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Planning on doing the physics GRE (not a physics major)

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

Hi everyone,
I've read a few posts on this forum and thought they were helpful enough that I should try to get some help as well. My situation is a little unusual in that I am a third year undergraduate student majoring in biochemistry, minoring in mathematics. I want to tackle biological problems for my PhD, but my experience working in biology labs made me feel unsatisfied with the methods currently employed in pure biological research. Anyways, long story short, I'm hoping to get into an interdisciplinary lab where I can tackle biological problems with more a quantitative and physical approach. Of course, it would've been much better if I had this realization a couple of years ago, but I have to work with what I got. So, my rationale for doing the physics GRE is basically to "prove" to the admissions people that I am capable of grasping fundamental physics in a timely manner so that I can work in a biophysics lab. I have looked over the physics GRE practice question, and I have learned almost all the math necessary for it. I have taken 2 first year undergraduate physics and a second year physics course (thermodynamics). So my questions are: how should I prepare for the GRE given my background? And is my reason for taking it justified? I have about 5 month, but if 3 and a half is doable, I would want to do it mid-september.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
DrSteve
Gold Member
212
53
Hi everyone,
So my questions are: how should I prepare for the GRE given my background?
You don't yet have the proper physics preparation (e.g., classical and quantum mechanics) to do well on the GRE.
And is my reason for taking it justified?
Only if you're going to pursue a PhD that falls within the domain of a physics department.
 
  • #3
You don't yet have the proper physics preparation (e.g., classical and quantum mechanics) to do well on the GRE.
Ok, how should I prepare?

Only if you're going to pursue a PhD that falls within the domain of a physics department.
A lot of program have different streams, take for example in Caltech, the neuroscience PhD program has a physics stream, biology stream, and psychology stream. Also, programs like biophysics at Harvard doesn't belong to either physics or biology as far as I know. So its not as clear cut as physics department vs non-physics
 
  • #4
DrSteve
Gold Member
212
53
A lot of program have different streams, take for example in Caltech, the neuroscience PhD program has a physics stream, biology stream, and psychology stream. Also, programs like biophysics at Harvard doesn't belong to either physics or biology as far as I know. So its not as clear cut as physics department vs non-physics
So do they require a GRE, or not? I see no point in taking it if they don't. In any event, you're not ready to take it with only the courses you have under your belt.
 
  • #5
So do they require a GRE, or not? I see no point in taking it if they don't. In any event, you're not ready to take it with only the courses you have under your belt.
Not required, but my rationale still stands. I know I'm not ready now which is why I'm asking how I can prepare for it, it's not like any of this can't be self-taught. I've had no trouble with any math/physics course I've taken so far.
 
  • #6
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What major do you want to pursue in graduate school? Biology, Chemistry, or Physics? I think, however, biophysics research is primarily done in the physics department and the people working in these labs are physicists.
 
  • #7
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Not required, but my rationale still stands. I know I'm not ready now which is why I'm asking how I can prepare for it, it's not like any of this can't be self-taught. I've had no trouble with any math/physics course I've taken so far.
There's a big difference between taking a first/second year undergrad physics course with an instructor and teaching yourself advanced quantum mechanics. You are asking to cram ~4 years of study into five months. By self-study.

However, if you want the bare minimum of knowledge, your best bet is to buy a copy of the "Conquering the Physics GRE" book and go through it. If you can solve the questions in that book, you will do okay, since the practice tests and questions in that book are generally more difficult than the pGRE.
 
  • #8
gleem
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
1,596
949
I want to tackle biological problems for my PhD, but my experience working in biology labs made me feel unsatisfied with the methods currently employed in pure biological research.
If I were you I would determine the specific area of biological research that you are interested, delve into the physical techniques that are applicable to that area, and then take specific math, physics or biophysics courses that would help you with those techniques.
 

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