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Preparation for interdisciplinary grad programs

  1. Oct 17, 2012 #1
    I chose physics knowing that I probably will not go to graduate school for pure physics. I'm interested in interdisciplinary research whether that is in EE, biophysics, or earth science, etc I do not yet know (though I'm leaning geophysics). I switched from engineering to physics because I like the way physicists approach problems and are able to contribute to research outside of the "traditional" fields of physics... not to mention I get to study physics! Lately, I've been wondering if this is the right approach though. I hear of people doing physics and getting into EE, biophysics, geophysics, math grad programs, but how hard is the transition? Do most people in the top ranked geophysics or biophysics programs have geophysics or biophysics undergraduate degrees? It seems as though a geophysics graduate program, for example, would choose someone with a BS in geophysics over someone with a math/physics background and little geology/geophysics, not only due to lack of knowledge on the topic, but also because it would seem obvious that the geophysics major would be more "committed" to the topic.

    I'm planning on getting a minor in geology and doing research in geophysics to help convince graduate programs that I'm serious, but is this good enough? Is the minor even necessary or should I instead focus on getting as much math/CS/physics as I can before graduate school?

    Sorry for the somewhat unstructured post... to recap:

    -Do top ranked graduate programs typically accept people with a different background?
    -How important is a minor if your background isn't in that field?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 20, 2012 #2
    Hi jbressell93,

    I know you asked a similar question in the earth science thread which received more attention than this one. I would suggest that you email and arrange to have (phone) conversations with the people who oversee the graduate programs you are interested in, whether they are biophysics/geophysics or whatever. They can tell you what proportion of applicants are from what backgrounds and what they look for in an application since I doubt you'll find the answers here.

    I got in contact with MIT about their PAOC and they said that the vast majority of their applicants were physicists and mathematicians not atmospheric scientists or oceanographers.
  4. Oct 20, 2012 #3
    I would mostly advise taking a deep breath and learning to relax. As I think I've said before - biophysics is an inherently interdisciplinary field. Also, relatively speaking, there aren't *that* many universities which offer an undergrad degree in biophysics. The fact is you will find a cross-section of people in such programs from all over the natural sciences & engineering spectrum. They all have weak spots to work on, and can share their strengths with their classmates and colleagues.
  5. Oct 20, 2012 #4
    Yes, you're probably right... I need to start talking to professors to figure things instead of consulting PF for ever question I have. Although don't get me wrong, PF has been immensely helpful over the past couple of years. It's good to hear though that MIT isn't afraid to mix disciplines.

    This is probably the best advice I've gotten on this forum yet. I guess I feel anxious not knowing exactly where I'm headed with my education, but hearing other people's stories/input kind of soothes my anxiety. Though, I guess it's kind of silly of me to think that just because a person did/didn't get into a program of their choice having a particular degree, will mean the same outcome for me.

    Appreciate the input
  6. Oct 20, 2012 #5
    I do hope you find it useful. There's also no accounting for the human element - when I was visiting grad schools many years ago now, there was this guy I met who had a generally similar applicant profile to me and we had applied to most of the same schools. We had gotten into most of them, but there were two where he'd gotten in and I'd gotten dinged, and the other two were flip-flopped. Somehow, either those four admissions committees had discerned more carefully than the others between us, or something else happened. Who knows? I never tell this story outside of conversations with my lab's undergrads about grad school, so it's not something which keeps me up at night. Heh.
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