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Physics graduate school

  1. Dec 29, 2009 #1
    I want to know what kind of schools i can to expect to get into for physics graduate school.

    I am currently a sophomore attending the university of reno. I am majoring in both biochemistry and physics. I currently work at the National Terawatt Facility working as a core diagnostic technician under the electronic engineering team. I work with a two terawatt z pinch and a 2 terawatt leopard laser. I basically help acquire and develop data.

    I will work there for the duration of my second year. For my 3rd and 4th year I will then apply for a grant and create my own research team in quantum computing. I know a couple of people who would be interested in researching with me. I am hoping that I can get published before applying to school. ( I know this seems like an unreasonable goal, so I am currently doing my homework and acquiring the tools and knowledge required for such a subject. If I don't find it feasible, I will research something a little less difficult, but researching quantum computing is what I want to do with my life.)

    I am a year ahead in physics and I'm right where I'm suppose to be for biochemistry. I am taking some very difficult classes next semester such as quantum mechanics, electrodynamics, solid state physics, biochemical analysis, organic chem II, and genetics. I also scored in the 90 percentile for the Physics GRE.

    I however have a 3.0 GPA and so I am worried about where I can get into. Obviously my grades are not good enough to get into graduate school and I'm sure I'm not the only one at my level doing research. I however know that they look at other criteria.

    I seem to do better in more difficult classes and I understand everything in my classes so I am hoping that my grades will improve. So given all of that I want to know what sort of schools I could probably get into.

    I am hoping to get into schools such as Berkeley or the nanoscale program in Albany, but I know that the average GPA getting in is probably like 3.8. Am I screwed?

    Thank you for reading this and I'll be looking forward to your response.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 29, 2009 #2
    Perhaps try taking fewer than 6 difficult classes per semester, so you can up your GPA.
  4. Dec 30, 2009 #3
    You can definitely get into really good grad programs with a mediocre GPA it is just much harder. You have to make up for with your research experience, letters of recommendations, statement of purpose, GRE.

    Whatever you do, do not assume that you cannot get into a program that you want to go to. You do not lose much by applying so there is no reason not to.
  5. Dec 30, 2009 #4


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    I know people with great GPA, test scores, research and publications, who still didn't get into the top programs. Your GPA is really going to hurt you here. I suggest focusing more on coursework next year - cut down on work hours and credits and try to get all A's. Based on your description of your project, it would be a big jump for you to go from running lasers on someone else's project to leading a research team in a field like quantum computing. This is really a field in which you should be working with a professor, someone who's familiar with the field. Have you tried working one-on-one with a professor on a specific research question? You need to crawl before you can walk, but it looks like you're trying to jump from crawling to flying, and chances are good you'll land on your face and not accomplish anything useful.
  6. Dec 30, 2009 #5
    If it's any encouragement, I got into physics grad school with a low GPA (~3.1), and even an average physics GRE (42%-ile). I don't know if I'd apply to Stanford or UIUC, but you could probably get into most state universities. And if you're not feeling lazy, you could retake the GRE during your first year of grad school and reapply to get into a better school.
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