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Simfish II

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(Originally posted on: 06-08-10 10:01:03 PM)
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Hello everyone,

I've recognized that INTL/HG seems to have a high number of Physics students. Ztolk, Sandamnit, Brad_Ad23, Pellaeon, Dimi (if I'm right), emtilt, cow_gone_mad (although he definitely doesn't visit anymore), and several others.

So I'm planning on applying to both Astrophysics and Physics grad schools a couple of years from now (I'll take a gap year first though). In any case, I'd like to ask: which grad schools did you apply to (and which fields), and what were your "stats"? Is there anything else you would consider important (that perhaps isn't advice that you'd find on most grad school sites?)

I'm probably most interested in computational astrophysics, although I have diverse interests and am pretty much open to anything. The sorts of schools I'd try for are around the level of Colorado/Wisconsin/Minnesota. There are quite a few faculty members here who have connections to Princeton, so if everything goes *insanely* well, I might even consider trying for that (although immaturity really hurt my early GPA). My major strength is the sheer number of grad-lvl courses I've taken (although I also tend to do very well on standardized tests so I anticipate a decent PGRE score)

Thanks!
This reply was last edited on 06-08-10 10:17:13 PM by Simfish II.
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Reply 1 of 31 (Originally posted on: 06-08-10 10:20:35 PM)
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I'm a mechanical engineer, but close enough I guess.

I didn't apply to, or consider applying to any grad schools until midway through my senior year. I was sporting a sub 3 GPA and decided in a day that I wanted to go to grad school, so I talked to people at my school about getting my masters there.

I didn't apply anywhere else because you pretty much can't get in anywhere with a GPA lower than 3 (is what they told me). On the bright side, I didn't take the GRE or any other qualifying tests. On the downside, I didn't really get into my own school either.

Anyway, after a year, with some goofy maneuvering I eventually did get in, and i'm working on my masters thesis project now. If you can, i'd avoid the ridiculous method I employed. Just sharing the story since you mentioned my name, and to encourage you to work hard now to make things easier later, and to make sure you don't get discouraged if you have terrible grades because it's still possible to make things happen with a bit of creativity.

Nice to see you stop by, stick around a bit. Hopefully the others will have more info for you as they actually are physics guys, I think emtilt is astrophysics specifically.
Simfish II

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Reply 2 of 31 (Originally posted on: 06-08-10 10:31:11 PM)
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Thanks for the reply, Dimi.

What did your goofy maneuvering involve? Did you find a way to get funded through your master's degree? (I've heard that Master's Degrees often tend to be cash cows for universities, but maybe Master's Degrees in engineering are easier to get funding for).

Yeah, fortunately for myself, my GPA is higher than a 3 (although not significantly so). The gap year idea is one of my ideas of maneuvering (as it's pretty much a way to get additional research experience+recommendations for free without paying the money for the master's degree).

Quote:
Nice to see you stop by, stick around a bit. Hopefully the others will have more info for you as they actually are physics guys, I think emtilt is astrophysics specifically.


Ah thanks. Due to certain emotional issues that didn't get resolved until this year, I was embarrassingly immature for a period of time on HG main, which caused much of the population to dislike me (you weren't really there at the time). But I'm trying to change myself so that I won't seem unnecessarily obnoxious to most forumers
This reply was last edited on 06-08-10 10:36:50 PM by Simfish II.
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Reply 3 of 31 (Originally posted on: 06-08-10 11:51:47 PM)
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I'm trying to develop a device to capture and contain a black hole so I can use it as a power source. You can help me with it after school if you want.
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Ztolk
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Reply 4 of 31 (Originally posted on: 06-09-10 04:41:39 AM)
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I did my undergrad in physics (did my thesis in computational astrophysics-sort of), then I applied to grad school (McGill, Waterloo, U of T, Queen's) and got into Waterloo and Queen's for astro. I didn't really like what I had gotten myself into, so I decided to work for a year and a bit. I worked in a hospital studying bubbles, which was fun because I just read physics papers and did numerical simulations, nothing medical related until the very end.

Meanwhile I wrote the physics GRE and did pretty well, but I didn't have any idea what I wanted to do, which was the big problem. Figure out what you want to do before you apply. The second time around I applies to U of T, McGill, Queen's and also Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Johns Hopkins, Urbana Champagne, and UC something. I didn't get into any of the American schools big grin. I've talked to people who have gotten in with worse GRE scores; I think it's because I didn't mention any profs name on the application, which was because I didn't know what I wanted to do. Also, my grades were good but not great.

Anyway, I go to McGill now.
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Ztolk
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Reply 5 of 31 (Originally posted on: 06-09-10 04:51:19 AM)
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Oh and BA: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1005.4024
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Reply 6 of 31 (Originally posted on: 06-09-10 06:40:08 AM)
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I spent the first year out of college taking individual courses just to show the school I was capable of good grades. I had to pay for it and I didn't get a whole lot done (which ended up being convenient for me for other reasons). It was frustrating cutting deals with the lady in charge of admissions, considering she always used to forget them/rearrange the details over time.

Anyways, through an informal visit to an old professor, I ended up getting myself a research position with him so now i'm working on a research project and getting funded for my degree. Granted i'm only a couple weeks in, but so far I really love it.

If you're above 3.0 even by a hair, then you're still a great deal away from where I was.
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Reply 7 of 31 (Originally posted on: 06-09-10 06:51:49 AM)
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My old roommate is going to Columbia for Physics. He applied to Harvard, Berkeley, MIT, and NYU as well. He said he ended up deciding on Columbia because it seemed to be academically rigorous without being as full of dorks as MIT or Harvard.
Ztolk
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Reply 8 of 31 (Originally posted on: 06-09-10 06:53:42 AM)
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If you end up as a graduate student in a physics department, you'll probably be surrounded by dorks no matter where you are.
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Reply 9 of 31 (Originally posted on: 06-09-10 09:56:34 AM)
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yeah that's why I said "as full of dorks" and also he mentioned that he didn't see a single girl in the MIT physics program as compared to like, 2 or 3 in the Columbia one
Simfish II

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Reply 10 of 31 (Originally posted on: 06-09-10 12:27:02 PM)
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Ah, thanks for the information everyone!

Ztolk, would you be willing to send your thesis to me? I'm quite interested. Also, are Canadians treated the same as all other international students? (in that they generally seem to have a lower chance at getting in?)

Quote:
I spent the first year out of college taking individual courses just to show the school I was capable of good grades. I had to pay for it and I didn't get a whole lot done (which ended up being convenient for me for other reasons). It was frustrating cutting deals with the lady in charge of admissions, considering she always used to forget them/rearrange the details over time.

Anyways, through an informal visit to an old professor, I ended up getting myself a research position with him so now i'm working on a research project and getting funded for my degree. Granted i'm only a couple weeks in, but so far I really love it.

If you're above 3.0 even by a hair, then you're still a great deal away from where I was.


Ah I see. Good luck with getting the M.S. and everything!

Quote:
My old roommate is going to Columbia for Physics. He applied to Harvard, Berkeley, MIT, and NYU as well. He said he ended up deciding on Columbia because it seemed to be academically rigorous without being as full of dorks as MIT or Harvard.


Heh
Ztolk
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Reply 11 of 31 (Originally posted on: 06-09-10 12:31:26 PM)
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Yeah I can send you my thesis (I'll PM it to you when I get off the train). If you search for me on google scholar you can also find my medical physics paper (I'm not the guy who wrote about GR in the 80s).

I can't really shed much light on the admissions process except in Canadian schools.
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Simfish II

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Reply 12 of 31 (Originally posted on: 06-09-10 12:34:45 PM)
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Okay I see. Thanks!

Do you know if Canadian schools prefer Canadian students to American students? Or if they have admissions criteria that seem to differ from American schools? I'm thinking of applying to some Canadian schools myself.
Ztolk
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Reply 13 of 31 (Originally posted on: 06-09-10 12:38:27 PM)
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I don't think there's a preference. Obviously there are more Canadian students because more Canadian students apply. The key is finding someone who is willing to work with you. If you have that, you're in. If you can find an external source of funding like a scholarship, finding a supervisor will be much easier, because it doesn't have to come out of their research grants.
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Simfish II

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Reply 14 of 31 (Originally posted on: 06-09-10 12:50:46 PM)
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Okay, thanks for the info!
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Reply 15 of 31 (Originally posted on: 06-09-10 08:48:13 PM)
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.
This reply was last edited on 03-13-15 09:58:16 PM by emtilt.
Simfish II

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Reply 16 of 31 (Originally posted on: 06-09-10 10:57:44 PM)
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Oh wow, thanks for the resources! Your website has a lot of useful information (although I almost overlooked it since it originally looked a lot like another Astro advice website I saw earlier - but then I saw that it was your own). Heh, your rankings sort of reassured me too since I currently go to Washington and all the other rankings I've seen neglected my own school so I thought my school wasn't that great, but apparently it is decent (and it has attracted quite a few nice faculty members as of late, although the budget cuts are probably going to kill its chances of rising further).

Ah, what field of astrophysics are you planning on doing research in? How extensive were your connections at UC-Santa Cruz? (did they involve professors you've worked with who have connections to profs there, or did they involve actual connections?)

PS: Another source of useful information (would be useful for your website) would be twofish-quant's posts on PhysicsForums. He got an Astrophysics PhD from MIT but then switched to quantitative finance post-PhD. But he maintains that his astrophysics PhD still helped him develop the skills needed for employment (so he's strongly of the view that astrophysics skills are easily transferrable and even desired, although he may be primarily speaking of computational astrophysics).
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Reply 17 of 31 (Originally posted on: 06-10-10 04:26:13 AM)
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From an industrial research and development perspective, what do physicists do?
A witty saying proves nothing - Voltaire
This reply was last edited on 06-10-10 04:41:34 AM by atlas sighed (at me).
Ztolk
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Reply 18 of 31 (Originally posted on: 06-10-10 06:17:22 AM)
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From an industrial research and development perspective, they come up with and test new ideas that will lead to new technologies down the road. There are also medical physicists who give cancer patients doses of radiation. Towards the later stages of research there's a lot of overlap with engineers.

One of my favourite examples is the positron. 1928: Paul Dirac pulls an equation out of his ass that says this backwards electron particle must exist. 1935: Anderson detects this backwards ass particle. 1970s: Someone finally figures out that you can use it to detect cancer.

High level physics has applications (medical ones are the easiest to justify but not the only ones), but that's not why people do it.
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Reply 19 of 31 (Originally posted on: 06-10-10 11:33:42 AM)
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.
This reply was last edited on 03-13-15 09:57:23 PM by emtilt.
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Reply 20 of 31 (Originally posted on: 06-10-10 11:44:38 AM)
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+k to emtilt because i'm jealous of

Quote:
I'm doing extragalactic stuff, observational cosmology, etc

ba
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Reply 21 of 31 (Originally posted on: 06-10-10 01:12:57 PM)
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Quoted from Ztolk:
Oh and BA: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1005.4024


I'm actually having a little trouble wrapping my head around some of this, I think it's mostly the language used. I'm guessing though you're trying to tell me that my goal may be slightly unrealistic?
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Ztolk
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Reply 22 of 31 (Originally posted on: 06-10-10 01:37:48 PM)
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I don't understand it either, I'm just pointing you towards a slightly relevant paper with an awesome name.
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Reply 23 of 31 (Originally posted on: 06-10-10 07:58:48 PM)
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Ah okay, thanks for the reply and information, emtilt! Good luck with the health issues too. What is your email address, by the way? (you can PM it to me)
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Reply 24 of 31 (Originally posted on: 06-13-10 04:01:42 PM)
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Quoted from Simfish II:
Sandamnit
I'm a bit late in the thread, but you may want to check out the out the US World News Report listing of the top Physics grad schools. It's not exactly the most accurate listing, but it will give you a good start on where to look for programs. I highly recommend reading each schools' website and even look at their listing of graduate students and faculty members to see what kind of stuff they have listed on their CVs, etc. Since you're going Physics, you're gonna want to go somewhere that has a strong research focus that you're interested in, but I'm sure you already knew that.

I don't know how it is for Physics, but the American Mathematical Society puts out a yearly graduate school publication that lists each school and how many students they accepted, how many students are enrolled full/part-time, how many students are supported via being employed as TAs, RAs, and/or other fellowships. You may be able to find something similar for Physics programs. It may be a bit discouraging if they only accepted 1 or 2 students, but it will at least give you an idea of chances of being accepted based purely on the sheer quantity of students they accept annually; don't let that dissuade you from applying to a school though!

Also, attending a summer REU looks good on an application to grad school, as well as any conferences you've attended, presentations and publications you may have, and so forth. I definitely recommend being proactive about doing research to make up for a lackluster GPA. Even if only to get an extra bullet on your CV and a few extra dollars in your pocket.

Quote:
Colorado/Wisconsin/Minnesota
Aside from Wisconsin, those are the same level of schools I'm applying to for Mathematics. Not that anyone cares, but I'm looking into the following schools (you might want to check into some of them and see how their Physics program is as well):

Dartmouth College
Boston University
Rice University
Washington University in St. Louis
Johns Hopkins University
Purdue University
Carnegie Mellon University
Duke University
University of Nebraska at Lincoln
University of Colorado at Boulder
Indiana University
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Vanderbilt University
University of Washington at Seattle
University of Maryland at College Park
University of Utah at Salt Lake City


Yeah. I know. I'm applying to a shitload of schools and it's going to be expensive, but I've been setting aside money to finance the application process and attending specific conferences that allow me to defer application fees (for example, there is a grad school expo at Purdue University each year, where if you attend, they will waive your application fee).

Depending on how I feel about my upcoming Subject GRE in November, I may not apply to a few of these schools, but at the moment, this is my working list of schools.
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