Princeton University (PhD - Physics)

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NJ
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Joined: Fri Feb 22, 2008 4:45 pm

Princeton University (PhD - Physics)

Postby NJ » Tue Feb 26, 2008 8:44 am

Princeton University (PhD - Physics)
http://physics.princeton.edu/
Princeton, NJ


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quizivex
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Re: Princeton University (PhD - Physics)

Postby quizivex » Tue Apr 01, 2008 7:03 am

This information pertains to the Plasma Physics program, which is separate from the Physics department. I have decided to go there this fall, so I will come back later with more information after I start, but I wanted to give a few general aspects of the program that made me want to go there without even visiting any of my other options.

The program's website is: http://w3.pppl.gov/gradprogram/index.html
And the PPPL's website is: http://www.pppl.gov/

Firstly, my primary research interest was fusion. Princeton’s plasma program is the top in the nation, according to,
http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/grad/phy/plasma_phyand much of the research happening there pertains directly to fusion (though there are plenty of projects focusing on other applications, or basic plasma physics, or astrophysical phenomena). The program’s headquarters are right inside the PPPL, a government lab a few miles away from the main campus. Thus, as a student at PPPL, you have infinitely more resources here than you would in a small lab at any university plasma program. There’s no competition for advisors or scarcity of student funding, since there are about 100 scientists working there who have the credentials to bring students into their projects, but there are at most 8 students per year enroll into the program. They could handle far more students than they have, but the graduate school sets limits on the size of each department.

I think Princeton’s atmosphere beats that of any other leading school. The comfortable suburban neighborhood and its moderate climate (compared to Boston, NYC, where it’s busier and always 5-10 degrees colder) are especially nice. Also, the department is laid back and the plasma program doesn’t try to weed people out.

One great thing about the program is that you’re not forced to commit to theory or experiment right away. The first year, everyone works on an experimental project and the second year everyone does a theory project (there’s still flexibility, nonetheless). Getting experience with both will be especially valuable. Only after that do students decide which branch they wish to pursue for thesis work, and even the thesis can involve a mix of theory/experiment too.

Also, the financial packages are nice.

So if you like plasma/fusion, this should be enough justification to go to Princeton. Incoming students often, but not always, have plasma research background and often have done what I think is called the NUF summer program during their undergraduate years, so try to do that if you can, it may help. But it’s still possible to be accepted from a mediocre school without any prior plasma experience, as I was.

Also, keep in mind that small programs get a correspondingly small number of applications, so the strength and number applications, the number of students who choose to enroll, and hence the number sought the next year, can vary drastically from year to year. An old AIP handbook from 2001 said the average PGRE of admitted students that year was only 750ish. The 2007 book said that year's average was 82%ile and the lastest version reveals that our group had an average of 92.5%ile. So the point is, don't hesitate to apply if you think your app isn't as strong as it could be... you might have picked a lucky year :)

stardust
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Re: Princeton University (PhD - Physics)

Postby stardust » Sun Oct 26, 2008 3:38 pm

What about plasma physics from the astrophysics point of view? Is Princeton exclusively
fusion or do they care about astrophysics applications at all.

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quizivex
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Re: Princeton University (PhD - Physics)

Postby quizivex » Wed Oct 29, 2008 4:28 am

I really don't have enough knowledge to give a precise answer to that so I don't want to risk giving misleading info... But I can say at least that the plasma physics department is part of the "astrophysical sciences" department so it's administratively tied to astro in the first place. In fact, a handful of astrophysics students are in my plasma class. Also, there are tons of posters and bulletin boards all over PPPL that describe the various projects and some of them (such as the magnetic reconnection experiment) reference astrophysical applications. I can also say for sure that some of the projects are focused on basic plasma physics or other applications and have nothing to do with fusion. My first year project is one of them.

If you want to know more specific details, I'd suggest contacting the program administrator Barbara Sarfaty (609) 243-2489. She could answer your questions or at least point you to someone who can.

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secander2!
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Re: Princeton University (PhD - Physics)

Postby secander2! » Tue Nov 18, 2008 8:25 am

Hi Quiz and everybody else who might have info on Princeton physics,

What you have described about the Princeton plasma program sounds really great, do you know if the HEP program (or the Physics department in general) is similar? For instance, do you get to try both experiment and theory before deciding? Also, is the department very cut-throat? Do the professors seem to care about their grad students, or are they mostly just using them to extract research?

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quizivex
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Re: Princeton University (PhD - Physics)

Postby quizivex » Tue Nov 18, 2008 11:46 pm

I've met plenty of physics grad students here but we've never talked much about the specifics of our programs, so I can't really answer. I think since our program is run under PPPL as a whole, we can bounce around different projects more easily as we're not tied to a particular scientist's money, thus they can get us involved in theory and experiment. I'd imagine that the physics students typically do theory or experiment exclusively, depending on what individual prof brings them in. Though that doesn't necessarily mean a student couldn't change his mind part way, or that no profs have thesis projects that involve both... I don't know.

I can't comment on the morale of the physics dept... I mean the students I've talked to (mostly 2nd years who I met at random social activities) don't seem unhappy, and the profs who teach the first semester physics courses are friendly, but of course that's a small sample... The students in these classes don't show off their knowledge to the class or anything comical like that. They're mostly down to Earth (except the chinese ones, who only talk to each other). But I don't interact with any of the physics students that much to infer more. I'm most often with the plasma guys.

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secander2!
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Re: Princeton University (PhD - Physics)

Postby secander2! » Thu Nov 20, 2008 5:54 am

Sorry to have asked you about a department you're not in!!! Anyways, your response was very helpful! Thanks!




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