University of Edinburgh or King's College London for mathematical physics masters?

  • #1
Carbazone
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1
Hi guys,

I recently graduated Cornell University with as a math major with physics concentration and got accepted into the mathematical physics masters at the University of Edinburgh (UoE) and the theoretical physics masters at King's College London (KCL). I wish to pursue a PhD in (possibly) quantum gravity in the future with an interdisciplinary approach in mathematics and physics. I wanted to compare both programs.

KCL seems to offer all the physics modules I need for quantum gravity (such as QFT, supersymmetry etc.) and have been, so far, very responsive via email.
UoE, while seemingly not offering the same variety of physics modules that KCL does, offers many important math modules like functional analysis and algebraic topology, has the Higgs Centre where they do interesting research and would be a good option if I want to build connections for my academic trajectory in the field.

I would be grateful if someone could shed some light on how the programs are or what their experience was so that I can make up my mind about going to either UoE or KCL.

Thanks you very much.
 
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  • #2
Carbazone said:
I wish to pursue a PhD in (possibly) quantum gravity in the future
Would you be looking to pursue a PhD in the UK or in another country?

I'm going to be upfront that I don't have experience with either program, and about the fact that I don't put much value in UK 1 year master's degrees as preparation for a PhD. 1 year master's are fine if you want a course-based/taught program to enhance your employment prospects, but for a research degree, I believe that their duration is too short. They're still predominantly taught/course-based, and their short duration means that you don't have much time to devote to doing research and writing a dissertation. The 3 month research project that you complete as part of the degree is more akin to what North American students do for their undergraduate senior year thesis than what you would do as part of a traditional 2 year research/thesis-based master's that is the norm outside of the UK.

If you want to pursue a PhD in the UK, not a problem. If you want to pursue a PhD in Canada/Australia/EU, neither are going to provide sufficient research experience to really make you a competitive applicant. If you want to apply to the US, both are a waste of time (and money) unless you haven't acquired any research experience during your bachelor's. Even then you'd be better off doing a 1 year MRes since with a US PhD you're still going to have to take courses and having completed a master's in advance won't materially shorten the duration to completion of the PhD.

The other issue is that if you want the master's to make you a more competitive applicant for a PhD, being only 1 year in duration means that you're going to be applying to PhD programs during your first semester of the master's, which means you'll have very little to add to your application beyond your undergrad degree. If you really wanted to do a master's that was of value I would have recommended ICL's 2 year MSc + Extended Research.

https://www.imperial.ac.uk/study/courses/postgraduate-taught/physics-extended-research/

If you are committed to accepting one of those 2 programs, I'll let others weigh in on their relative strengths.
 
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  • #3
I hoped it wouldn't come to talking about this but here it is:
Since I graduated from Cornell, I naturally sought to apply to American PhD programs like my peers, however was unable to get accepted in any (variety of possible factors). Instead of taking a fruitless gap-year, I chose to apply to the UK mainly because I had not liked the American system and wanted to change things. I couldn't apply to Imperial (which I was considering early on) because of my unsuitable GPA at that time.

I don't think I have any other options right now beside the two; so your advice (no matter how insightful) is not useful to my present situation. Throughout my undergrad, I have mainly done math projects and built math connections, so maybe the one year in the masters program may prove to be just the thing I always needed to make my application more physics rounded. If I can figure out my project topic during the program, I may just pursue a PhD in the UK rather than go back to the US to do 5 years.
 
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  • #4
So you're doing a master's with an aim to boosting your GPA in hopes that'll make you a more competitive applicant for a PhD? If that's the case, given the different focus in the coursework between the two programs, which do you feel plays more to your academic strengths and/or better remediates the shortfalls in your profile?

There is still the issue that you're going to be applying to PhD programs before you may have any grades from your master's courses so I'm not sure how much either will help in terms of raising your GPA. You may find that you're still going to have to take a gap year regardless.
 
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  • #5
My GPA was bad then mainly because of math courses, it is 3.5 now. If I have no concrete projects to do in the gap-year, I don't think it is a good idea.
 

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