Calculator Tips? Other questions

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peppy
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Calculator Tips? Other questions

Postby peppy » Wed Dec 16, 2009 12:18 am

I am getting saddled up for the physics GRE and had a few questions before setting out.

I noticed that there is no calculator allowed for this exam and I am a little tense about that. What kinds of things do you recommend when it comes to doing work without a calculator? Say we need to calculate an angle of two vectors using the dot product and we solve it to something like 0.172, are we going to have to be able to convert that to degrees or radians using cos/sin work? Will we need to ever use arcsin, arctan, ect.. in order to solve the problems? In your own experience, what other things should I start practicing in order to do work without the calculator?

Another question, how important is the General GRE besides the PGRE? How hard is that exam and how important is that compared to the physics exam in order to get accepted into a Ph.D program?

I have absolutely no money and almost no chance for getting loans anymore for graduate school (too much current undergraduate debt). So when I apply for graduate school, is it normal to first make sure I can get the fellowships and money first before applying for entrance into the program? Is it the other way around or do they give you an estimate of how much money you can get before getting into the school? I just don't want to try being accepted into some school first, only to find out that I can't qualify for financial aid (Research Assistance, TA, Fellowships, ect...) after I've been accepted. How does this work?

Thanks

kroner
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Re: Calculator Tips? Other questions

Postby kroner » Wed Dec 16, 2009 2:17 am

Some applications specifically ask if you need financial aid in order to accept an offer from them. However as I understand it schools usually are able to cover the costs of their grad students, at least if you are a domestic applicant.

For calculations on the test, you'll need to be able to multiply and divide by hand, but usually only to about 2 significant digits. There are values of all different magnitudes so you want to be comfortable doing arithmetic with scientific notation. You should know the trig values for the common angles, 0, 30 degrees, 45 degrees, 60 degrees, 90 degrees, and small angle approximations come up all the time. The best way to get an idea of what sort of math you're expected to do is to take one of the practice exams.

peppy
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Re: Calculator Tips? Other questions

Postby peppy » Wed Dec 16, 2009 2:36 am

kroner wrote:However as I understand it schools usually are able to cover the costs of their grad students, at least if you are a domestic applicant.


I am domestic and this is something I never really understood. I always assumed that it was way too competitive for me (a small percentage of the attending graduate students, only the ones with the 4.00 GPAs, would get full costs covered). Especially since the school is going to hand out sometimes $20k to $40k each year to students.

So you're saying all I really need to do is get a decent score on the GRE, get accepted to a school with a Ph.D program and I will "likely" get my full tuition and everything paid with graduate financial aid programs? Would this be likely even with my 3.30 GPA and BS in Physics, minor in Mathematics and undergraduate research?

kroner
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Re: Calculator Tips? Other questions

Postby kroner » Wed Dec 16, 2009 3:12 am

Yeah this confused me at first also, and I still don't totally get how funding works (I'm also in the process of applying now so I don't have any experience). But the gist is that the universities need people to help with research and to help run classes for their undergrads, and grad students provide that for them for very little cost. We only take classes for the first year or two and spend most of the time working. The schools get their cheap labor for a few years and we get our doctorates and everyone is square. The money they give should probably be thought of more like a salary than a scholarship.

nathan12343
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Re: Calculator Tips? Other questions

Postby nathan12343 » Wed Dec 16, 2009 7:42 pm

Graduate school is more like a job than your undergrad experience was, especially in the natural sciences. In Physics and Astronomy, a department will only accept as many students as they can give financial aid for, this means that you are guaranteed full support the entire time you are there, including all fees as well as a stipend which varies from school to school (20k - 30k a year).

I wouldn't go to a grad school that accepted me without any sort of aid and I don't think there are many schools that do that. You should take a look at the profile threads to get an idea about support at various schools.

peppy
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Re: Calculator Tips? Other questions

Postby peppy » Wed Dec 16, 2009 9:55 pm

nathan12343 wrote:Graduate school is more like a job than your undergrad experience was, especially in the natural sciences. In Physics and Astronomy, a department will only accept as many students as they can give financial aid for, this means that you are guaranteed full support the entire time you are there, including all fees as well as a stipend which varies from school to school (20k - 30k a year).


Wow that's excellent. So generally, you can know right away once you're accepted into the Ph.D program if they will fund your entire 4 years instead of having to apply for financial aid each year? (and not knowing if you will get it or not in a particular year)

So it is typical for universities to offer funding for an entire 4 year period for the Ph.D program?

nathan12343
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Re: Calculator Tips? Other questions

Postby nathan12343 » Thu Dec 17, 2009 12:23 am

More like 5 or 6 years. There aren't too many 4 year programs in physics or astronomy. All of the places I was accepted to let me know about specific funding details before the deadline and guaranteed funding for at least 5 years.

I should say that you might have to work out how you will fund yourself if you aren't in a lab. All this funding business is contingent on the expectation that after a year or two when you are done with classes you will find work in a research lab and start on a thesis. After that point, your funding is up the the PI, who may make you find outside funding or force you to TA. The absolute worst case scenario (for some reason this happens a lot in HEP) is that you will have to TA every semester.

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grae313
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Re: Calculator Tips? Other questions

Postby grae313 » Thu Jan 07, 2010 1:54 am

There are practically no unfunded physics PhD students in any of the standard universities in the US, unless someone elects to use their own funding. If you are admitted, it means you are funded. You work for your money--either by TAing 20 hours a week or doing research 60 hours a week (they both pay about the same :roll: ), or, as Nathan mentioned, doing research and TAing if you are in theory. Even though they say they will guarantee funding for x amount of time, as long as you are a graduate student in good standing, the department will make sure you are paid. If you start taking more than 7 years to get your degree, they might start threatening your funding if you don't finish soon.

How could it be any other way? Graduate school takes 60+ hours a week, there is no time to work outside school, not everyone is rich, and fellowships are limited.

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zxcv
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Re: Calculator Tips? Other questions

Postby zxcv » Tue Jan 12, 2010 2:23 am

Maybe I shouldn't admit this, but I don't always work even 40 hours per week when I'm doing research full time (I'm a theorist). Of course, my mind is usually ticking about my research even during my "off" time.

I certainly do that much time (and more) when I have approaching deadlines, but if, for example, my adviser is fairly busy with other stuff and I don't have a paper to write (or fellowships to apply for), I may not get that much done in a week. I try, but pulling off an eight hour work day of theory research (especially 9-5) is a challenge for me.

Note: by any objective standard, I am doing quite well for a second year grad student. Your mileage may vary.

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grae313
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Re: Calculator Tips? Other questions

Postby grae313 » Tue Jan 12, 2010 4:36 pm

My apologies, I'm always thinking experiment. Theorists don't ever work 60 hours a week! :)

Also don't give me any of that "but I'm working when I'm in the shower or walking to school" bullshit!

kroner
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Re: Calculator Tips? Other questions

Postby kroner » Tue Jan 12, 2010 9:25 pm

in the shower is the most productive time. even my algebra prof said so.

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HappyQuark
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Re: Calculator Tips? Other questions

Postby HappyQuark » Tue Mar 16, 2010 12:48 pm

kroner wrote:in the shower is the most productive time. even my algebra prof said so.


Only if your shower door is made of glass. You can't write out your equations into a fogged up shower curtain.

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Helio
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Re: Calculator Tips? Other questions

Postby Helio » Wed Mar 24, 2010 1:56 pm

kroner wrote:in the shower is the most productive time. even my algebra prof said so.


how can that be the most productive... i am usually so tired in the morning that i like run on autopilot when in the shower.... btw i am experimentalist so 60 hours a week sounds about right at them moment




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