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Studying Preparing for high energy physics MSc at ETH Zurich and Ecol

  1. Mar 15, 2017 #1
    Hello everyone! I was recently accepted into the High energy physics MSc at ETH Zurich (minor miracle...), doing the second year at Ecole Poly. This is after coming out of a BSc majoring in physics and maths, at a less prestigious uni which probably hasn't covered material to the same extent as the BSc at ETH.

    I was wondering if there might be anyone on the forum with experience in this program? Or with physics at ETH in general? I feel like I might be a little unprepared for the MSc, particularly regarding particle physics, quantum, and probably also some of the mathematics which is used, like topology. I will try and catch up on some of this before starting in September, but I'm trying to get a feel for what areas to focus on.

    Could anyone recommend some good resources for preparing for a high energy physics master? Book recommendations? Something which bridges undergrad material to the more advanced material which I'm sure we'll dive into all too quickly?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 20, 2017 #2
  4. Mar 20, 2017 #3

    You can find all courses on bachelor and master level at courses.ethz.ch, so I guess that should be your starting point for investigations. Some things I noted myself:
    - Their bachelor quantum mechanics course covers quite a lot (even though the second part is not mandatory for bachelor students), including path integrals and second quantization. Especially being familiar with the latter helps a lot when starting with QFT. I wouldn't say having seen path integrals before starting QFT is so important.
    - Classical mechanics is also done pretty thoroughly, in particular it would be a big help if you have seen Noether's theorem before.
    - They have a mandatory bachelor course on "methods of mathematical physics" which covers quite some algebra (mainly groups, of course) and representation theory. I'm pretty sure there's no topology and the little bit of topology you'll need for GR should be covered in the beginning of that course.
    - You can start the master without knowing anything about particle physics, no problem (it's what I did). If anything, you could read the first couple of chapters of Griffiths' elementary particles.

    It also depends a bit on what courses exactly you want to take and what your exact background is.

    Based on what you wrote, I would suggest you for now focus on (advanced) quantum mechanics and some classical field theory. Perhaps some group and representation theory if you're unfamiliar with that.

    I used Goldstein (last chapter) for the classical field theory bit. For the quantum mechanics, just pick up your favourite book that covers those topics. There are plenty of threads here discussing QM books (I liked Ballentine). Not sure what I should recommend for groups and representations as I learned them from a math's perspective myself and never liked any of the "groups for physicists" books.

    Disclaimer: I did the MSc at ETH, not the joint one with Paris, after a bachelor in (applied) physics at a "less prestigious uni," to quote your nice way of putting it.
  5. Apr 14, 2017 #4
    Hello fellow physicists! I am very interested in this high energy physics MSc program at ETH Zurich and Ecole Poly, and would like to apply next year. I am worried though that i won't make it. Could you give any idea of what the prerequisites are in terms of grades (if you don't mind giving some numbers)? And what other things are important to more likely be accepted? I also am in a "minor uni", at least compared with eth.
  6. Apr 18, 2017 #5
    The rule of thumb seems to be that if you are a good student at a good university or a top student (~ top 10%, I guess?) at a minor university, you have a high chance of being accepted. How that translates to grades completely depends on the grading system of course. In your application you will be asked to explain the grading system your university uses, so if you can find any official information on how your grades correlate with percentiles that would be very helpful.

    Apart from grades, they will also look at what courses you've taken. In case you have some "gaps" in your curriculum but they still think you're a good student, it may happen that they give you an "additional requirement," i.e. an extra (bachelor level) course that you will have to complete within the first two or three semesters to fill in said gap. On the other hand, doing well in "tough" courses can help convince them you are a good student, obviously.

    Also, writing a good letter of motivation can definitely help. And if you have some research experience (summer project? Bachelor thesis?) that will also boost your application probably (and will give you something to write about in your letter).

    Hope this helps, and feel free to message me if you have any other, or more specific questions.
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