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Programs Possibilities for PhD?

  1. Jul 22, 2008 #1
    Hi Everyone,

    I know there have been many posts about people's stats and thoughts on where they might or might not be able to go. So, I would really like some expert opinions on the matter.

    Here are my "stats."
    Clarkson University B.Sc. Cum GPA:2.866/4.0 Physics 3.297/4.0
    Clarkson University M.Sc. Cum GPA 3.875/4.0 Physics 3.875/4.0 (First 2 semesters of 4)
    I was a TA all of last year and will be this year responsible for 3 sections of 24
    Gave a presentation on Self-Assembly of Nanoporous Silica Fibers for the 7th Annual Symposium of Undergraduate Research Experiences (SURE) in July 2005 and I was a research assistant that summer too.

    I am part of Sigma Pi Sigma, inducted on April 7 2008

    My general GRE was Verbal 410/ Quantitative 670/ Analytical Writing 4.5
    I'll be taking the Physics GRE in a couple of months.

    Soon I'll have my first publication in the process of being written, I will be included in another publication which we are working on now, and we are conducting research which is right now a coin toss on the fact that we might get a patent, but still very early.

    I'm hoping to apply to Penn State, University of Albany (SUNY) school of nanoscience, UPenn, University of Texas at San Antonio.

    Any other schools would be good? Am I dreaming about those schools?

    Thanks everyone for the time and patience.

  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 22, 2008 #2


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    What's your research experience; how much have you done?
    How good can you expect your letters of recommendations to be? Have you done research with all your references and do they know you well, or are they just teachers for courses in which you have done well?
    Are you writing a Master's thesis? What's your topic, and will it relate to PhD work you wish to do?
    Your grades show large improvement between undergrad and grad. What is your upper-year GPA (i.e., only 3rd and 4th year, phys and math courses)?
    Do you know which journal you will be trying to publish in? What about that other publication's journal? Are you the lead (or even only) author of your publication?
  4. Jul 22, 2008 #3
    The SURE research was mine and a PhD student at the time. And I've been conducting research throughout my masters. My thesis is on Self-Assembling nanoporous silica.

    I should have 3 strong letters of recommendation, one from my research advisor, and 2 from my TA advisors, all of which know me well. My PhD research should be similar to my masters, all will be related to nanotechnology, but preferably alternative energy.

    None of the publications am I first author and not sure which journals, but my advisor says they should be good journals. My last years at my undergrad went up past a 3.0, there was an upwards trend.
  5. Jul 22, 2008 #4
    Sounds to me that you are set to go. Do you have relevant work experience in industrial matters? Do you have some kind of EC that is linked to non-school interests? Do you excel in a sport of some kind (seriously, dart doesn't count)?
  6. Jul 22, 2008 #5
    I have no other work related experience. I'm hoping to get an internship this summer if possible as I transition to my phd school. For sports, I tend to do them non officially. I don't care for teams, but I do fence and run and have my own gym and such. Looking at UPenn stats, it seems doubtful I would be able to get into there. I'm hoping I might be able to get recommendations from people or do you seriously think I would be able to get into all of those schools? Thanks everyone.
  7. Jul 22, 2008 #6


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    You're quite out of my field, so it's hard to judge those particular universities. However, you need to remember that your undergrad GPA, both the cumulative GPA and that consisting only of your upper-year coursework, is considered to be failing according to most grad schools. Coupled with a total lack of undergraduate research experience, your application definitely does not shine. Your saving grave is the fact that you will have a Master's degree when applying, whereas your competitors will not (although at a place like Penn State, I could see undergrads applying who have taken more courses, done more research and published more often).

    You're going to want to get great grades for the last year of your Masters, and make sure to get those articles published. At the end of this degree, you should have two nice years of independent research experience directly in your field, with at least one paper and a thesis to show for it. As long as you stay in a related field, this should be enough to encourage the admissions committee to look beyond your undergrad, and you should have a fair chance of entering a PhD program.

    Also, if the PhD program you enter does not have any coursework, they may be even more inclined to look beyond your classroom performance, and give more weight to your Masters work and Masters thesis. If you can convince them you can do good research, they'll let you in.
  8. Jul 22, 2008 #7
    I have done undergrad research, hence SURE (Student Undergraduate Research Experience). I'm not sure if there is much comparison of undergrad GPA to graduate gpa in the way that you're doing it. Of course my gpa would be failing for a graduate, but that wasn't my graduate gpa, my graduate gpa is near perfect besides one class that I got a B+ in. And I should definitely have at least the 2 papers and my thesis should hopefully be very good, I've been working very hard on the research and taking very detailed analysis, so advisor should give a strong letter too.

    But still I'm looking for suggestions on grad schools and thoughts from other people.
  9. Jul 23, 2008 #8
    hmm, I think you should brush up your language-skills a bit. They are somewhat dodgy in your phrasing (I assume you are a native speaker?).

    NO other workrelated experience feels a bit ski-bumish. Why haven't you done some other work besides physics and REU? Like standing in the assembly line? Or managing a till? Something that gives you a practical understanding of the machinations of human society and the application of technology?

    You didn't answer the EC question, just to remind you.

    Do you excel at running or fencing?
  10. Jul 23, 2008 #9
    I'm not sure how working in an assembly line qualifies as work experience. But yes, I have worked several other jobs, but none of which I will go into detail here. And they are on my resume as they should exposing their most valuable traits that I learned.

    And by EC do you mean extra-curricular? Yes, I've lead many organizations and clubs in my university and outside. But those are all off topic of what I am asking which is why I did NOT include them. Fearless and tmc, you both seem to nailing concentrating on the wrong aspects, I appreciate your thoughts, but let us keep the task at hand. What are some strong universities in the nanoscience field that aren't ivy league difficulty of getting into, but are still excellent schools?

    And before you say these things are relevant, I know clubs and sports are important but if I included everything that I've done, one I would feel like I'm revealing too much about myself and two, what I've mentioned already should qualify as, I believe, the most important stuff for admissions.

    And whatever sport I do, running, fencing, etc, I will NOT do with the schools because I simply don't like teams or those type of clubs anymore due to the physical competition that people have. And not to mention the fact that I've seen these over zealous "athletes" injure (and in fencing nearly kill someone).
  11. Jul 23, 2008 #10
    They dont care about EC's at phd admissions level, at all. Mentioning them in your application will hurt way more than it will help. Undergraduate admissions want well rounded people, but graduate admissions want someone who is serious about doing research in their specific field.
  12. Jul 23, 2008 #11


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    Staff: Mentor

    Since when have sports and extracurricular activities counted when applying to grad school? I didn't have any of that stuff 30-odd years ago.
  13. Jul 23, 2008 #12
    Maybe not in the US. But in certain countries in the world, you apply for a phd like a regular job. That means that various feats of willpower, conviction, focus etc is highly relevant. I applaud you if your application process are more meritocratic and about problem solving in the designated field of study than being corrupt and be a heinous brown-noser. (believe me, I would like to use much stronger language than that to refer to the people who kiss the behinds of professors because they don't have integrity).

    All work experience is relevant for all jobs, or so I believe. Having the strength to endure the gruesome experience of manual labour builds character. Especially on a assembly line or very tough/dirty/disgusting jobs. But I bet it will be disputed in this thread. :) I postulate that one who have endured a couple of years on a assembly line probably got the mental stamina to start and finish a phd on time. The same if you are a long distance runner, elite athlete a.s.o.

    Being a "wellrounded man" is never futile.
  14. Jul 23, 2008 #13
    I don't understand why the responders here are being so negative. I think he has a pretty good chance to get in to those schools he mentioned. He has a lot of research experience and papers on the way, this matters much more than grades.
  15. Jul 23, 2008 #14
    I wasn't particular negative about his possibilities, I think he is ready for grad-school. Although I found flaws that needed to be adressed from my point of view.

    I have understood that the single most important thing to be accepted into grad-school is publishing papers, is this true?
  16. Jul 24, 2008 #15
    there's gotta be something you can do to improve those gre scores.
  17. Jul 24, 2008 #16


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    Homework Helper

    It's a grad school application. I haven't heard of any grad schools which take into consideration extra-curricular activities or work experience. How are those relevant? It's not like he's applying for some graduate scholarship while working in industry or something. Seriously the whole point about manual labour being a plus factor for getting into graduate school reads like a joke to me.
  18. Jul 24, 2008 #17
    maybe not a big plus factor, but you gotta read out what it stands for, commitment to something. Towards the end of the contract, no matter what. ever heard of transferable skills. Besides, for an engineer (my own background), manual labor on the shop floor is always relevant experience in many industries.

    Of course, if you're applying for string theory, then maybe it isn't even a factor. But in engineering it's relevant.
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