I'm currently a Junior going into Senior year at a lower tier state school majoring in Material Science and Minoring in physics. I'm in the process of starting my own business, but still wish to get a PhD. Princeton or Caltech would obviously be my choice schools, they normally would be for any physics major. I'd like to attend a top 20 school for physics, I'm not currently aware of what my focus would be in but most likely materials physics, or gravitational physics.
Unfortunately my GPA was impacted significantly by health complications in my freshman year, resulting in a 1.7 GPA. I've achieved straight A's in all courses since my freshman year but am still hampered significantly by it.
Fortunately I've garnered a rather strong research portfolio by leading my own project. I've published in the following domains: charge dynamics of polymers, DNA nanotechnology, and topological quantum field theory. 4 Publications as first author, 1 as a co-author (5 in total). 3 publications were in APS, with one being published nature with me as first author. I've lead my own research project since I was a freshman, and collaborated with another research project at my school that resulted in the development of novel AFM technique. Apart from research I've adapted technology from my research project and currently have 2 provisional patents in my name, and am currently spearheading a technology startup.
The bulk of my publications have been in APS, but I'm a material science student. I switched from the physics major at my university due to discomfort with the administrators in the department. I want to pursue physics in graduate school, and continue research in applied physics.
I have relatively strong extracurricular. Was the president for the science society at the university for a year, vice president in the universities SPS chapter, and officer for two other clubs.
I also have extremely strong references and recommendations from a few well regarded persons. I'm not sure how much this may add to a graduate school application though.
With that being said, I still have my senior year left with 3 other publications currently in PR. I'm hoping that I'll be able to work my GPA to a 3.472, which is the highest I can possibly achieve assuming straight A's. I believe my research portfolio is quite strong, and might offset my lackluster GPA by some marginal amount. But I'm currently unsure what caliber of program I should hope to apply two not to far off from now and wold greatly appreciate some direction.