Experimental nanoscience suggestions

Zulily
Posts: 4
Joined: Sat Jun 20, 2015 7:19 pm

Experimental nanoscience suggestions

Postby Zulily » Sat Jun 20, 2015 7:56 pm

Undergrad and grad Institution: large research university in France
Major(s): Physics
Minor(s):
GPA in Major: 15/20 (undergrad)/ 16/20 (masters)
Overall GPA: 15/20 (undergrad)/ 16/20 (masters)
Length of Degree: 3 (undergrad)/ 2 (masters)
Position in Class: near top
Type of Student: International white female

GRE Scores : (revised; not taken yet)
Q: N/A
V:N/A
W: N/A
P: N/A (800+ on practice tests)

Research Experience: 4 months in experimental condensed matter in Montreal, 4 months in experimental nanoscience in Toulouse (no papers)

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: not really...

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help: None that I can think about

Special Bonus Points: Not sure... took graduate-level QM and GR in Montreal (as part of study abroad; in an US context these courses would be graduate-level)

Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter: not really... other than GPA being on 20 rather than on 4

My professors suggested me to cast a wide net if I applied to universities in North America, I should not restrict myself to Quebec schools, while knowing that public universities in California, North Carolina and Ontario are ruled out. Yet I know that I will have to take TOEFL and GREs, if I even want to apply to US schools at all.

Nevertheless, my professors told me to apply to the following for experimental nanoscience (or some other related experimental CM topic):

Canada:

Montreal

United States:

Maryland
Rice
Minnesota
NWU
WUSTL
Notre Dame

Let's simply say that I am wary of my professors since profs at my university, as with most universities in France, have little experience with American PhD programs. Was I given bad advice?

Zulily
Posts: 4
Joined: Sat Jun 20, 2015 7:19 pm

Re: Experimental nanoscience suggestions

Postby Zulily » Fri Jul 10, 2015 10:32 pm

Also, I was told by my professors that a 15/20 in France would amount to an A- average in the US...

The primary issue I have with French PhD programs is that three years, in the context of experimental CM, is highly likely to leave an unfinished research project at the end. I just want to make sure I am not throwing potentially thousands of euros down the drain.

But I am confident that the general GRE won't be a problem for me especially since I feel that the general GRE really is there to award internal, field-independent, fellowships more than any actual admissions purpose.

Donavan
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2015 12:55 pm

Re: Experimental nanoscience suggestions

Postby Donavan » Wed Aug 05, 2015 12:25 pm

I'm in a similar boat as you, just that I hail from a different country (Singapore), and am in my senior year; from my understanding US universities require only a first degree for enrolment into the PhD program.

I am probably not much help, but I am hoping to get some answers too, so perhaps I'd piggy-back on this post! :)

Zulily
Posts: 4
Joined: Sat Jun 20, 2015 7:19 pm

Re: Experimental nanoscience suggestions

Postby Zulily » Wed Aug 19, 2015 1:11 am

Looks like I'm also considering UPenn, UIUC and Carnegie Mellon... and cutting Notre Dame.

Yet somehow, I may be overconfident about Minnesota, especially given its desire to reduce its dependence on East Asian students (here defined as Chinese and Indian) and its freezing-cold location, which makes it unattractive to many. (Then again, Montreal is equally freezing-cold)

Donavan wrote:I'm in a similar boat as you, just that I hail from a different country (Singapore), and am in my senior year; from my understanding US universities require only a first degree for enrolment into the PhD program.

I am probably not much help, but I am hoping to get some answers too, so perhaps I'd piggy-back on this post! :)


Except that European first degrees usually grant no access whatsoever to research experience. It's really the presence or absence of research experience that is the primary decisional criterion of whether to apply to US schools or not, from the standpoint of European students. To them, and certainly to me, it seems like North American, and especially American schools, give research experience like candy in comparison.

The Dutch in particular seem to reserve any research opportunity to doctoral students, leaving masters graduates with no exposure to research whatsoever (that's actually one of the big complaints lodged against the Dutch university system), and other countries seem to place heavy restrictions on how much research experience one can get before getting a masters (Belgium, France, Switzerland) with Germany, UK and Russia being the three countries giving the most research experience to masters students.

TakeruK
Posts: 812
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Experimental nanoscience suggestions

Postby TakeruK » Wed Aug 19, 2015 11:24 am

I'm from Canada and I have no idea why your professors say that public universities in Ontario are ruled out. First, in Canada, there are only public universities that do graduate level research in physics. In Canada, private universities tend to be religious and undergraduate focussed.

With 5 years total of school, you should contact Canadian schools on whether you should apply to a Canadian Masters or a Canadian PhD program. The Canadian system is different than the US, we normally have 4 years of a BSc degree, 2 years masters then 3-4 year PhD. Also, since Masters degrees are required for PhDs, they are fully funded and they are really like the first 2 years of a US PhD degree. You may or may not be allowed to pursue a Masters in Canada given that you already have a Masters.

Since you are near the top of your graduating class, I would say you should be competitive at the top Canadian universities. They are Toronto, McGill (in Montreal) and UBC. However, I don't know about your subfield so maybe other schools are better in that regard! There are also other good universities in Ontario and other parts of Canada. There are also a lot of less good universities in Ontario! (So, I don't know why your professor ruled them out, since as they are the most populous province, they have the most universities and a huge range in competitiveness).

In both Canada and the US though, your biggest disadvantage would be that you are an international student. So, public schools in the US are going to be tougher to get in, because you will cost them a lot more money. California schools are very popular amongst international students so it's extra competitive there. In the University of California system (Berkeley, UCLA, Santa Cruz etc.) about 10% of graduate students are international. In general, international students cost about twice as much as a domestic student. In Canada, students cost less so twice as much still means less money! However, Canada is smaller and has smaller budgets.

Finally, private schools in the US are a good place to apply to since you will not be disadvantaged as an international student. My advice with regards to your list is to make it larger! I think the fraction of private to public schools is good, but applying to only 6 schools in the US, especially competitive programs, might mean that you might get unlucky due to the stochastic nature of applications. I would apply to at least 8 schools in the US. If you are interested in Canadian programs, apply to 3 or 4 Canadian programs as well (but if you are only interested in Canada for Montreal, then no need to expand the list!)

Zulily
Posts: 4
Joined: Sat Jun 20, 2015 7:19 pm

Re: Experimental nanoscience suggestions

Postby Zulily » Wed Aug 19, 2015 10:24 pm

A new version of my list would be like:

Canada:

McMaster
Montreal

US:

UIUC
UPenn
Maryland
Rice
Minnesota
Carnegie Mellon
NWU
WUSTL

TakeruK wrote:I'm from Canada and I have no idea why your professors say that public universities in Ontario are ruled out. First, in Canada, there are only public universities that do graduate level research in physics. In Canada, private universities tend to be religious and undergraduate focused.


They claim that, since two years, the Ontario government started levying penalties against universities for taking on international students past a certain point; the good ones for my subfield are past that limit.

TakeruK
Posts: 812
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Experimental nanoscience suggestions

Postby TakeruK » Thu Aug 20, 2015 11:49 am

Zulily wrote:They claim that, since two years, the Ontario government started levying penalties against universities for taking on international students past a certain point; the good ones for my subfield are past that limit.


That's interesting. I've been out of Ontario for the last 3 years so I guess I don't know the details of this latest development. However, this sounds like incorrect information to me.

I've been in department faculty meetings where they discuss funding for international students in Ontario. The way it generally works is that the University provides some funding to each department to help the department pay for the extra costs of having an international student. This effectively sets a soft "limit" on the number of international students, because any more than this number would mean extra costs to the department. So, when money cuts are made, it's likely this is where some cuts will be done and this could limit the number of international students (but it wouldn't be a direct penalty). However, when this happened while I was there, the professors decided that they would increase their contribution from their own grants to the department so that the department can accept additional international students. Professors also have the option of paying the extra cost out of their own grant directly if there was a student they really wanted.

So, maybe there are now direct penalties against too many international students, but this sounds very unlikely and it would be against a lot of Canadian goals (where we want to attract bright international students!). Budget cuts may have lowered the soft limit, but it's really a soft limit. I think if you really want to be somewhere in Canada, you should apply to the school and hopefully they will find a way to fund you. Budgets change on short timescales and I wouldn't throw away a good opportunity just because someone guesses that they might not have a spot :)

Catria
Posts: 353
Joined: Fri Oct 26, 2012 4:14 pm

Re: Experimental nanoscience suggestions

Postby Catria » Thu Aug 20, 2015 9:25 pm

You were in my GR course; if you go to Minnesota, don't forget about using it as advanced standing if you got an A- or better! In an attempt to reduce the long-term cost of taking on international grad students with a masters in hand, Minnesota seems to be rather lenient about granting advanced standing, as long as the student got an A- or better in prior graduate coursework.

With about 50% internationals (the real number is 49%), Minnesota is perhaps the public school with the most internationals (as a percentage, and perhaps even in absolute numbers if UIUC or CU-Boulder doesn't admit as many internationals as Minnesota does) of top-30 schools. They can admit this many because the only real overhead difference between in-state and out-of-state students is in the tuition waiver, and even so it's about $10k or so. A fully burdened Minnesota resident would cost about $50k (that's assuming any of the 10 incoming domestics is a Minnesota resident), and I cost about $60k, as do any out-of-state domestics and all 16 incoming internationals; both receive a $24,440 salary this year.

TakeruK wrote:I've been in department faculty meetings where they discuss funding for international students in Ontario. The way it generally works is that the University provides some funding to each department to help the department pay for the extra costs of having an international student. This effectively sets a soft "limit" on the number of international students, because any more than this number would mean extra costs to the department. So, when money cuts are made, it's likely this is where some cuts will be done and this could limit the number of international students (but it wouldn't be a direct penalty). However, when this happened while I was there, the professors decided that they would increase their contribution from their own grants to the department so that the department can accept additional international students. Professors also have the option of paying the extra cost out of their own grant directly if there was a student they really wanted.

So, maybe there are now direct penalties against too many international students, but this sounds very unlikely and it would be against a lot of Canadian goals (where we want to attract bright international students!). Budget cuts may have lowered the soft limit, but it's really a soft limit. I think if you really want to be somewhere in Canada, you should apply to the school and hopefully they will find a way to fund you. Budgets change on short timescales and I wouldn't throw away a good opportunity just because someone guesses that they might not have a spot :)


When I went to the last CAP Congress in June (that was about six weeks before I moved to Minnesota) I talked about the effects of federal funding cuts on whether Canadian-trained students actually left the country for their PhDs to different professors Canada-wide.

The Ontario professors (one each from Toronto, Western and Guelph) all confirmed that there were penalties levied and that the dollar amounts universities were penalized depended on the fields of the international students: $6,000 for an international arts student, $8,000 for an international science or engineering student, assuming both students are past the threshold (~10% or so).

However, other provinces have no such penalties and, unsurprisingly, the two Canadian physics departments with the most international grad students (as a percentage) are Albertan. Calgary has ~70% internationals, while UofA has ~50%. And, like Saskatchewan, there is no difference in salary (unlike Ontario and Quebec) that is based on origin, it just means that their standards of living are lower compared to domestics.




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