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Would Sun Java Certification significantly help my grad school prospects?

  1. Jan 3, 2009 #1
    I'm a physics student in the penultimate year of my degree. I'm quite good at programming and was thinking this summer I'd put in 3 months of effort and get Sun Java Certification.

    Would this be worth the effort? Would it be something which would be very attractive to a prospective grad school or just get ignored?
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  3. Jan 4, 2009 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    Physics grad school? I don't think it would make much difference one way or another.
  4. Jan 4, 2009 #3
    OK, I thought maybe having professional certification in a common programming language would be useful as programming is such an important skill to many branches of physics. However you say it doesn't make much difference to a potential supervisor?

    Would you say being good at programming is likely to help me very much at all?
  5. Jan 4, 2009 #4


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    Programming skills are certainly an asset in many branches of physics. They can't hurt your grad school application. But if the choice is between getting this java certification and gaining research experience working in a lab - I think the research experience is far more valuable. I believe the common attitude with regards to programming is that it's a skill that can be picked up as needed.
  6. Jan 4, 2009 #5
    What is a good way to pick up research experience in a lab? My degree has the usual amount of research experience in terms of projects, but do people do other stuff also?
  7. Jan 4, 2009 #6
    "Research" experience should occur in a faculty member's research laboratory... where he or she is working on PUBLISHABLE research of the kind that would go into a "peer-reviewed" journal like the Physical Review, etc. (teaching is only part of a faculty member's job; research is another important part). You should try, if possible, to get experience in a faculty member's lab at your primary institution... then try to use a summer or two to get experience at another institution (or a national lab) through an REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) fellowship etc. (these are competitive, and I believe you should be preparing applications now if you want to do an REU this coming summer). It would really be best for your graduate school application if you could contribute enough in a lab to get your name listed as a coauthor on one or more publications.

    What I suggest: As soon as the new term begins, talk to some faculty at your present institution about this: they may have spots for a undergraduate in their research labs... or give you advice on REU programs.
  8. Jan 4, 2009 #7
    Sun Java Certification would be worse than nothing at all. If you want to seriously impress a physics interviewer, & learn something that might be useful, put 3 months of effort into "Object-Oriented Implementation of Numerical Methods. An Introduction with Java and Smalltalk." by Didier H. Besset. Or why not do some programming work in a physics lab (Besset might, again, be useful -- start reading it and you'll impress any lab job interviewer!).
  9. Jan 4, 2009 #8
    Hi, thanks for all the advice given so far.

    Perhaps I should clarify my situation a bit more, I'm actually in the UK doing what is called a "Year in industry". What this involves is that one year of my degree will be a placement in industrial research. My final year will also involve an extended research project. However I thank you for your advice physics_girl, my department often lets us know about research opportunities and I should probably take one of these.

    mal4mac, I will look into that book you suggest, out of curiosity why do you believe certification would be worse than nothing at all?
  10. Jan 5, 2009 #9
    Are you seriously asking this question? Don't you yourself have the notion that having the certification is better than nothing? Otherwise you wouldn't have posted your original question.
  11. Jan 5, 2009 #10
    Well exactly! mal4mac said it would be "worse" than nothing at all not "better". So it's a perfectly reasonable question to ask why he believes this as it seems counter-intuitive.

    Also, there is no need to be rude. "Are you seriously asking this question" is not a polite way to answer someone.
  12. Jan 5, 2009 #11
    Cut mal4mac a break....you know what he meant...unless I'm wrong and he really did mean it's better to have nothing than an industry certification..........in which case the question is valid...but that would just be weird...

    plus it's not rude to ask someone if they are seriously asking a question...it's a "perfectly reasonable question" to affirm that one is indeed asking a question that one should already know the answer to....

    besides...it's about as comical as you pointing out the fact that he said "worse" instead of "better"...
  13. Jan 5, 2009 #12
    I'm not sure if mal4mac actually meant worse, perhaps he reckons such certification would indicate to a grad school that I'm not all that keen on physics as it is professional programmer's certification?
  14. Jan 5, 2009 #13
    Personally..I think you could get it without devoting too much time to it...I had a friend who got it just for hell of it...and I would think that it can't hurt you anyways...

    :| thinking of my friend....now he's working at Microsoft.....he wasn't even that smart and he still hadn't gotten his BS yet...who would have thought?
  15. Jan 5, 2009 #14
    Sounds good! What I'll probably do in light of the responses I've obtained is focus on getting research experience over summer and keep my Java Certification idea on the back burner.

    Thanks everyone for all the replies!
  16. Jan 7, 2009 #15
    I spent 20 years working in UK university departments, after taking a physics degree, mainly doing research & support in programming. I know the mind set of UK interviewers and they would, generally, think that taking a low level industry certification like this would show uncertainty in your own ability. You should have the level of knowledge in this certification already (perhaps lacking a few odds and ends that are not important anyway.)

    Anyone can work at Microsoft.

    Someone looking to do physics research should look on certification as a joke and read Bessier & write some advanced numerical analysis programs. Then you'll have something to impress them, maybe...

    So I stand by 'it's worse than nothing' because taking the qualification will make you look like a pushy amateur. Also by doing nothing you will give your brain a rest (always useful -- see Einstein on the subject). You are going into your final year, where you will (should be) be working non-stop on physics. Hacking through a Java certification will only leave you feeling jaded.

    My best advice would be -- holiday! Lie on the beach for two weeks, then do interesting stuff (visit Rome, go an archaeological dig, play tennis, whatever floats your boat). Give your physics brain a rest and show that you're a rounded person... your account of the Vatican (say) would be much more appreciated by an interviewer than a Java certification score...
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2009
  17. Jan 9, 2009 #16
    Thanks for the great advice mal4mac, I've decided to take it! Just had a pretty rough exam and realised that the last thing I want to be doing over summer is taking on more studying.

    I've already visited the Vatican btw :) Perhaps Thailand..
  18. Jan 9, 2009 #17
    Wow..I don't know what's worse..mal4mac's advice or jbunten actually listening to him.....oh well..doesn't matter to me...ain't my life...

    just make sure when you go to thailand..to visit the aquariums....have fun..
  19. Jan 10, 2009 #18
    Thailand, yawn. Why does everyone go to Thailand. The best holiday I ever had was a rough & ready guided tour round Turkey, organized by a couple of crazy antipodians. We slept in tents and did some hard travelling between interesting sites each day -- including Troy, Ephesus, Istanbul, Konya...

    And some great beeches and Dutch girls on the tour :-)

    A similar trip to Greece was also first rate.
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