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Study theoretical physics in UCD

  1. Aug 18, 2008 #1
    Hi all,

    I just got accepted to study theoretical physics in UCD in Ireland for the next four years. At the end of it I will come out with a BSc, hopefully.
    My ambition is to later get an MSc in Cambridge. I have heard so many stories about the level of difficulty associated with getting into Cambridge and I am just wondering just how hard it really is.
    What steps can I take now to increase my chances of getting to Cambridge after my years in UCD?

    Thanks for any advice.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 18, 2008 #2


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    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Re: Cambridge

    Cambridge don't have an MSc course, at least not in Theoretical Physics: perhaps you mean Part III (or the Certificate of Advanced Study in Mathematics). I'm not sure there's any specific advice that I can give you aside from the usual: work hard throughout the year, and not just near exam time! Later on you might want to look into taking a dissertation, if that's possible at your university. Others may have better advice!
  4. Aug 18, 2008 #3
    Re: Cambridge

    Cambridge doesn't even have the strongest program in UK
    University of Edinburgh does supposedly.
  5. Aug 18, 2008 #4


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Re: Cambridge

    Edinburgh doesn't offer an MSc in Theoretical Physics (according to its website).
  6. Aug 19, 2008 #5
    Re: Cambridge

    Ok, here's what I found out about oxbridge. They want "a wellrounded man". That is, you should have AT THE VERY LEAST good grades. Then you should have extra curriculars that are relevant to your application (like labwork in a researchlab for a chemist etc). After that is done (phew!), you should REALLY REALLY start to practice your scientific writing skills. Because you will write a cover letter for your application explaining yourself why they should let you into the program. And you should really publish at least one article in a scientific journal.

    For practicing the writing part; check this book out "The oxford book of modern science writing". I haven't read it yet myself, but heard that it's good.
  7. Aug 19, 2008 #6
    Re: Cambridge

    I'm not doing theoretical physics, but I was predicted a low 2:1 at the time of application and interview, have no published papers or other experience of scientific writing, and had no research experience not part of my course, although I had helped with lab refurbishment and university open days. Oxford still let me in! Doing all the stuff Fearless recommends probably means you can walk into anywhere, they're not a minimum requirement.

    I don't like the idea of learning to write the perfect cover letter, I just told the truth on my application. If you've got a genuine scientific mind and love of science, then I hope that being yourself is going to look far better than any strategy involving acting fake.
  8. Aug 19, 2008 #7
    Re: Cambridge

    In my strategy there weren't any kind of "be a phony" or something that can relate to any of that. I just emphasized something everyone is weak at, like writing cover letters. Humanistic virtues is really something that you can find useful in all walks of life.

    "I CAN HAZ FIZIKS", sounds a bit worse then "I apply to department of X to facilitate Y" or "I want to achieve Z, so applying to department of ETA seems like a sound idea because of U". Everyone can write a "I CAN HAZ"-letter, but there not that many people that can write a good "I CAN HAZ"-letter ;) Point being, language skills are pivotal. Not only to be taken seriously, but also to not get archived in the round archive under the desk of the professor/review board. Besides, using better language, or more relevant language, is only a way to convey ideas and communicating what your desire with applying is. Hopefully it will be enough and people will get admitted.

    I hope you will post more on this part of the forum, and others. Could you tell me more about your way into oxford? How's oxford like for a Phd? Do you have the formal-wear dinners with professors and the undergrads?
  9. Aug 19, 2008 #8
    Re: Cambridge

    I think it's best to be honest because if doing a the course is genuinely a good idea for someone, then they'll have reasons why it is a good idea and should simply state them honestly and enthusiastically, which will end up with something along the lines of what you suggest. That's basically all I did. If their reasons are rubbish tor they have none, then being a rejected is probably not a bad thing! I don't consider that a writing skill.

    I've only just started at Oxford, I started DPhil (what they call a PhD) work in July for various reasons but technically term doesn't start until October. So I can't tell you an awful lot about university life yet!
  10. Aug 19, 2008 #9
    Re: Cambridge

    Ok, I've already addressed your most valid point that if people don't have passion or any other worthwhile reason for doing research they should go into industry or get a job or whatever.

    My point is this;

    1. Get some passion, make it shine through.
    2. Communicate said passion in a timely manner, that is hone those writing skills.
    3. ??????
    4. PROFIT

    If they still get rejected and there were valid reasons for that rejection, like you said, they are probably better off.

    Although, I like to think like this "where do I want to go in life?" and think first of the ending position. Then I start to make little contingency plans to get to that end. If reading a book on science writing will make me get ahead visavi my peers in getting that golden handshake, I WILL DO IT. It's an efficiency thing. Some people deal with life in a whimsical manner and just do what damn they please to do that day. Other people stride into their life with precision, carefully laden plans and an eye on the clock as well as to the effect of their actions. Some people may think this road is a very passionless and robotic road. But alas, they are soooo wrong.

    When you get a hang of what it's like, please make a thread about it. :)
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