changing school

  • As many already know, studying for the physics GRE and getting accepted into a graduate program is not the final hurdle in your physics career.
  • There are many issues current physics graduate students face such as studying for their qualifier, deciding upon a field of research, choosing an advisor, being an effective teaching assistant, trying to have a social life, navigating department politics, dealing with stress, utilizing financial aid, etc.

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changing school

Postby astrosona » Wed Jun 24, 2009 8:05 pm

Hello there,

I currently finished my first year in PhD program in one of University of California campuses. but i'm not happy...I am 27 years old and i have a feeling that it is getting late for me. I was a very smart and "first" place student in my country with a unlimited love to study Astronomy. all my family lives in US and due to my age i could not get my green card with them. Anyway, i came to US at 2006 with my B.A. in physics and M.S. in physics/ astronomy. my visa process to F1 visa wasted my time for 1.5 year! and in this time i was disappointed and mostly depressed. last year "like a miracle" i found a very NICE professor who i happened to work with. My problem is the department i am working with. i hate the department!!!! after a year and a half i hate this department..... the teachers are all (except 2!) acting like a jerk and the worst is they are quite happy and honored for their manner!!! 7 teachers i had during first year only ONE was good!!!! our classes are a bad joke and........ beside all this awful education, they have one of the hardest prelim exams in this campus!!!!! this is unbelievable... and aside that the faculty members in here are NOT so good with each other and you know what that means to poor students...... they clearly abuse each other... i am so tired and i want to run!!!! my adviser is new in this department and he+my math professor will be the only ones who i miss.....

beside the department problems i have one other problem... i LOVE LOVE LOVE Astronomy and where i am is good but not good enough.... i found it very far from my dreams.. i always loved to be in a astronomy department with lots of research and active people... i love scientific meetings and friendly people.... i prefer discussion sections and a little bit group study... i am very energetic and very enthusiasm for my major. i LOVE experimental works and making astronomical instrumentation... i love building stuff... but when i think deep almost NON of these exist for me in where i am. My adviser is a wonderful person but he doesn't have a successful group... i am his only student! his lab is not ready.. and due to all these problems i was getting really dull during last year. i did wonderful for my first prelim exams and exams but i just can't tolerate and ignore i am in going trough and i screw up in my last two prelim exams.... with full respect to Chinese people but my class mate were %55 chinese students and they didn't even bother to reply to my hello!!!! you might think it is easy but it is not....

in the other hand my adviser is the ONLY person who works on astronomy in our department so basically i am isolated.. no astronomy events, no astronomy news, one to talk with... i have no idea what are possible opportunities for me out side in the world, i have no idea what and where are the related meetings, new research subjects, or any opportunities... i am using interment all the time but it is just useless to march alone......

any way, i want to move on... i think i have lost my last 3 years and that makes me nervous... i had finished my M.S. in 9 months with 2 articles and now just look at me!!! i feel like a looser!

after being smart and successful for a lifetime i feel like a looser today! looser in sense of what i dreamed of and what i am... My dream is to go to a very active astronomy department. I feel UC Santa Cruz is the one. i am planning to visit there and see how i can go there.

Now i have 2 chose:
1- stick to where i am and study hard for my second and last chance of prelim exams in here.. in here if any thing bad happens i lose my visa (i am in F1 visa)...........
2- move on! ... i like this chose myself but i am afraid if this is a good idea to start over... i have forgotten every thing... it is 5 years that i haven't studied Q.M. or Thermodynamics or classical mechanics... i am not sure how to start over and i think it is so hard but in the other hand this is what i really want... do i have to go trough all TOEFL, GRE general, GRE physics,.... tests???

If any one can help me with this situation i would be happy to have your advise.....

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Re: changing school

Postby quizivex » Thu Jun 25, 2009 5:32 am

Geez, seems like you're in a nightmare. Demoralizing department, unproductive research situation, useless courses, unfair prelims, lousy social atmosphere due to cults of foreign students that only interact with their own kind, very little activity going on in your subfield etc... I'd imagine each of these problems are common to many schools, but having so many all at the same place is quite ridiculous and yea you deserve to go somewhere else. You said it's been 5 years? How close to 5 years prcisely is it? GRE scores are good for exactly 5 years. If it's any less than that, like 4 years and 10 months, you could re-send your scores to schools now and reapply to places this fall. I don't know about the TOEFL, but it's probably the same policy. Even if it isn't, if you've been in the US this long you should know English enough to pass easily by now.

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Re: changing school

Postby grae313 » Fri Jun 26, 2009 6:25 pm

Well I would have never gone to a school with no astronomy program if I was interested in astronomy, and if I had I would have left immediately, and if I were in your situation I would leave now. UCSC is a nice place.

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Re: changing school

Postby twistor » Fri Jun 26, 2009 11:25 pm

I was going to write a lengthy diatribe going over all the reasons you shouldn't blame yourself. But I just deleted it. I'm going to keep it short and simple. Your graduate experience in the first year sounds similar to my own and others I've talked to. The good news is that the emphasis is not classes but research.

Changing schools is going to be hard. Study hard and pass your quals the second time around. Then keep moving forward.

This sounds like a case of the believe the grass is greener on the other side. You may switch schools and end up in a similar situation. If you have someone you can work with toward your Ph.d., why not stay the course and try to do a post-doc at a different school? It will probably work out better for you and you won't even notice the shitty professors when you're done taking classes.

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Re: changing school

Postby Peter » Sat Jun 27, 2009 8:13 am

If you are such a star student how come you could not pass the prelims? Furthermore, your English is not exactly superb. I think it it time for you to reevaluate your abilities and create a more realistic picture. If you consider yourself so spectacularly good then you probably did not experience a really competitive environment before.

Unfortunately, in grad school many of us have to grow a thick skin and try to produce quality work, even if the enviroment is not very supportive.

Where did you publish those articles you have? Are you the first author?

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transfering after first year

Postby minaesm » Wed May 26, 2010 7:18 pm

Hi there
I got admitted form a university which I'm not satisfied with the ranking. is it important right now? What do you think about going and transferring after a year or two?!!! I need your helps . thanks

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Re: transfering after first year

Postby HappyQuark » Thu May 27, 2010 12:56 am

You've got to give us more to go on if you want any reasonably helpful advice. What school are you going to? What is your schools ranking? How much of an improvement would you be making in terms of department and by what reasoning do you think that you will get into a substantially better institution after 1 or possibly 2 years? If you've been doing some relatively ground breaking research, done well in your classes, quals and impressed the faculty and feel that you could move from, say a 50th ranked school to a top 10 or 20, then sure you probably should consider it. I should point out, however, that it is more important that you have a strong faculty/department to work with and that you are doing solid research and you should probably be less concerned with the schools reputation (unless you plan on going into industry, which I suppose is another question you should try to answer for us).

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