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The pre-PhD diploma program at ICTP

  1. Oct 25, 2015 #1
    I come from an undeveloped country and I am currently near the end of my Bachelor's degree. Currently, I am seriously considering a career as a theoretical particle physicist. Therefore, I would like to apply to Masters programs that enhance my technical skills and enable me to develop required expertise in the following courses:

    Quantum Field Theory - all of Peskin and Schroder
    Group Theory - all of Georgi
    General Relativity - all of Hughston and Tod
    Supersymmetry - all of Wess and Bagger

    I believe that this is the foundational background to tackle cutting-edge research in string theory. What other subjects might you think I need to complete?

    The pre-PhD diploma at ICTP offers the advantage of offering just such a course.The program happens to offer such benefits without the baggage of courses such as graduate-level classical mechanics, electrodynamics, quantum mechanics and statistical mechanics. What's your opinion of the diploma program?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 25, 2015 #2


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    Life is too short. Having a Master's in Physics is hardly better than having just a Bachelor's. If you want to be PAID to be a particle physicist, get a PhD. If you want to work along-side of the people who do particle physics, you know: making the coffee, sweeping the floor, installing the wiring, sure get a Master's. If you think it is - in general - a good idea to delay your doctorate, you are wrong. You'll have to decide if the risk of appearing as a second-rate student (for not going directly for your PhD) is balanced by some other personal concerns (eg finance, logistics, competence).
  4. Oct 25, 2015 #3
    That's surely one way to think about the program.

    For instance, I hear many people mentioning, for instance, that a good understanding of Peskin and Schroeder requires a first taste with simpler textbooks like Ryder and Mandl, Shaw. But, it might be possible to just dive into the deep end with Peskin and Schroeder on the very first go and come out enlightened in QFT. That way, you just get to go to your goal of learning string theory that much faster.
  5. Oct 25, 2015 #4
    I agree completely. A masters in physics is generally seen as, and is, a failed PhD. Its not a good thing (in the US). If you want to do cutting edge research in string theory a PhD is necessary but still not sufficient. You need post-docs, good published papers and luck.
  6. Oct 25, 2015 #5
    Hmm... so you guys are saying the pre-PhD diploma program is probably a better alternative to the typical Masters program?
  7. Oct 25, 2015 #6


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    You don't have to do either-or if you go to Europe. Here Master+PhD is similar to a US-PhD.
    Well, you won't do cutting-edge research just with those books, but you get some chance to get an idea of some papers. Getting to the level of actual research needs more time.
  8. Oct 26, 2015 #7
    After studying the above textbooks, do I have to read breakthrough papers in my specific field of interest (say, string theory, or supersymmetry, or GUT, etc.) to become up to par?
  9. Oct 26, 2015 #8
    You need to publish papers under the supervision of a physicist in the field and present you work to peers to be on par.
  10. Oct 26, 2015 #9


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    Indeed. In fact, most European universities will not accept you for a PhD position unless you have a master degree.
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