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Plasma Physics PhD program admission

  1. Jun 28, 2016 #1
    Hello, I'm new so I couldn't find a spot to put this in. I was wondering whats the minimum GPA for a plasma physics grad program especially fusion, I don't want good schools, I just want something that is enough to take me further. The thing is I dropped the ball hard my first year of college and have a 2.68 GPA, however, I'm planning to raise that to a 3.1/3.2 by the time I get out. Saying that I get competitive GRE and good research experience would I be able to make to any schools at all? Also, as a backup what other major could I change to if needed (I really don't want to do this but if it is the only choice to not ruin my college career then I will) ? Thanks for your time.
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  3. Jun 28, 2016 #2
    There are a lot of schools that have small research departments in plasma physics. However, plasma physics is a pretty competitive field. Even if you did your PhD at a lower tier school, most professors end up teaching at schools that are lower ranked than their PhD program...so you wouldn't have any option but to teach community college or high school. Just pick an engineering degree and study plasma physics on your own time if you're interested in it.
  4. Jun 28, 2016 #3
    What did you mean in your last sentence? I thought engineering was more competitive than physics. I also have more options in terms of research, like dark matter, and stuff from astrophysics too, but plasma physics was mostly for my interest in fusion.
  5. Jun 28, 2016 #4
    The attrition rate in most science and math PhD programs is around 50%. You have to have a backup plan in case you do not make it all the way through a PhD, which would be absolutely required if you wanted to get any job in plasma physics. If you get an engineering degree, at some schools (like UMichigan-Ann Arbor) you can study plasma physics and still get a marketable degree like EE or nuclear. If you just do a degree in physics, you risk graduating with a degree of dubious value.
  6. Jun 29, 2016 #5


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    My grad school was not top ranked, and all the profs there didn't come from top ranked schools, and many of us are professors at good state universities, private universities, and private colleges. It's not all about the name of the school. My application was judged based on my research, an excellent post-doc appointment, and previous work with student researchers.

    Don't aim very high with your GPA. But going to a low ranked school simply means it's a smaller program (grad school PhD rankings are directly proportional to the number of PhDs in physics they award each year). It doesn't mean your PhD is worthless (or even worth less).
  7. Jun 29, 2016 #6
    This is true, it is possible to get postdocs to improve your CV after going to a lower ranked school. And I agree your academic placements are mostly about how well connected your advisor is. But it doesn't change the fact that the dropout rate in science PhD programs is often around 40-50%. It's a big risk to go to a smaller school without ever having developed any marketable skills, and then to face the possibility of not completing your PhD program.
  8. Jun 29, 2016 #7
    I could also just get another major that has similar classes as my current major. I need to talk to my advisor about all this. Thank you so much for answering me, I was having a lot of anxiety do to this issue of mine.
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