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Programs PhD in Experimental Particle Physics: Oxford, Imperial or Edinburgh?

  1. Apr 14, 2009 #1
    Hey,

    I m obsessed with High Energy Physics and would like to do post-grad in the field. I ve applied to Oxford, Imperial, Edinburgh and Sheffield...and (to my surprise) have been accepted to all four......I m trying to get all the opinion/insights/thoughts possible so if anyone is willing to dish out some advice I would be very grateful...

    thanks
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 14, 2009 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    Honest opinion? None.

    UK degrees are limited to three years. In HEP this is often not enough time to really gain the sort of experience people expect of postdocs, and UK students are at a disadvantage when looking for them. Is this a career-ending move? Of course not. But one should seriously consider looking outside the UK.
     
  4. Apr 15, 2009 #3
    Thanks for the hint, but at this point in time...those are my options :) and i am constrained by other factors to studying in the UK for at least a large portion of my course so that rules out most other places :)

    Thanks again though
     
  5. Apr 15, 2009 #4
    Even though I'm from the UK and am about to start a US PhD in HEP theory, I don't think this is really true. From what I gather the first two years of a US PhD are mostly spent doing teaching (something that isn't mandatory for UK PhD students to do, and def not 20hrs a week worth more like 2 if they volunteer to make some extra money) and grad courses that UK students will most likely already have done in their fourth year undergrad (since our undergrad is specialised on pure Physics from the start, with no minors or other options getting in the way).

    So UK PhD students are thrown into research from the off, whereas it seems in the US students only start the serious research toward their thesis in maybe their third year? when they get an RA, and then have 3 -4 years spent on it (for a 5 or 6 year PhD respectivley)

    Also UK PhDs can be funded for upto 4 years.

    So I would argue that a US PhD is more like a 2 year taught British MSc+3/4 year British PhD all rolled into one. The initial 2 years being unecessary for a UK student since he will have covered nearly all courses taught during this time already in his more specialised undergrad. The amount of research time works out roughly the same in both cases.

    So you might ask why am I going to the US instead of UK? well it's mainly because I want to do String theory and that it has to be said seems alot more prominant in the US than UK, nearly every single gradschool there has a string group, whereas in Britain I could find barely a handful that were doing what I wanted to do. Also I've had a gap year since undergrad, so I will be happy to go over some taught courses again to refresh me.
     
  6. Apr 15, 2009 #5

    Vanadium 50

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    Having interviewed postdocs, I can tell you that UK PhD's are simply less prepared than their US colleagues. Most of my UK friends - professors - agree, and blame it on the time limit.

    A US PhD is two years of classes + as many years as it takes of research, averaging about 6.5 years. The UK equivalent is 3 years of research (and maybe 4 is technically possible, but 3 is bar far the most prevalent) so we're talking 50% more research time for the typical US student. This 50% seems a likely candidate to explain the difference.
     
  7. Apr 15, 2009 #6

    cristo

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    Obviously, if this is the case (that an average US PhD is 8.5 years) then a US student will be more prepared for a post-doc... but that means you'll be in your early thirties when you get your first postdoc. How can you live on a student "salary" into your thirties?

    Actually, nowadays 4 years is becoming more and more popular, since funding councils are offering more years of funding to fall in line with European PhDs.
     
  8. Apr 15, 2009 #7

    George Jones

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    I think Vanadium 50 meant 6.5 years including both coursework and research. This is a number that I have seen quoted repeatedly, and this is about the length of time it took me.
     
  9. Apr 15, 2009 #8

    cristo

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    Oh, ok, that makes more sense. So that makes 4.5 years research in the US vs. 3.5 (on average) years research in the UK. That's not too much of a difference: perhaps V50 just interviewed anomalies!
     
  10. Apr 15, 2009 #9

    Vanadium 50

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    Back when STFC was PPARC, they had a very strict 3 year rule. Maybe they have relaxed it since then (although a friend who is a professor at a well respected UK university was bemoaning the "three year rule" two weeks ago when I had lunch with him), and there is a big difference between 3 and 4.5. Especially if something goes wrong with the experiment.
     
  11. Apr 15, 2009 #10
    So...all funding being equal....which Uni (out of the 4 UK ones :) ) would you guys suggest?

    Thanks a million,
     
  12. Apr 15, 2009 #11
    Oh yeah, that was your original question, haha....

    Well in terms of reputation theyre all great universities, conventionally the order is obviously Oxford>Imperial>Edinburgh>Sheffield. But it depends on what you think of the individual groups, are they all working on experiments that interest you? How did your potential advisors seem at each?etc etc
     
  13. Apr 15, 2009 #12
    Thanks...actually everybody seemed pretty nice and all of them are involved in at least one experiment which I would love to work on so I was trying to factor the problem down...and thought that you guys would be better placed to hand out pointers regarding prestige etc, so thanks for your share


    Thanks again
     
  14. Apr 6, 2010 #13
    Well no UK HEP experimental graduates I know had any problem getting offered decent postdocs. So I think this is really not true. You will do just fine with a UK group.
     
  15. Apr 7, 2010 #14
    Hey All,
    what are the chances of getting admission in a Ph.d course in UK for international students??? I wish to work in the area of quantum computation and i have done masters in pure physics. After that I have a 2 year exp. in IT industry as well...Along with that what chances are for the funding and all??Please guide...Thanks
     
  16. Apr 7, 2010 #15
    I was funded via a Research Council studentship for my PhD. As far as I know only UK nationals are eligible for these.

    Some groups are creative and can find other sorts of funding (European, Chinese funding sources are ones I know of) for students.

    I would suggest to try to find a group that would be keen to have you and see if they can find any funding somehow.

    Also worth bearing in mind most groups will take you if you pay your own way, obviously that is not a cheap option and I am not sure I would recommend spending vast amounts of money to get a PhD.....it does not really get you any career advantage, but if you love research and can get funded I don't think it harms your career in any way (at least in my field experimental particle physics everyone gets decent jobs after the PhD, I can't say anything for the field you are interested in....).
     
  17. Apr 8, 2010 #16
    In answer to the OP: look beyond the university. The supervisor, group and overall environment are all more important; most important of all, however, is yourself. Individual variation vastly dwarves the institutional variations.

    Find a supervisor you can really get on with, and who is productive and has great taste in research topics, and dive in!
     
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