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Programs PhD in applied physics possible?

  1. Oct 27, 2007 #1
    hi all,
    i did my undergrad in India in electronics and communication engineering and currently am abt to finish a coursework masters programme(i.e without research which means it's not a postgraduate degree in true sense, but something like an extension year in undergrad) in electrical engineering in singapore, as i've mentioned elsewhere.
    during the past few months, from my experience during masters, i kinda have developed a notion that engineering concentrates more on how to make things work rather than finding an answer to how things work, what's the underlying phenomena etc. and i'm interested in the latter question.
    with the depth and breadth of coursework that i have, i dont think i have sufficient background to answer the same, which is why i've decided to pursue a physics degree.
    and that gives me these options:
    1. to pursue physics from the scratch from the undergrad,
    2. to start with a masters degree for some applied physics programme in the US.

    i mention applied physics coz, usually most applied physics programmes accept ppl with engineering background and in the US coz, that's where i could possibly get high quality education.
    the first option isnt very viable in terms of time and money and so i'm left with only second option.
    now, the applied physics or equivalent programmes are offered only by a very few top-notch universities like columbia, stanford, cornell as far as i know.

    before i tell anymore, let me give a gist of academic background:

    undegrad aggregate: 85/100 (roughly 3.4/4.0 in the US scale)

    masters cumulative points till now: 3.2/5.0 (roughly 2.56/4.0 in the US scale)

    gre: verbal:590
    analytical writing: 4.0

    the reason for such a phenomenal dip in my performance in the latter degree was due to orientation problems and insufficent funds which all had a cumulative effect on my academics.
    but now, i've kinda recouped from these problems and i can push masters GPA to 3.9/5.0 at the best.

    • coming back to my physics aspirations, could someone tell me whether there're any other US schools that've a programme like that of applied physics and entertain a case like mine?
    • since i'm willing to proceed from a fresh masters degree towards a PhD, do i have to mention in my resume abt my previous masters degree while applying for the US univs ? (coz, i'm afraid the GPA ,though that doesnt reflect my true potential, would sabotage my chances)
    • with my GRE score, is it too ambitious to aim for stanford/columbia/cornell? if not, what is approximately the least score that'd be required for these schools?
      i'm also game to spend some time to sit again for GRE for an improvement if that's what it takes to materialise my career goals.
      (i actually dont want to settle in for some averagely ranked university. i really want to do it proper, give my best shot this time and i want to pursue research in atleast a top-10 or top-20 univ.)

    regarding my research experience, i'm currently working on a small part of a team project that exploits tunneling phenomena in semiconductors. though my contribution isnt extraordinary, it's continued to motivate me and infact has only made me more excited abt pursuing true research. if i dont include my masters GPA in my application, then i dunno how to explain this research experience.

    as for my research interests, i'm primarily inclined towards quantum mechanical study at the nanoscale, which is under the domain of solid state physics.

    i hope someone could enlighten my confused journey towards my academic quest.
    i apologise for the lengthy post that this is.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 27, 2007 #2
    i know this is insanely long post but could someone plz try helping me out?
  4. Oct 28, 2007 #3
    Well, your GRE score is good, so don't worry about that. The thing holding you back is your GPA. Also, you are supposed to include all of your academic history...that means any masters programs and undergrad programs you were enrolled in and your GPAs at these institutions.

    Do you have a specific research interest? "Quantum mechanical study at the nanoscale" is very vague. If you have a specific research interest then you should be reading the literature in that area. You will probably find that there is a lot of good research being done at universities that aren't in the top 20, but instead in the top 50. You should put together a list of professors that you would be interested in working for. Then you should read their research and contact them directly.

    At least you have some research experience. Try and get out a publication or two. Also, have you taken the physics GRE? I'm not sure if that is required for applied physics programs, but if you do ok on it you could include it anyways.

    I would diversify your graduate school list as much as possible....don't just apply to MIT, cornell, berkeley, stanford, caltech, Michigan, Columbia, UIUC etc etc....
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2007
  5. Oct 28, 2007 #4


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    As Leright has already pointed out "quantum mechanical study at the nanoscale" can mean just about everything in condensed matter physics/mesoscopics so you need to be more specific.
    Which univeristy you end up at doesn't really matter much, which research group you work in is much more important for your career. That said, if you are interested in experimental work in this area you should probably try to focus on groups that have access to a good cleanroom and other facilities.
  6. Oct 28, 2007 #5
    I'm basically interested in the theoretical study. well, since i havent had enough exposure, i couldn't be very specific abt my research interest except that i know i'm going to have atleast a long term career based on nanoscience.
    i believe that i'd be more specifically inclined towards a narrow area, with time and experience.
    any suggestions for research groups working on theoretical nanoscience? i suppose supriyo datta's group at purdue is on the lines of it? any other groups?
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