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Programs US student pining for a Materials Science PhD outside of the US?

  1. Oct 19, 2009 #1
    Hello all, I am a student in need of advice. I am a Physics and Applied Math senior at Humboldt State University in California, which I am confident will not open any doors. Over the next 3 months I will be applying for PhD programs in Materials Science, with the goal of obtaining a world-class education and entering industry or forming a startup after graduation. I am really unsure about where to go to accomplish this goal, since I don't have much knowledge concerning the best materials science grad programs out there. I have spent time searching for rankings online, and I could really do with some help from people that know the field and can tell me some information about excellent programs. I have no citizenship or connections outside the continental United States, but I would really prefer to see more of the world while I am still young. My family has no money or connections, so I really would rather not interrupt my educational sequence and be hit with loan collections right now. I am overwhelmed by all of my options (not all of which are feasible), and the rapidly diminishing time frame in which I am working.

    Pertinent information about myself:

    I want to study meta-materials or nanotechnology. I had an internship at Penn State last Summer working with nanowires, but I am more interested in other areas, which could include metallurgy as well.

    My statistics: GPA 3.87, GRE currently 600V/700Q/4.0AW (retaking in a few weeks to hopefully get an 800Q and higher AW), one summer of laboratory and fabrication research, dual major in Physics and Applied Mathematics (mostly mathematical modeling in that regard).

    My three letters of rec: One from a Materials Science Professor at Penn State, one from a Physics Professor at Humboldt State, and one from an Applied Math Professor at Humboldt State.

    I want to enter a PhD program as soon as possible. I am only about 22, but I had to spend an extra year to shift from Applied Math to Physics and I don't want to spend a sixth year in undergrad (for many obvious reasons).

    I only speak English currently, but I would gladly learn another language if I could take my courses and talk to my adviser in English.

    I am mostly interested in Europe, coastal Canadian cities, and some Coastal US cities.

    I will have had a quantum mechanics course but no solid-state classes (my University is pretty limited in this regard). I have been studying a Materials Science book though.

    I appreciate any information that can be provided.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 21, 2009 #2
    Just study at a top school in the US. You can see the world later.
  4. Oct 24, 2009 #3
    Thanks for the advice, but I am not so sure that I will be as free of responsibilities four to six years from now. A lot can happen in that much time, especially in the current world economic climate, and I would rather not have travel be an impossibility. That doesn't mean that I would pass on a great offer if it was presented by a top US university, but if my choices are between a mediocre program here or a mediocre one with funding in Europe then I would probably take a chance on seeing the continent.

    To be clear, I am focusing on electronic materials, materials science, and condensed matter programs that will admit and fund someone from a relatively unknown US school. I have a good GPA and will have good GRE scores, and I will have my name in the middle of the contributors on a paper that should be published soon in Nano Letters. That seems to be enough for lower-tier US schools, but I really don't know about Europe. None of my advisers, professors, friends, or colleagues were able to offer insight on this subject, so I am asking the community here.

    These are my main questions:

    Are the top schools of Europe more difficult to enter (with funding provided by the university or through scholarships that are available to foreign students) then those of the US?

    I know that a lot of countries expect students to go through a masters before their PhD. Is total funding available to foreigners for masters degrees? US programs generally don't fund masters degrees, and even a mediocre US school would provide funding for a PhD program that I entered right after graduation.

    Do I need to apply further in advance of the deadlines than I would for US schools?

    Is it necessary to build a rapport with a potential adviser over email before applying?

    For that matter, if I had to attend a masters program first, would it be adviser-focused or more of an extension of undergrad? As in, do European masters students do more research or thesis work than US masters students?

    Finally, if I were to get a PhD and/or a Masters in Europe, would I face problems finding work in the EU or being qualified for work in the US or Canada? I do not have an ABET-accredited engineering degree, so I wasn't planning on being a public engineer, but I don't know anything about "materials" engineering qualifications in Europe.

    I don't mean to be demanding by asking so much, but I am really overwhelmed by my search. Any help would be appreciated. Also, any info on Canada would also be appreciated.
  5. Oct 29, 2009 #4
    There's more funding here in the US for materials science research than anywhere else in the world. It is extremely difficult to get funding for non-EU students studying in Europe.
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