Universities which match my theoretical interests...

swestrings
Posts: 32
Joined: Tue Dec 14, 2010 9:21 pm

Universities which match my theoretical interests...

Postby swestrings » Tue Dec 14, 2010 9:35 pm

Hello!

I want a PhD but I need advice on where to apply based on my background and my research interests, please read! :wink:

I am student with a good GPA (we dont formally have GPAs and rankings in my country but it converts to about top 5% of the class at a top 100 university), a masters degree with a great selection of quantum field theory, symmetry/group theory and maths courses, probably some medium-good letters of recommendation (all three are active researchers, one of them is semi-famous, but the letters themselves will probably only rate me in top 10% or top 20%) and a GRE physics score of 750.

I am applying absolutely everywhere, but with the recent revelation that my physics GRE was this low I am looking for alternative grad schools which are still very good in physics but maybe dont have the luster and appeal of Harvard etc.

My research interests: string theory; quantum gravity; mathematics of string theory; geometry and topology in quantum field theory/physics in general. Computations, applications and experiments DONT interest me. Phenomenological modelling doesnt really interest me either, I want pure fundamental research.

Since these areas are quite fashionable there might be more prospective grad students here who also want to know which universities have good research teams for these, so maybe we can share some? I really want to get my PhD and I would be most thankful for any advice! :D

axiomofchoice
Posts: 199
Joined: Thu Feb 05, 2009 11:45 pm

Re: Universities which match my theoretical interests...

Postby axiomofchoice » Tue Dec 14, 2010 9:51 pm

swestrings wrote:My research interests: string theory; quantum gravity; mathematics of string theory; geometry and topology in quantum field theory/physics in general. Computations, applications and experiments DONT interest me. Phenomenological modelling doesnt really interest me either, I want pure fundamental research.


I would advise you be a bit more realistic here. Nowadays even doing theory would almost invariably involve computation, etc. Those chalk and blackboard days are mostly gone now. Have you done theoretical research in your masters degree?

The best advices you would have in term of school choice would be from professors in the field. Have you talked to your professors? They would know best about which schools have active research in your field, as well as whether they have good advisors.

I'll pass along the suggestions I got, though bear in mind that my interest is closer to phenomenology. Some of the good, but not top school for hep-th (I assume that's what you're interested in, if you have coursework in qft, symmetry, etc.) are U of Washington, Seattle, Boston U, NYU, UCLA, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC San Diego. You should at least check their website on what their hep-th professors are doing. I would think if you are interested in only pure fundemental research, you should be looking for string theorists since it probably the only (minus some minor perturbation) subtopic in hep-th in which you probably never need to deal with experimentalists :lol:

swestrings
Posts: 32
Joined: Tue Dec 14, 2010 9:21 pm

Re: Universities which match my theoretical interests...

Postby swestrings » Tue Dec 14, 2010 9:56 pm

Thanks for your answer!

axiomofchoice wrote:I would advise you be a bit more realistic here. Nowadays even doing theory would almost invariably involve computation, etc. Those chalk and blackboard days are mostly gone now. Have you done theoretical research in your masters degree?


Sure, I am open to the suggestion. It wouldnt be a disaster but I would prefer not to. In the two large projects I have done, one of which is my masters degree project (currently underway), I completely avoided computer calculations and did nice work in geometry and string theory. So, yes, I would very much say that lots of physics can avoid computations. However, as long as there is no MAJOR component of my research which is computations I will be a happy camper :)

axiomofchoice wrote:The best advices you would have in term of school choice would be from professors in the field. Have you talked to your professors? They would know best about which schools have active research in your field, as well as whether they have good advisors.


They told me Princeton. That was before the GRE. :( Haven't talked to them anymore, though they did mention some Canadian universities.

axiomofchoice wrote:U of Washington, Seattle, Boston U, NYU, UCLA, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC San Diego. You should at least check their website on what their hep-th professors are doing. I would think if you are interested in only pure fundemental research, you should be looking for string theorists since it probably the only (minus some minor perturbation) subtopic in hep-th in which you probably never need to deal with experimentalists :lol:


Thanks for the tips, did you get these from a rankings list or are they just in general known for good HEP theory profiles?

And the day I talk to an experimentalist is probably the day I get fired for indecent behaviour 8)

axiomofchoice
Posts: 199
Joined: Thu Feb 05, 2009 11:45 pm

Re: Universities which match my theoretical interests...

Postby axiomofchoice » Tue Dec 14, 2010 10:03 pm

swestrings wrote:They told me Princeton. That was before the GRE. :( Haven't talked to them anymore, though they did mention some Canadian universities.

That's horrible advice if the only school they told you is Princeton. You should talk to him/her some more, or probably ask someone else for opinion :wink:

axiomofchoice wrote:Thanks for the tips, did you get these from a rankings list or are they just in general known for good HEP theory profiles?


That's from my professor when I ask about what schools I should look for.

swestrings
Posts: 32
Joined: Tue Dec 14, 2010 9:21 pm

Re: Universities which match my theoretical interests...

Postby swestrings » Tue Dec 14, 2010 10:10 pm

axiomofchoice wrote:
swestrings wrote:They told me Princeton. That was before the GRE. :( Haven't talked to them anymore, though they did mention some Canadian universities.

That's horrible advice if the only school they told you is Princeton. You should talk to him/her some more, or probably ask someone else for opinion :wink:

axiomofchoice wrote:Thanks for the tips, did you get these from a rankings list or are they just in general known for good HEP theory profiles?


That's from my professor when I ask about what schools I should look for.


They gave me the impression that it would be OK for me to get in. Maybe it was before I failed the GRE. But yes, I agree, in hindsight it seems like meaningless advice. I really dont know how the review process works for someone who has a good background but a poor GRE, so I need all the advice I can get (there are no "clear" universities which seem suitable anymore).

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razor
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Joined: Fri May 01, 2009 1:31 am

Re: Universities which match my theoretical interests...

Postby razor » Wed Dec 15, 2010 12:39 am

You can scroll down for more suggestions.
Top HEP theory schools in the top 30 or so.

viewtopic.php?f=21&t=2269#p22387

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YodaT
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Joined: Mon May 10, 2010 2:01 am

Re: Universities which match my theoretical interests...

Postby YodaT » Sat Dec 18, 2010 7:58 am

axiomofchoice wrote:
swestrings wrote:My research interests: string theory; quantum gravity; mathematics of string theory; geometry and topology in quantum field theory/physics in general. Computations, applications and experiments DONT interest me. Phenomenological modelling doesnt really interest me either, I want pure fundamental research.


I would advise you be a bit more realistic here. Nowadays even doing theory would almost invariably involve computation, etc. Those chalk and blackboard days are mostly gone now. Have you done theoretical research in your masters degree?


I would agree. I've done two theory projects so far (both of which I'm still working on) and one required a great deal of computation. The other is just like the one you said didn't require much computation, but it did require a lot of geometrical intuition and visualization. My only advise if you want to do theory in the future is to become well versed in many topics. The funny thing about theorists is that they are not specialist in many things... they know a great deal of math, but are not mathematicians... they know (or should know) how to program and perform simple idealized simulations/calculations, but are not computational physicists/mathematicians. Same can be said between theorists and astronomers/experimentalists. So, read as many math books as you can and learn multiple interpreted (and compiled) programming languages. So far I've picked up Mathematica, Mat-Lab, and C Language (able to compile C and modify its code to work on 3 different OS)... many are convincing me to pick up Perl and ForTran. Also, from what I hear theory is ridiculously difficult to get into, with a physics GRE like that I (personally) would apply for other research interests or wait 'til next year to retake the physics GRE. For example I had a buddy who scored in the 92th percentile of the physics GRE and he applied to schools with interests in mathematical/theoretical research... he barely made it into a top 20 school.

swestrings
Posts: 32
Joined: Tue Dec 14, 2010 9:21 pm

Re: Universities which match my theoretical interests...

Postby swestrings » Sun Dec 19, 2010 7:26 am

Does anyone know of a good/recent university ranking for string theory/qft/quantum gravity research??

I havent found one which list more than ten universities (and the top 10 in string theory were quite obvious anyway, princeton/harvard = no ***), and it would be great to see something of the sort "top 50 string theory/quantum gravity departments in the world".

Any suggestions? Tried googling to no avail..

signminus
Posts: 25
Joined: Wed Jan 27, 2010 12:15 pm

Re: Universities which match my theoretical interests...

Postby signminus » Sun Dec 19, 2010 4:25 pm

swestrings wrote:Does anyone know of a good/recent university ranking for string theory/qft/quantum gravity research??


I'm not sure that such a thing exists. A way to find out about lesser known schools doing what you're interested in is to look on the arXiv for those topics, and then see where the authors of recent papers are from and investigate their schools. This is also good way to see who the more active researchers are, and who sounds good on paper but actually only publishes once every three years ( ----> bad for your career if you're their student). You should focus on individual researchers as much as (if not more than) a school's overall ranking.

Pickings are especially slim for nonstring quantum gravity. The Perimeter Institute in Canada and Penn State in the US both have decently active groups.

IMO, if you're never willing to stay in touch with experiment, then you have much less of a chance of doing something that can eventually be experimentally verified—in other words, something that provides concrete insights into how Nature actually functions.




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