty strong limitation.

This.

You are entering an extremely competitive field.
Then you are only willing to work on an extremely small subset of topics.
Then you are only willing to work in an extremely small geographical subset.

If you were the next Landau or maybe Newton, you could be sure you could pick and choose like this. But if you're not, you need to think about relaxing some of these constraints.
 
  • #5
LTS
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This.

You are entering an extremely competitive field.
Then you are only willing to work on an extremely small subset of topics.
Then you are only willing to work in an extremely small geographical subset.

If you were the next Landau or maybe Newton, you could be sure you could pick and choose like this. But if you're not, you need to think about relaxing some of these constraints.
I'm aware the geographical constraints are not ideal but there really is nothing I can do about that. With regards to topics I'm very happy to look at stuff outside the topics I suggested I just wanted to give an impression of my interests, I just wouldn't be happy with AdS/CFT stuff in particular its just not my thing. I've been looking at topics in applied mathematics that I qualify for and I think could be interesting for example.
 
  • #6
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After a PhD there are maybe 10 positions for your area of expertise per year. Worldwide. The chance that one of them is your geographical area? Make a guess. And even if there is one: You still compete with the other PhDs (more than 10). For permanent positions the outlook is even worse.
If you are really good people will open positions for you. But don't bet on that.

If you can't do anything concerning the geographical limitations do something in terms of the subject limitations. Find something outside of academia. Doesn't have to be now, but make a plan and see your PhD (if you want to do it) as time to learn things that will be useful outside of academia - that is generally as useful approach as there are way more PhDs than permanent positions in academia.
 
  • #7
LTS
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After a PhD there are maybe 10 positions for your area of expertise per year. Worldwide. The chance that one of them is your geographical area? Make a guess. And even if there is one: You still compete with the other PhDs (more than 10). For permanent positions the outlook is even worse.
If you are really good people will open positions for you. But don't bet on that.
After PhD the timescale works that I should have more flexibility about my location, I would hope anyway. But I'm aware the chances of remaining in academia for string theory etc. is very low, but I still want to go for a PhD anyway, the postdoc situation doesn't bother me too much.
 

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