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Specialization in the last year of the undergrad degree

  1. Apr 2, 2013 #1


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    Hi guys, I need sincere opinions on possible specializations for my last undergrad year.
    I'll keep this short. My situation is very different from what an undergrad US student or European student may have. The degree where I live lasts 5 years and corresponds to roughly a master degree for the US and European standard. I know this because when I look at the CV of all my professors, they usually went to the USA or Europe and applied directly for a Ph.D. I enrolled back in 2007 and I still haven't finished (in fact I don't know of anyone who started the same year as me that has finished, although some students are really close to it and a few students might have finished by now but I don't know them). I still have 8 courses to take, a thesis to write and a few more stuff do to before I graduate. Also I don't have the best grades, add this to the time I'll take to graduate, I know I'm toasted if I ever think to apply anywhere in the USA. But I guess I might still have a chance to be accepted in Europe, if I decide to. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    My biggest concern is that by July I must have decided the area of my specialization for my undergrad degree. Until now I thought that something related to programmation might have been a good marketing if I plan to apply for a Ph.D. In fact I took a numerical analysis course in the 2nd year but it wasn't focused on solving physics problems and was just introductory. From all the possible physics areas in which we can specialize that had been exposed to us that dealt with programming I was interested in going for "numerical simulations of colloids". I've even taken a course in stochastic processes because the professor/researcher working with colloids told me to take that course if I plan to work with him.
    But despite talking with this professor for a few hours, I still don't really have a clue of what is ahead of me if I choose the path of "numerical simulations of colloids".
    There are so many areas I can choose, yet I just started to take the formal QM course (haven't even took the statistical mechanics course yet because QM 1 is required for it) so I find it extremely hard to decide my area. I have not enough knowledge to decide, seriously. What surprises me is that all the other students "knew" where to go, none got stuck like I do. I'm not exaggerating.
    Another area that looked interesting to me is ferrofluids, but if I remember well they won't ask me to take a numerical simulation course and so won't be focused on the simulations part that I might have enjoyed and would have helped me to make my resume more marketable.
    So at this point, if I had to make up for my "bad" academic performance, be it to apply for a Ph.D. in Europe or find a job, should I focus on a specialization that deals heavily with programming? Or it doesn't matter, I'm toasted anyway and I can focus on anything?
    I've heard for instance that the students who specialize in relativity are the least marketable and they absolutely need the best grades if they want to work in their field. I've also heard that the students who work in science of materials are usually quite marketable and can work in a wide variety of environments afterwards.
    I could also specialize in cancer research, biophysics, quantum information theory, general relativity, NMR and a bunch more areas. I'm totally lost and don't know what to choose. But I'm interested in knowing the most marketable ones, especially for a "not top" student if he plans to pursue a Ph.D. That's the reason of why I opened this thread.

    P.S.:I really want to go for a Ph.D. for some reasons. I am not one of the best students regarding grades, but when it comes to write lab reports or search information and do a special work, I'm very applied and creative. I've heard many times that my profesors were not expecting us (a friend and I, we always worked together since year 1) to do that much or come up with so many ideas.
    Also I've taken an EM course at Jackson's level and barely passed it a few weeks ago (got 4/10, the passing grade) primarily because even though I could write down the equations to solve, I haven't tried or tried at all to solve some utterly huge integrals and so I should have failed it. However my professor congratuled me twice for the answer I gave to a theoretical question. He was basically blown up that I came up with a particular example while he was expecting the students to give the answer that he himself gave within the lectures (I had assisted to them but for some reason I haven't copied it on my notes). He told me that I gave a very original answer (that worked perfectly) and so he would give me a chance to pass the course by taking me an additional oral exam, in which I did very well.
    This makes me think I wouldn't be worthless if I ever do serious research. The idea to understand papers and write some thrills me up, even though I have to spend hours, days or weeks on a single computer program/lab. Also physics is my main passion, if I ever work in another unrelated field I know I wouldn't be as happy as if it was physics related.
    Thank you for any sincere input, harsh or not.
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