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Schools Survived First Year of Physics Ph.D Program Now What

  1. May 27, 2017 #1
    I just successfully completed my first year for a Ph.D program in a top 10 Ivy league school and I must say it was the hardest year of my life. I would work 12 hours a day and on average spend 8 hours on a single problem in my problem sets. Luckily I am done with all of my classes and quals and just need to work on research. From your experience do you think the the worst is behind me or do you think on a yearly basis doing research and working on your dissertation is even more stressful then taking required classes that you had to pass or else you be out of the program? My dissertation is going to be in theoretical particle cosmology and I have a clear idea what direction I want to take it.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 27, 2017 #2


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    It's not necessarily better or worse, just different.

    In grad school you can get to a point were you're just sick of doing coursework. Not that you feel that you know everything, or that you couldn't gain anything else from taking courses, rather, you've just finished years and years of constant cycles of being taught, developing skills and undergoing evaluation and ache for a change.

    Diving into research gives you that change.

    One of the big differences is that the problems don't go away after a couple months. They're there until you solve them.

    The pressures are different now too. Now the focus is on producing something that you can share with the world via publication. There are fewer deadlines to meet, and because of this some people struggle a little to be productive.

    But I think in general, most people enjoy the shift. Because once the coursework is done, they get to start doing the work that they've wanted to do for a long time. And when you're fully engaged in something you're passionate about, it's not really work.
  4. May 27, 2017 #3
    Sounds about right. I'm not worried about not being as motivated because of lack of deadlines. When it comes to physics I'm workaholic and will be fine spending 12 hours a day doing research.
  5. May 27, 2017 #4
    You say this is the hardest year of your life. This was my experience too. It is supposed to be that way. Looking back after 30 years or so, I now believe it to be the most enjoyable year of my life.

    With coursework and quals behind you, the rest will be less structured. It will still be a lot of hard work, but it will be less deadlined, at least on a weekly basis.

    I found it less stressful after the first year. After the first year on taking the midnight bus back night after night, always a problem set due in the neartime, sometimes the next day, and preparing for tests, and the qualifiers, I felt like it was, "Now it can be told". That is, no one who has not experienced it would understand the amount of effort and application it takes to make it through the first year successfully.
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