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What was your experience like in Grad School?

  1. May 29, 2004 #1
    Hello everyone,

    Im truely sorry that I keep on creating new threads about Grad School but I feel I need to get a sense of what other people went/are gone/going through. Remember your responses should be about your experience. So please if you could, tell me:

    1)What school you went to?
    2)What field of Physics did you concentrate in?
    3)How many total courses you took throughout your graduate schooling?
    4)How long did you actually take courses until you had to concentrate fully on your research?
    5)If you were a theoretical physics graduate, how many math courses did you take and what were they?
    6)How many courses, on average, did you take each semester?
    7)How hard was it to put together your thesis?
    8)Was the professors personal, as in get to know you? or were they distant?
    9)Also I would like to know if you had the option to take more courses than were required? Because I was researching UC Berkeley and they require 4 courses, and you can select 11 units from what they call the 200 series and then you can take another 8 units of upper division or graduate courses. It doesnt really have that much room to take the math courses that I wish to take. So thats why im wondering if I could take more courses than that. Maybe 1 each semester while im doing my thesis research also.

    I want to go to graduate school to become a Theoretical Physicist so any imput on the courses you guys took that dealt with theoretical stuff would also be helpful. Thank you so much for your replies, I know that is alot of stuff to type.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 30, 2004 #2

    Dr Transport

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    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Sure, I'm game. I'll answer the questions in the order that they are posed, and defer on the questions I do not want to answer.

    1) I'd rather not answer.

    2) I concentrated in Optics initially, then became a Semiconductor Theorist, specializing in solving the Boltzmann Equation in anisotropic semiconductor materials and optical properties of materials.

    3) Too many, I am just a glutten for punishment.

    4) Since I changed specialties, about 3 years of total course work.

    5) I took no extra courses in the Math Department, since my work did not require any of the more esoteric aspects of theoretical physics, I did not need them.

    6) Taking courses, I took about 3 courses a semester, all year round.

    7) Since I did not work in a group, i.e. with a large bunch of people working for my advisor ( I was his only PhD student ), a thesis was difficult to get started. ( I never published ahead of time to help focus my thoughts and project. )

    8) I went to a small school, my professors were not very distant. I sat with my advisor and had coffee every morning, then had tea with the department in the afternoon. I was on a first name basis with most department members and the Dean of the College of Science used me as a sounding board for some of his initiatives.

    9) I took too many courses, I enjoyed them though. Do not specialize too quickly. Take courses outside of what you eventially do a thesis in. For example, of you work in Cosmology, take some optical courses in Radiometry or detectors, that way you understand the limitations of the systems that give you data. As a semiconductor guy, I took courses in nonlinear optics, quantum optics, optical design and Fourier optics and systems. All of it has come in handy over the years.

    I cannot stress enough, do not expect to have an acaedemic position when you are finished, they are far and few between. To get them, you will work manyt years for little pay, for no recognition, and in the end, spend time proving that you can be part of the game. I wouldn't do it, I make twice what many of my contemporaries make in acedemia, the jobs are interesting and I go out and try to get the same contract for research that they do. I have teken some money right out from under the noses of some really well connected academics and they aren't too happy about it. In the end, I still have a job and they were denied tenure, now they are on the street looking for positions and a paycheck.

    My advisor was on the research faculty, the physics department didn't think he was good enough to be a regular faculty member, but his work has been cited as definitive in the area and has had seminal papers in multiple areas of semiconductor physics.
  4. May 30, 2004 #3
    thanks for the reply Dr. Transport
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