The "gap" year... or two

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physics4life
Posts: 5
Joined: Tue Mar 05, 2013 1:38 am

The "gap" year... or two

Postby physics4life » Tue Mar 05, 2013 1:54 am

Hey,

I am new to the forums although I have been lurking for quite a while. I graduated from a small liberal arts college last year and I am planning to apply to get into physics Phd programs from the fall of 2014. While I was at my college, I did research with a professor for about a year and a half, although I am not on any formal publications from it. I did REALLY terrible when I took the pgre the first time my senior year but I feel like I am preparing better for the upcoming test in April. I had an injury which prevented me from taking the pgres in time to apply for the Fall of 2013. I am just wondering what I can do now job wise that would only be a short thing that could improve my chances of getting in the Fall of 2014. I have self taught myself some more programming because I am thinking of going into astrophysics, although I am still not 100% sure what field of physics I will wind up in. Life decisions are harder to make than I thought! lol. Will my application look terrible if I don't do something physics related for 2 years? Would something even like, local tutoring help? I did tutor in college as well so I have that experience. Can I mention I taught myself programming while I took time off? What do people normally do while they wait to reapply to grad school?


Lavabug
Posts: 66
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2012 6:19 pm

Re: The "gap" year... or two

Postby Lavabug » Tue Mar 05, 2013 6:57 am

I'm in a similar situation, little chance of getting in anywhere this year. I've been reading those threads but a question keeps coming up:

How does one actually get research experience -let alone funded- if one ceases to have contact with a university when you graduate? Does one simply email research groups at local universities that do something you're interested in and ask them if they have some temp opening to do some grunt work?

I feel like there isn't much you can do once you're out other than study for the gre's again and I'm afraid the time off from physics will start to take a toll on my skills. :| The only remotely physics-y jobs that I think are accessible to a BS are shadowing medical physicists at clinics/small hospitals as a technician or trying to get a job at some optics company, but afaik most require a masters in optoelectronics or similar.

bfollinprm
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: The "gap" year... or two

Postby bfollinprm » Tue Mar 05, 2013 9:50 am

Lavabug wrote:I'm in a similar situation, little chance of getting in anywhere this year. I've been reading those threads but a question keeps coming up:

How does one actually get research experience -let alone funded- if one ceases to have contact with a university when you graduate? Does one simply email research groups at local universities that do something you're interested in and ask them if they have some temp opening to do some grunt work?


Yes, though you shouldn't ask for grunt work. Or even better, have a professor who knows you and likes you email for you (I got a summer job at KICP at U Chicago that way). You might have to work for free, but I bet if you show diligence you'll end up getting money. Also, you can read the literature in your field of interest; it's tedious, but you'll have to do it eventually to get up to date for research. This will help you write a much better SoP next year.

I feel like there isn't much you can do once you're out other than study for the gre's again and I'm afraid the time off from physics will start to take a toll on my skills. :| The only remotely physics-y jobs that I think are accessible to a BS are shadowing medical physicists at clinics/small hospitals as a technician or trying to get a job at some optics company, but afaik most require a masters in optoelectronics or similar.


You can always go for a masters degree for the in-between-time. I got a job teaching high school math (though I wasn't really looking to 'improve' my application, as I didn't apply beforehand, so I don't know if that helped or hurt).

Lavabug
Posts: 66
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2012 6:19 pm

Re: The "gap" year... or two

Postby Lavabug » Tue Mar 05, 2013 10:52 am

bfollinprm wrote:
Lavabug wrote:I'm in a similar situation, little chance of getting in anywhere this year. I've been reading those threads but a question keeps coming up:

How does one actually get research experience -let alone funded- if one ceases to have contact with a university when you graduate? Does one simply email research groups at local universities that do something you're interested in and ask them if they have some temp opening to do some grunt work?


Yes, though you shouldn't ask for grunt work. Or even better, have a professor who knows you and likes you email for you (I got a summer job at KICP at U Chicago that way). You might have to work for free, but I bet if you show diligence you'll end up getting money. Also, you can read the literature in your field of interest; it's tedious, but you'll have to do it eventually to get up to date for research. This will help you write a much better SoP next year.

I feel like there isn't much you can do once you're out other than study for the gre's again and I'm afraid the time off from physics will start to take a toll on my skills. :| The only remotely physics-y jobs that I think are accessible to a BS are shadowing medical physicists at clinics/small hospitals as a technician or trying to get a job at some optics company, but afaik most require a masters in optoelectronics or similar.


You can always go for a masters degree for the in-between-time. I got a job teaching high school math (though I wasn't really looking to 'improve' my application, as I didn't apply beforehand, so I don't know if that helped or hurt).

I would be living about a bus hour ride away from Rutgers/NJIT over the summer if I fail to get into NRAO's summer program, so I'm thinking of emailing some profs there to see if any would need any work done. I use "grunt work" loosely, since I assume I'd be relegated the more tedious work required for some research like ironing out bugs in a code or whatnot(essentially what I am doing for my senior project in high energy astro). I noticed NJIT has an active group in solar physics/mhd which is very much up my alley, so I'm thinking of contacting them later down the line.

I did contact several professors at Max Planck Institute and UCL(where I am at as an exchange student) for summer research positions months ago (funded, but not advertised), but I never received any reply, so I sure hope US professors pay more attention to emails of that nature.

I'm afraid a masters wouldn't really be an option financially-speaking.




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