The DOOMsday Blog

  • The Physics Web Log forum behaves exactly like the regular forums except posts are sorted in reverse chronological order and also the originator of the blog is the only person who can post entries.
  • Prospective graduate students, current graduate students, post docs, professors, and even physics graduates working in industry encouraged to start a blog.

doom
Posts: 171
Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2007 6:42 pm

The DOOMsday Blog

Postby doom » Fri Feb 22, 2008 6:17 pm

The DOOMsday Blog

So, I've decided to be the first to take Grant up on his blog idea. Now that I'm at this stage in the process, I sorta wish that I had been keeping a blog since last summer, when I first started looking at grad schools and thinking about the GREs. See, I've sorta been working on a guide to leave for the underclassmen in my department that would help them navigate this whole mess. I haven't really worked on it that much, and really it would've been better (and easier) to have a blog that I had made during the process to refer them to.

Anyway, I've decided to start now, only partly because I'm intrigued by this offer of a free T-shirt. ;)

It's called the DOOMsday blog, in reference to my user name here, and in reference to some old book written in England called the Doomsday Book. I don't really know what that book's about, just as I don't know what this blog will be about. Or if I'll really keep up this experiment. We shall see.
Last edited by doom on Thu Feb 28, 2008 3:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

doom
Posts: 171
Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2007 6:42 pm

DON'T PANIC

Postby doom » Sat Feb 23, 2008 3:03 am

DON'T PANIC

In my first post, I alluded to a little project that I had started awhile ago. With apologies to Douglas Adams, I titled it "DON'T PANIC: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Physics GRE." I started the project because I know I would've liked a little more guidance from above about this whole GRE/grad school process. This site has been a great support, but as many people have pointed out, none of us is more qualified than anyone else to say how the process will go. I want to leave something behind for the people in my department who follow in this path.

If I ever finish the thing, which currently stands at 2.5 pages of intro and a section on the general GRE, I'll post it in the articles section of this forum. I would also like it to be a living document of sorts, that is appended with the wisdom of later writers. If anyone has any ideas or material for the document, feel free to send it to me. I would greatly appreciate the help.
Last edited by doom on Thu Feb 28, 2008 3:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

doom
Posts: 171
Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2007 6:42 pm

Thoughts on blogging

Postby doom » Sat Feb 23, 2008 3:05 am

Unimportant Ramblings about Blogging

One thing that I've already noticed is that the blogs on this forum don't have any way to publicly comment about the posts. I guess that's what sets them apart from a normal thread, but it does make it feel even more like I'm posting into a vacuum, with no way to know if anybody finds what I write at all useful or interesting.

I guess if what I say is thought-provoking enough, someone will PM me or post in a different forum to share their thoughts. Until then, I'll have to rely on the views counter in the forum.
Last edited by doom on Sat Mar 01, 2008 5:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

doom
Posts: 171
Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2007 6:42 pm

Blast from the Past...

Postby doom » Sat Feb 23, 2008 7:42 pm

Blast from the Past...

I was cleaning up my room just now and found an old GRE practice test from the fall. ::shudder:: It brought a flashback to some stressful times. And really, I'm still waiting for it to pay off the way I want it to, in terms of getting into my top choice schools.
Last edited by doom on Thu Feb 28, 2008 3:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

doom
Posts: 171
Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2007 6:42 pm

The Two-Body Problem

Postby doom » Tue Feb 26, 2008 2:40 am

The Two-Body Problem

I searched for my department's physics T-shirt this morning, hoping that wearing it would bring good luck in the mail. When I checked my snail mailbox, I felt like Charlie Brown waiting for an invitation to the Halloween party. Rats! Nothing. I tried not to think about the prospect of choosing between my two backup schools.

However, I checked my email later in the day, and found an acceptance letter from the University of Minnesota. UMN is one of my top choices, so I was of course very excited.

Now, if you look at most rankings, you'll find that Minnesota is not ranked all that far above my two backup schools, Ohio State and Indiana. So what gives? Why am I so much more excited about Minnesota?

Of course, personal rankings matter more than anything that US News or the NRC say, and that does have something to do with UMN's position on my list. But another major factor is what is colloquially called "The Two-Body Problem," the problem of fitting a committed relationship into one's academic plans.

Of course, many of the details of this problem are of a personal nature and will not appear on this blog. However, suffice it to say that my girlfriend and I are doing our best to plan our futures so that we can continue our relationship with as little distance between us as possible. She is also graduating this year, and her future plans are not readily adaptable to any given school that I might choose.

My grad school search took this situation into account fairly near the beginning. As I found schools that I liked, she let me know what looked promising for her and what didn't. I adapted my search somewhat based on her feedback. When I mentioned Michigan, she thought it sounded great for her too, so Michigan became an early front-runner. Washington and Maryland were workable, so they were on the list. Minnesota and Ohio State didn't look so good for her being nearby, but the initial applications were free, so why not? I figured I had a good shot of getting in to those schools. Indiana was my backup from the start, as I figured my REU connections would assure me that I would get in. Wisconsin was scrapped for a combination of my preferences and hers, and I scrapped Chicago because of research interests. So there was my list.

As you may have guessed, Indiana and Ohio State continued to show the least promise for us being in the same area, while Minnesota actually made a move to the top of my girlfriend's list. The prospects in Michigan also moved downhill.

Of the schools that I am currently accepted to, Indiana is at the bottom from a purely academic standpoint. I'm not putting down the school, but they just don't have a wide variety of research in high energy theory.

But with OSU and UMN, before visiting, I can't really make a clear call. Throw in the considerations from the Two-Body Problem, however, and the Gophers gnaw right through those Buckeyes. (Nice imagery, huh?)

Now the hard questions come. What happens if I get into another school that clearly offers better academic opportunities than UMN does? Will she sacrifice her ideal situation in the Twin Cities to join me in Seattle or the D.C. area? How comfortable am I in asking her to do that? How much better than Minnesota would Michigan have to be to make me deal with having her a few hours away?

I don't know how to answer these questions yet, but I will post updates as I make my decisions. Hopefully my thoughts will be beneficial to others trying to solve the seemingly intractable Two-Body Problem.
Last edited by doom on Thu Feb 28, 2008 3:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

doom
Posts: 171
Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2007 6:42 pm

REJECTED

Postby doom » Thu Feb 28, 2008 3:05 pm

REJECTED

Well, I got my first rejection today. Apparently, I'm not quite good enough for the University of Michigan. To my surprise, I feel kinda ambivalent about the rejection. Michigan was one of my top choices at one time, and also one of the top-rated programs that I applied to. However, I had begun to wonder if their high-energy theory group was too focused on phenomenology for my tastes. And, as mentioned before, my girlfriend would be no closer than Chicago for at least a year if I attended Michigan. Add that up, and the rejection from Michigan doesn't hurt as bad as I might have imagined.

Rejection still stings, though. I can't lie about that. This is one of the very few times in my life when I have ever been told that my best just wasn't good enough. It's not as dream-crushing as when I got cut from the high school basketball team, especially since I still have some great offers on the table and maybe one or two more to come. But still, some doubts that have been slowly adding up in my mind are continuing to swirl.

I am going into particle theory because that is what I have always wanted to do. This is the area of physics that first hooked me when I read A Brief History of Time back in fifth grade. Try as I might, there's no way I can get excited about condensed matter, or biophysics, or any form of experiment. It's just not me. So I'm a high-energy theorist because that's what my heart tells me.

But I do eventually have to get a job somewhere, somehow, as people keep reminding me. And they are also kind enough to remind me that I've picked one of the hardest fields to get employed. Although I was a little worried, I told myself that I could solve that problem by simply being the best. I've been the best my whole life, maybe I could continue it. At least I hoped I could.

But now someone (the physics department at Michigan) tells me that I am not the best, in fact I'm not even near the best. They have no use for me in their program. Ouch.

But hey, what do they know, right? They've got a few files on me, that's all. Maybe the people they picked over me look better on paper, but I could just as easily prove them wrong about that. Maybe the same people will even offer me a job someday.

*****************

Just a few thoughts on what it means and how it feels to be rejected. Hopefully someone will find this useful. And of course, no offense intended to those who did get in, I'm sure you deserve it.

doom
Posts: 171
Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2007 6:42 pm

Accepted

Postby doom » Sat Mar 01, 2008 7:01 pm

ACCEPTED

While I did talk about my admission to Minnesota in the Two-Body Problem post, I figured I'd make a post about my acceptances to offset the rejection post.

The first school that I got into was Ohio State, one of my backup schools. I got their acceptance in late January, sooner than I thought I'd start hearing back. It was exciting to know that I had gotten in somewhere, even though it was low on my list. But mostly, it whetted my appetite for more admissions.

So began my agonizing month of waiting... checking my email every chance I had, checking the mailbox at least once a day, sometimes twice to see if maybe the mailman came in between my visits.

About a week and a half later, I got my acceptance letter to Indiana. This was expected, and not all that exciting, since IU was even lower on my list than OSU. But still, it was cool to be wanted. And plus, this was the first official financial package I had received.

All well and good, but I really wanted to hear from the other schools on my list. Any of them... It was killing me. For awhile, at least I could count on the fact that no one else had heard from those schools. Then a whole bunch of people got into Washington... but not me. Okay, that was my highest reach school, maybe I wouldn't get in, not the end of the world...

But the WAIT WAS KILLING ME. And pretty much everyone else on this message board. And I'm sure most other people in the country who were trying to go to grad school in physics.

Then, last Monday, I checked my email, and there it was at last. A TA offer from Minnesota, probably my top-choice school at this point. I was thrilled, to say the least. Although it would be great to have options about where to go, if I got rejected everywhere else, I would be very excited to be a Golden Gopher.

I don't think I did any productive work the rest of the week after that acceptance. Okay, slight exaggeration, but I did spend a lot of time on the UMN website, learning about the school, the program, and the Twin Cities. I really started picturing myself there next year. My girlfriend and I began planning our visit there together. I tried to slow myself down, not jump to conclusions, especially since I still had three schools to hear from. But it proved impossible; I was too excited.

Wednesday morning, I got the rejection email from Michigan. For more about that, see my previous post. Sure, it sucks to get rejected, but I had a good offer already, and Michigan had been slowly sliding down my list. I had actually considered looking at their department website some more the night before, but I'm glad I didn't waste my time.

Now, I was that much closer to being a Gopher. Plus, my other two applications were to Washington and Maryland, which are ranked higher than Michigan. I had resigned myself to the idea that rejection was just a matter of time. Then I'd do my OSU and UMN visits just to make sure, then I'd be a Gopher.

But that very Wednesday night came the surprising admission email from Washington. Exciting! I got into my highest reach school! Take that Michigan!

Oh wait, now my decision is suddenly harder. Washington is ranked higher than Minnesota, but they were still #2 on my personal rankings. Minnesota gave a better financial package, plus Washington didn't mention anything about a visit. In fact, they said that I should check out their website to learn about their department, the UW campus, and Seattle. Oh, thanks for the advice! Like I haven't already looked at their website a hundred times.

I knew from this board that their visitation weekend is next weekend, so I guess I won't be going to that. I played dumb, writing an email back saying how excited I am to learn about their department and asking about a visit. It's been one business day with no response, so we'll see what comes of that. I don't see how they can realistically expect me to come to their school if I never get a chance to visit. :?: And I'm in the Midwest, so there's no way I'm flying out to Seattle for a weekend on my own dime.

Word on the street is that Maryland (wow, I applied to a lot of red schools) is sending out acceptances on Monday, so stay tuned. They'll jump to a distant third on my list with an admission, but they're high enough up there to merit a visit if I can make it.

doom
Posts: 171
Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2007 6:42 pm

Accepted, Part 2

Postby doom » Tue Mar 04, 2008 1:36 am

Accepted, Part 2

I'm DONE!!!!! The agonizing weeks of checking emails and the mailbox are over! Yep, I got into Maryland. Now I can just relax and... pick which school I'll attend in the fall. Okay, maybe the stress isn't completely gone, but it's good to have the waiting done. Sorry for all the people still waiting. I hope your wait brings you good news.

So the final score is 5 for 6. I'd say I did pretty well for myself, considering I go to a relatively unknown school for physics, and my physics GRE was solid but not spectacular.

I'm pretty much just on a high of having gotten in. Especially that I got in to two out of the three schools that I thought would be a real reach.

As far as Washington is concerned, they responded to my email, welcoming me out for a visit. Again, no mention of travel reimbursement. This time, I asked specifically about money, so we'll see how that turns out.

doom
Posts: 171
Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2007 6:42 pm

Ohio State Visit Part 1

Postby doom » Fri Mar 07, 2008 2:00 am

Ohio State Visit, Part 1

I'm liveblogging from my hotel room at the Ohio State visit. I brought my computer since it was just a short drive for me, so it wasn't really an inconvenience. Don't think I'll be liveblogging from any visits that require plane travel, though.

This is my first grad school visit. I had to RSVP for this visit before I had gotten into any of the schools higher on my list, but I decided to come here as at least a practice visit. And before admissionprof or anyone else has a conniption, I am still keeping an open mind about coming here. It is possible that this visit could sway my decision, so I'm not doing anything shady or taking advantage of the school unnecessarily.

I got here to the hotel at about 2:00, got my welcome packet, and checked into my room. The official programming didn't start till 3:00, so I took that time to look over the packet. There were brochures about the campus and Columbus, along with a glossy pamphlet with info about the department. I read through the general info and the info about the high energy theory group. I later learned that some of the information in the packet is outdated.

The program for today was entirely at the hotel. First, there was informal discussions for an hour, with all the prospective students and a healthy mixing of current grad students. There were three grad students at my table, and they were pretty engaging and informative about the department. After an hour of this, it was time for the professor to give an overview of the department.

He had an hour to do his overview plus say a little bit about each research group. He wasted ten minutes going over the itinerary which we had all already read. Then he started the presentation about the groups, but of course he ran out of time, so he skipped over the only two groups I was interested in! (High Energy Theory and Nuclear Theory.) I was pretty annoyed, because I had to listen to an hour long talk about things I didn't care about.

Edit: Day One Itinerary Cont'd:

This was followed by an hour-long (including questions) presentation by the graduate student council, or whatever their official name is. They gave a pretty good idea of what it's like to be a grad student in the Ohio State physics department, as well as what it's like to live in Columbus. It's a thriving city with plenty to do. (Unless you're from a huge city or a city with a beach, then you'll probably think there's nothing to do.) Oh, and throngs of people flood campus and basically shut down traffic for blocks on football game days.

This was followed by an adequate dinner. I was hoping it would be better, since I'm trying to take advantage of the free food to the utmost. There were more grad students and professors sprinkled throughout, which was nice. Then many of the prospectives and grad students went out bowling, which was also fun.

More thoughts to come later.

doom
Posts: 171
Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2007 6:42 pm

Ohio State Visit, Part 2

Postby doom » Tue Mar 11, 2008 1:20 am

Ohio State Visit, Part 2

Day 2 at Ohio State involved a building tour, a poster session about the different research areas, and small group meetings with the professors. Pretty standard stuff.

Here's my thoughts about OSU:

The new Physics Research Building is phenomenal. It consists of a 3-story office side and a 4-story (plus basement) lab side, connected by a large atrium that lets in a lot of sunlight, even when it's snowing. The reason for the two sides is that the lab side has 17-foot floor-to-floor spacing, which I understand is very nice for experimentalists. They told us a lot about all the power and gas line hookups, how often the air is cycled through, how they control humidity, yadda, yadda, yadda. I guess it's very nice for you experimentalists.

Every office has a window, either to the outside or to the atrium. (Guess which side the professors are on.) There are many small open areas on the halls with tables and whiteboards, and seminar rooms of various sizes are scattered throughout to encourage interaction.

There are no classrooms in the PRB, so I walked across the street during a free moment to check out the old physics building, which contains classrooms and introductory labs. Man, it's like night and day. It's your standard stuffy academic building built sometime between the 50s and 70s, with putrescent green tile and cracked cement floors. The lecture halls and intro labs are just depressing. Yuck.

As far as research, I really only paid attention to high energy theory and a little bit of nuclear theory. First, I discovered that nuclear theory is not the dying field I thought it was. I could see myself possibly becoming interested in that field, although my main interest is still HEP theory.

Second, there seems to be four active HEP theorists, contrary to what the website indicates. In fact, the website still has one professor (Tseytlin) who is no longer even there. I was able to talk to all four of the professors to some extent.

I'll talk more about them specifically if someone requests it in the comments thread. But here are my general observations:
--Five years to graduate seems pretty standard for the theory groups there.
--Three years of TA, two years of RA is the standard for theorists. This kinda sucks, although I would have a first year fellowship if I went there.
--Dr. Mathur (string theory, black holes) says his students get their names on 5-6 papers before they leave, including at least one first author.
--Dr. Raby (SUSY, strings) takes on very few students and is very selective. Many of his students entered OSU with a master's.

Other observations:
The students seem pretty happy with the program overall. Hard to really judge, as this is my first visit.

I was told both by students and by Dr. Mathur to find an adviser to work with whose personality works with mine. This applies to normal stuff, as well as work expectations like level and frequency of interaction, how much time you're expected to put in, etc. Dr. Mathur, for example, interacts with his students many times a day, and has a reputation (outside his group) for being demanding. The students who end up with him apparently get along with him great, though.
--This is great advice, but the problem is the limited size of the group. If I want to do lattice QCD, but don't like the professor who works in it, then I'm stuck.

OSU has no quals. You must have a B+ in your core courses by the end of your third year. The students all agree this is a good policy, but then when have students ever been in favor of tests?

The department expects you to be an RA by your 3rd year, but as seen above, this can vary. This is partly because at OSU, your professor has to fund your tuition even when you're not taking classes. This policy is changing to try to convince professors to give out RAs earlier.

The Physics Graduate Student Council maintains a list of professors who want students / have funding on the website.

The PGSC claims that housing costs are as follows:
1 BR $350, 2 BR $450, parking $210/yr.

The summer quarter after your first two years, the department funds you to work with any group that will take you on. This lets you get your feet wet without having to secure funding from a professor. If you don't like it, you can change your mind and leave with no hard feelings, since they didn't invest any money in you.

All in all, I though Ohio State had a nice program, and it would be one I wouldn't mind attending if I didn't have better options.

Best Things:
--Awesome new Physics Research Building. I would love coming in to that building every day to go to work. I wish I could take it with me to whatever school I choose to attend.
--First-year fellowship. It would be great to have one to get core classes out of the way during the first year, especially for theorists who need more class work before they can contribute as an RA.

Worst Things:
--Limited size of HEP theory group
--Old physics classroom building, where many classes are held and where you will TA many classes.
--OSU football fans. Man, are they annoying.

doom
Posts: 171
Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2007 6:42 pm

Re: The DOOMsday Blog

Postby doom » Fri Apr 11, 2008 3:05 pm

My absence from this blog has been a combination of graduate school visits, spring break, and actually having work to do.

I visited the University of Minnesota, then turned around and hit Maryland and University of Washington in a five-day cross-country swing. I will try to get something up about each of those visits. However, since I just wrote something about UW in a different thread, I'll repost it here for now.

Oh, and after getting back from UW, I made the decision to attend the University of Minnesota. So I'm a Golden Gopher now! It's somewhat a relief to be done with making this decision, but I'm still in the process of becoming comfortable with the decision I've made.

doom
Posts: 171
Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2007 6:42 pm

Re: The DOOMsday Blog

Postby doom » Fri Apr 11, 2008 3:09 pm

University of Washington Visit

I didn't go to UW's visit weekend, as they didn't accept me until the second wave of offers, which was apparently too late for them to get me out there. Then they were acting like they couldn't reimburse me to travel out there, but that eventually came through, so I visited this past weekend.

Since I set up my own interviews, I talked exclusively to people in their high energy theory group or the Institute for Nuclear Theory. That was good for me, since I was sick of hearing people talk about areas of physics that hold little interest for me, but it also means I got a very selective slice of the department.

I've heard that their money for high energy theory is very tight from other people who visited. While that's true, I don't know if it's that much worse there than it is at other similar places. I do know that they have fewer students, (5 or 6 total) than other groups of similar size. And they have a system for bringing up and evaluating those students through quals, grades in classes, and performance in their journal club and their independent reading classes. It sounds like a lot of their students who don't make it end up in nuclear theory, and the interests of the groups overlap a lot.

The campus is very nice, a lot prettier than I expected based on their website for some reason. The cherry blossoms were in bloom when I was there, which actually attracted tourists to the Liberal Arts Mall. The physics building is very nice, and not very old. They have some of the important equations in physics engraved into the outside of the building, and a coffee and snack bar called the h-bar, which I thought was awesome.

Seattle is a very cool city. I took the bus downtown and wandered around by the waterfront. The campus is also on the shores of Lakes Union and Washington, which are very cool, in my opinion. The U-District is cool, with lots of different interesting restaurants and coffee shops. I was told by students that rent isn't too bad near campus. The nearby suburbs are more upscale, and I don't know how far away you would have to get before the rents start going back down. The bus system seems very good (although I have lived and gone to school only in Midwestern cities not named Chicago, so my standards aren't all that high).

It was definitely a place that I could see myself ending up, but I liked Minnesota just a little bit better.

doom
Posts: 171
Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2007 6:42 pm

University of Minnesota Visit

Postby doom » Sat Jul 19, 2008 12:37 am

So although it's been over three months since my visits to Minnesota and Maryland, but I figured that for the sake of completeness, I should write something about these two visits.

University of Minnesota Visit

General Impressions of the Department:
Minnesota is a big department, like all of the ones that I visited, but it seemed to be the closest-knit department of the ones that I visited. I can't put a finger on exactly why, but a large part was the genuine interest that all the faculty had in the prospective students. The visit started out with the standard overview of research, with someone from each group talking about their research and the research done by their group. Although I did sort of doze off somewhere in the middle (might have been space physics), this was probably the most engaging such presentation out of all of my visits. And they knew to keep it as short and sweet as possible.

This was also the visit were I had the most contact with graduate students. Lunch on Friday, dinner on Friday, breakfast on Saturday, and the party (hosted at a professor's house) on Saturday evening were all spent mingling with grad students. Professors were mixed in at the dinner and the party, but I was able to get students alone at all events except the dinner. The current students were helpful in answering my standard questions that I had honed on my previous visits, but they were also helpful in bringing up things that I would never have thought to ask. I talked to students at a variety of stages, from second year on to almost ready to defend a thesis, and I found them all to be in good spirits (with the possible exception of the sixth-year student who was sick of Minnesota winters).

The biggest advice that I can give about talking to students on these visits is to MAKE SURE that you get a chance to talk at length with someone in the area that you're interested in studying. If you have an idea about which professor you want to work with and you can talk to one of his students, then even better. In my case, talking to students in experimental groups gave me a good impression of the department overall, and of classes, but I got a better insight from talking to one HEP theory student than I did from all the other students I talked to combined. Later, when it was coming down to decision time and I needed to figure out more information about the HEP theory group that I hadn't thought to ask during my visit, I was able to email him and get his opinion, as well as the opinion of a couple of other students that he recommended for me to contact. Having the help of someone who is currently where you hope to be in the future can be a great boon during this critical decision.

The department is housed in an old building (with Greek columns on the front), but it is not as depressing as many old college buildings can be on the inside. It is on the main mall of campus, which makes it conveniently located to the student union building and the main city bus stop on campus, as well as the main library. There is no central air, which could be a problem as it can get hot and humid in Minneapolis in the summer. The department was undergoing an external review at the time of my visit, the result of which they expect to be that they get approved for a new building, which could conceivably be completed during my time in grad school. We'll see if those hopes become a reality.

Best Things:
--Large department overall, but not overwhelmingly so
--Large HEP theory group, with opportunities for cosmology and nuclear theory also available
--Several of the HEP theory faculty are well-known in the field
--Fine Theoretical Physics Institute provides funding for the theory groups, which helps bring in guest lecturers and things along those lines
--Twin Cities area is a great place to live

Worst Things:
--Not really sure of this, but it seems to me that the University of Minnesota is not especially strong across the board. This is just picked up from comments that I got from professors at other schools, along the lines of "oh yeah, Minnesota is good if you're interested in particle theory," which I kind of assumed to mean that they weren't necessarily strong in other areas. But I don't know that for sure. Of course, they're a top 25 institution, so I'm sure they do all right for themselves.
--Not a whole lot of money to go around in HEP theory. Of course, this isn't any different from anywhere else. Current HEP theory students (third year and up) seem to be supported through the following ways: a couple with full RAs, a few with full TAs, and a few more with half and half RA/TA. Not an ideal situation, but you're not going to find a whole lot better most other places.
--I was told from a few sources outside of Minnesota that some of the HEP theorists at Minnesota can be demanding and difficult to work for. I was told to beware their strong personalities. From inside the group, I found that this is not unfounded, but that it is mostly exaggerated. I should expect to work hard and compete for an adviser, but, again, this is not unheard of at other schools that I looked at.
Last edited by doom on Sat Jul 19, 2008 1:04 am, edited 1 time in total.

doom
Posts: 171
Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2007 6:42 pm

Re: The DOOMsday Blog

Postby doom » Sat Jul 19, 2008 1:03 am

University of Maryland Visit

All in all, I think Maryland did the worst job of setting up their visit weekend.

Friday evening consisted of awkward mingling for two hours, along with hors d'hoeuvres that included the world's smallest sandwiches, which were literally about nickel-sized!

The speakers for each of the research groups went way over their time, and no effort was made to reel them in. The one exception was the speaker that I actually wanted to listen to, the guy who was supposed to cover HEP theory, nuclear theory, and cosmology. He pretty much stuck to the time allotted, which left me bored for much of the morning. The paper that they gave us with the agenda written on it ended up being filled with my attempts to sketch terrapins (the Maryland mascot) and my fellow prospectives. I even attempted a cartoon rendition of each of the six quarks, with mixed results. :) The CME speaker decided that we should have an impromptu lab tour during his talk, which pushed us even further off schedule.

In the afternoon, we split into groups based on interest to meet with the professors who were available to talk to us. Since it was Saturday, there was only one professor available to talk to us, although I must say he did a pretty good job of acquainting us with the group. He also offered his opinions about all of the other schools that we had been accepted to, which was helpful. He characterized the group as one string theorist/formal theorist, four "model checkers," and one "Wally," by which I believe he meant deadwood professor who no longer takes students.

A student panel followed, which was mostly your standard questions and answers, not much insight. The one thing that I really took from what they said is that the physics department has a lot of clout on campus, and that they take care of their students.

There was a party later (hosted by some students), which I couldn't get much out of because I began to feel sick and headed back to the hotel.

Best Things:
--The largest physics department in the country, and there is very little that you can't find here. If you're not sure what area you're most interested in and you want to keep your options open, this is the place for you. You're pretty much guaranteed to find something doing something in all areas, and doing it pretty well.
--Lots of access to working with government agencies, if that's something that interests you.
--Highly ranked, name brand type of place.
--Seems to be fair amount of inter-department collaboration with materials science and engineering type projects.
--Fairly easy access to Washington, D.C. and all that it has to offer
--ACC Basketball :)

Worst Things:
--Old building, depressing institutional-looking hallways. Don't know much about lab setup or anything.
--College Park is not all that exciting of a college area. Cost of living is pretty high, most students have to find roommates.
--This may just be something that hit me the wrong way, and it may not mean much to you: The department seemed all too happy just throwing out ranking numbers and funding as a way to impress us. "Look, we're in the top ten! We're the second-highest endowed non-private department! Look how highly our different programs are ranked! Look how many government agencies you could work with!" It just struck me wrong when I wanted to hear "Look at all the great research we do."

Bottom line, it's a good department, but it never clicked for me, and I felt pretty comfortable giving it a personal rating below both Minnesota and Washington.

doom
Posts: 171
Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2007 6:42 pm

Shameless Self-Promotion

Postby doom » Sat Jul 19, 2008 1:18 am

And now, for what will probably be the last edition of the DOOMsday blog.

Now that I've (finally) finished my running account of my grad school visits, I figure this blog has reached the end of its life expectancy. It has served well as a description of the process of waiting to get in, getting in, and deciding where to go. But now that I have officially left the "ground state" of my undergrad program, it's time for a new blog detailing my transition to the higher energy level of grad school:

The First Excited State

My plan is for my new blog to continue along the lines of this one, except of course detailing my new experiences in grad school. Hopefully, I'll update it more faithfully than I did this blog.

So whether you're a fellow member of the class of '08 looking for some thoughts of someone in a position like yours, or if you're an undergrad looking for a sampling of what the next stage of your life might be like, I hope you'll stop by The First Excited State.

Or at least add it to your RSS feed. :)

Thanks, Grant, for my first taste of the blogging bug.




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