Hi all, my situation is as follows: I'd like to pursue a career in research in the absurdly competitive field of theoretical physics. I'm 3/4 of the way through an MSci in Physics and Maths from Durham in the UK and at present, I'm *JUST* on course for a 1st class degree (Not sure what that is in GPA terms- Wiki suggests a first is >3.6- I think it's supposed to nominally designate the top ~10% of graduates nationally). However, my transcript doesn't look particularly convincing: 1st year (Didn't do very much work) Average 60% 2nd year (Didn't mess around, but didn't kill myself) Avg 80% 3rd year (Worked incredibly hard) Avg 65% I think there's a few reasons why I didn't do as well in 3rd year despite having worked much harder, but the bottom line is that there's not much relation between how well I think I've understood various topics and the actual marks I've managed to get in exams. I'm saved by the structure of the degree. The 1st year doesn't count towards my final classification whilst the remaining years are weighted 2:3:4, so at present my weighted average is 71% (70 being the cut-off for a 1st). However, someone looking at my grades as they presently stand isn't going to be blown away, and as most of the places I was thinking about applying to ask for a 1st as a basic prerequisite I don't think my application is in fantastic shape. If anyone feels like trying to persuade me otherwise, that'd be wonderful, but at present I'm feeling fairly pessimistic. Like many other wanabe theorists, I originally wanted to study quantum gravity, possibly the most over-subscribed research interest in existence. I'm prepared to be broad-minded, however. My course in nuclear physics this year caught my interest, and I've always been interested in foundational questions in QM. I guess my main concern is that I spend time thinking; I've never been especially strong at labwork, or enjoyed it, and regard computer programming as a potentially necessary evil. I guess my questions are as follows: 1)What areas of theoretical physics are less competitive than others? For example, is canonical QG work like that at Nottingham (which is what I'm most interested in) any more or less competitive than the prevailing stringy approach? How about the other interests I mentioned above? 2)Is there a more expedient way of finding out where does research on a particular topic than Google? Nuclear theory seems to be almost the exclusive preserve of Surrey, with a couple of interesting topics at Birmingham. I've seen really interesting foundational work at Bristol and Imperial, and think I can safely discount the opportunity of an offer from the latter... 3)Should I even apply for a PhD this year? I think I can just about afford to do a postgraduate MSc next year, although I had hoped not to have to wipe out my savings. I could either apply for a well respected course in directly relevant areas to try and improve my position, or try for an MA in the philosophy of physics- an interest I've always had- and hope that actually attaining decent final year marks in what will ultimately be the most relevant courses for what I want to do (quantum field theory, GR, particle theory, a project/dissertation in string theory, plus a pure maths course in Riemannian geometry) will make my transcipt more commensurate with my ambition. Thanks in advance guys.