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Physics PhD with Engineering Advisor

  1. Jun 4, 2013 #1
    My question is whether it is a bad idea to be a physics graduate student with an EE advisor. I ask this because I'm interested in nanophysics at Carnegie Mellon University. On the physics website on the nanophysics page they have listed 6 EE professors and 5 physics professors. It seems likely that a student wanting to do nanophysics research there could be a physics graduate student with an engineering advisor. In fact several current graduate students there are.

    Would this hurt me in any way academically or in terms of career development both while in graduate school and after (specifically academia as a physicist)?

    Note that almost all 6 of the EE professors themselves have physics phd's - however they mostly publish in IEEE journals.

    Any advice would be most appreciated. I haven't been able to find an answer to this anywhere.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 5, 2013 #2

    Andy Resnick

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    I don't think it matters- I am the advisor for two PhD students who are in the Biology program, for example. As long as your research has merit, you establish a record of productivity, and you complete your degree, all other issues are minor in comparison. In fact, you may find that exposure to other disciplines will enhance your career.
  4. Jun 5, 2013 #3


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    I agree with Andy.

    Most graduate students will actually have a supervisory committee consisting of ~4 professors and it's not uncommon for at least one of them to come from a different department. In fact, in some places, I believe it's manditory. So if that person happens to be your supervisor I doubt it will make much difference, provided that person has a strong expertice in the work you are doing on your project.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that some professors may have cross-appointments ie they may have a primary appointment in one faculty, but an adjunct appointment in another.
  5. Jun 5, 2013 #4
    Thank you for the responses! I am glad to hear that those are the things that matter most, Andy.

    However, I keep hearing people say that one thing that matters a great deal (more than your institution) is who your advisor is. I take that to mean at least in part that the name your advisor has within their field will help you get good postdocs, etc. later on. So my only worry is that if my advisor is an engineer who publishes in engineering research journals they may not have the same networking that would benefit me as much as someone who publishes in physics journals.

    Is that logic incorrect?
  6. Oct 3, 2013 #5
    Just wondering if anyone could shed further light on this. Specifically concerning the adage that who your adviser was in grad school is what matters the most (after your own research!) concerning placement afterwards.

    Also, does anyone know in general if a school's good engineering reputation would carry weight for a physics phd from said school applying to R&D jobs in industry? Thanks!
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