Accelerator and Beam Physics

nicholls
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Accelerator and Beam Physics

Postby nicholls » Mon Jun 18, 2012 3:08 pm

I will be applying to grad school this upcoming fall and have decided that I want to pursue the field of accelerator/beam physics. I have done a lot of research over the past few weeks regarding schools to apply to in the US. One thing I have found is that most schools offering an accelerator physics program are quite prestigious (and thus competitive) such as Stanford, Berkeley, Cornell, Chicago and often are associated with the big national labs. I was wondering if anyone knew of any smaller or lesser known schools offering accelerator physics programs. Surely there are some smaller schools that have "relatively" low energy beamlines/accelerators where work is being done. A couple difficulties I have found are that: A) there aren't a lot of accelerator physics programs and B) some schools offer them through physics and some through engineering, which makes it often even harder to find.

Currently I am taking engineering physics at the University of Toronto in Canada. I have a GPA of 3.9/4.0 and OK research experience (currently working on a small accelerator at DESY in Germany; have one second author publication in Computer Architecture). Haven't written the GREs yet, but may do that soon. Recommendation letters probably won't be anything special, might be able to get someone in the accelerator division at DESY to write me one.

Anyways, any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. And in case anyone tells me to do so, I have spent a lot of time searching the forums and the internet, but most of the hits I get are again for the big schools which I already know about.

roadkillbunny
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Re: Accelerator and Beam Physics

Postby roadkillbunny » Tue Jun 19, 2012 12:29 am

How about University of British Columbia? I don't know if they have a program specific to accelerator physics, but they do have TRIUMF on campus. The lab has an accelerator group (with graduate students), and they are in the process of building a new electron accelerator (ARIEL).

nicholls
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Re: Accelerator and Beam Physics

Postby nicholls » Tue Jun 19, 2012 4:19 pm

Haha yes, UBC is one of my top choices, if not my top choice. I will be applying there without a doubt and yes they do have an accelerator physics program. I am also trying to do my thesis this year with a professor at my school who is collaborating on the production of the cavities for the eLINAC for ARIEL. Hoping that may help my chances of getting in to UBC.

So yea, the original question was posed mostly for US or UK schools. Particularly since I'm from Canada and thus not as familiar with a lot of the smaller schools in the states and definitely not with UK schools.

TakeruK
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Re: Accelerator and Beam Physics

Postby TakeruK » Wed Jun 20, 2012 12:06 am

(I did my undergrad at UBC)

I'm pretty sure you have an excellent chance of getting into UBC if you find a good research match there! It's funny, I know a lot of UBC undergrads go to Toronto for their PhD and I think it's reciprocal! For your letters, you should go with your supervisor on that computer architecture paper/project (unrelated research experience is still valuable research experience), the current project you're working on and whoever is supervising your honours thesis. That would be 3 pretty strong LORs, in my opinion -- a lot of applicants won't have nearly as much research experience, and fewer still have publications.

With your GPA as well, you would be a very strong candidate at any Canadian Physics department, so don't sell yourself short (at least, from what you shared with us, it sounds like you are a very strong candidate!). Taking advice from Internet stranger comes with its risk of course, but I will say this anyways -- you probably will get accepted into every Canadian school you apply to. So, only apply to places that you actually want to go to.

As for your question on US schools, I'll pass on what my advisors have told me too. If you already have a strong Canadian school in mind (e.g. UBC), it's go big or go (stay) home! If going to the US will be extra work for you (if you don't also have American citizenship, for example), you should only consider US schools that would give you a *better* experience than the Canadian schools you have in mind. There's no point going to an equivalent to Toronto or UBC in the states! I don't just mean ranking of course, but overall research fit too.

The other reason is that public schools in the US, especially the University of California system, have very low international student acceptance rates because International tuition is really high and the department pays our tuition. They can probably fund multiple US students with the cost of funding one of us! So, my advisors also told me to not be afraid of applying to big name private schools. At these places, everyone, domestic or international, pays the same tuition so the cost to the department is the same. Also, these schools have more funding so it's less of an issue too! One of my profs who used to work in the US correctly predicted (almost) all of my application results based on public/private status!

Although this effect may be stronger in Astronomy, a smaller field (e.g. UC Berkeley has a 10% international student acceptance and takes about 5-6 students per year in Astro!!)

nicholls
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Re: Accelerator and Beam Physics

Postby nicholls » Wed Jun 20, 2012 3:35 pm

TakeruK wrote:I'm pretty sure you have an excellent chance of getting into UBC if you find a good research match there!


Haha That's what my supervising professor told me today actually. But I am still skeptical, and I think he is always too optimistic. I like to err on the side of caution.

A side question about the research letters now that you have brought it up; my honours thesis may actually turn out to be a continuation of my work this summer, in which case I would have the same supervisor. Don't know what I would do then. Do you think it is possible to have two references from the same project? They would be from two separate groups so to speak. One from the accelerator division responsible for the operation of the machine and one (my real supervisor and potential thesis supervisor) who is head of the max planck user group for the machine and is responsible for the experiments (and thus the real science).

The only issue I have with Canadian schools is that none except UBC have anything really to offer in the realm of accelerator/beam physics. That is why I am heavily researching the states. I would prefer not applying to the states at all actually. Not having to write the GREs would save me a hell of a lot of time, and studying for them will most likely cut into both my working and researching time.

That is interesting about the private/public school stuff you mentioned. I had never actually thought about that before. I will definitely consider it though. Thanks.

TakeruK
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Re: Accelerator and Beam Physics

Postby TakeruK » Wed Jun 20, 2012 8:36 pm

nicholls wrote:Haha That's what my supervising professor told me today actually. But I am still skeptical, and I think he is always too optimistic. I like to err on the side of caution.


I had similar stats as you (my GPA wasn't as high though!) when I was applying for Canadian grad schools, 2 years ago. My profs told me that same thing, which was why I passed it on to you! I was skeptical too, and I've had experience with different profs being overly optimistic and ended up disappointed before. It's good to be cautious, but the main advice was to not go and apply to every school that does things you're interested in. It would waste your time, money, and energy! I decided to make my undergrad institution my "safety school" (my supervisor said they would take me if I wanted to stay, but encouraged me to go elsewhere) and just applied to a few places that I really wanted to go to.

Also, you would be quite competitive for NSERC funding, so make sure you apply to that this fall. If you get one of those, you are pretty much guaranteed admission to any Canadian school, maybe even if you apply after their deadlines (you won't find out NSERC results until April).

Finally, you should also be aware that your peers at U Toronto are probably not a representative sample of people applying to physics grad programs in Canada. Toronto has a ton more resources and research opportunities for its students than many other programs (not necessarily saying it's the best but it's definitely higher than average). So if you are unsure about your chances because you are comparing yourself to others at Toronto, remember this!

nicholls wrote:The only issue I have with Canadian schools is that none except UBC have anything really to offer in the realm of accelerator/beam physics. That is why I am heavily researching the states. I would prefer not applying to the states at all actually. Not having to write the GREs would save me a hell of a lot of time, and studying for them will most likely cut into both my working and researching time.


Again, this is very similar to my position 2 years ago! In Planetary Science, there are about 3 people in Canada that really do what I want to do -- I worked with one during undergrad and I am now finishing my MSc with one of the others. I also did not want to go to the States 2 years ago -- academically, my PGRE experience went really bad (44th percentile) and during application season I wasn't sure if I wanted to do cosmology-like stuff or planetary science and I wasn't even sure if I was interested in PhD since the US only has 5+ year PhD programs really, not like Canada where we do our Masters first and separately. Personally, I didn't want to go to the US because my wife and I weren't married yet so she wouldn't have been able to come to the US as a dependent on my visa. So staying in Canada for a MSc made sense for me -- it gave me time to find out what I want to research, confirm that I do want to do a PhD, improve my GRE scores, and get married! All of that worked out except for the improving GRE scores part -- I got 51st or 53rd percentile in 2011.

By the time I finished my undergrad, I knew I wanted to do planetary science (my honours thesis was on that and I loved it). At that point, I realised I really need to do a PhD in the US if I wanted to learn more in this field. Academically, I was kicking myself for not applying to US schools in the first place, but realistically, I wouldn't have been able to go to the US anyways (for reasons above!). So it was probably a good thing I didn't spend time on General GRE and redoing PGRE that year.

But it all worked out -- even with mediocre GRE scores, I still got into the program I would have wanted to go to right out of undergrad (disclaimer: planetary science programs give little weight to PGRE scores). The extra 2 years probably helped me because I was able to significantly increase my research record -- I probably would not have gotten into my new program right out of undergrad! I feel much more ready for grad school in the US with the extra 2 years doing a MSc in Canada. However, a MSc in Canada doesn't count for much in the US -- the most I got offered in terms of degree requirement waivers was about 1 semesters worth of courses (to fulfill a minor requirement) at one school and all the other schools did not waive anything. But things worked out for me since the program I am going to attend this fall is pretty "fast-tracked" and you kind of do 1.5-2 years of grad school in the first year, so I won't be far behind.

I shared my story since I thought we have some similarities and maybe it could help you decide what to do with US applications. I did follow the "go big or go home" advice (if I didn't make it, I would have tried to find a job with my MSc). Hope that was helpful, or at least not boring to read :P

nicholls
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Re: Accelerator and Beam Physics

Postby nicholls » Thu Jun 21, 2012 4:00 pm

Haha thanks for the reply. Your story is quite interesting. For me, an MS is quite enticing as I am strongly considering doing my PhD in Germany. I originally was thinking of doing my MS in Germany, but it turned out that masters students don't get funded here :(. Basically, if I could get an MS in Canada (or even the states), then I could do my PhD in Germany quite easily.

I too, do not like the idea of doing a 5 year PhD in the states. It seems almost too long in one place, especially if I decide to change fields. Despite this, I will still apply. I may get a good offer and end up loving it. However, I am definitely thinking of reducing the number of places to apply to in the states. Maybe a few high level private schools, and a couple lower level ones. All of them with very good facilities for accelerator physics.

Again, thanks for your advice, it is greatly appreciated.

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WhoaNonstop
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Re: Accelerator and Beam Physics

Postby WhoaNonstop » Fri Jun 22, 2012 4:42 pm

Just a warning, I only read the first post. Ever heard of Jefferson Lab (JLab)? They do accelerator physics. Check out Universities near that. My favorite is The College of William and Mary. I heard that is where all the cool kids go.

-Riley

bfollinprm
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Re: Accelerator and Beam Physics

Postby bfollinprm » Sat Jun 23, 2012 3:27 am

Are there really any others? I guess you could say UVA is close, though I wouldn't.

nicholls
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Re: Accelerator and Beam Physics

Postby nicholls » Sat Jun 23, 2012 5:08 am

WhoaNonstop wrote:Just a warning, I only read the first post. Ever heard of Jefferson Lab (JLab)? They do accelerator physics. Check out Universities near that. My favorite is The College of William and Mary. I heard that is where all the cool kids go.


Yea I have heard of JLab and I am also definitely considering applying to William and Mary. From what I've heard it is a reasonable school, and its proximity to JLab would make it ideal for a degree in accelerator physics.




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