I'm working on putting together a list of schools to apply to and would appreciate any suggestions or advice. My degree is in mechanical engineering and I have no research experience, which I expect will take a considerable toll on the stature of my application. None the less, I'm hoping that I might be able to get into a tier 2 or 3 type of program with research possibilities and funding. I'm less concerned about ranking than just having the opportunity and resources to study something that interests me.
I'm thinking of making most of my applications in CM; I''m also interested in HEP, gravity, mathematical physics, etc. but from what I've seen these appear much harder to get into.
If you have any advice or schools that seem to fit my situation I would appreciate your comments. Choosing a few "reach" schools will be relatively easy; I'm mainly looking for programs that I could reasonably be accepted to if I apply to some number of them. Recently I've been pulling data from AIP's physics departments fact sheets for admissions data and research funding as well as looking through department webpages; looking through all this data at times makes it difficult to discern qualitative differences.
Ga Tech: BS Mechanical Engineering 2012
GPA: 3.43 total (3.09 at Georgia Tech, 3.69 transferred from a state school)
GRE: 170, 159, 3.5
PGRE: 760 (64%) (hoping for low to mid 800s on October exam); MGRE: 700 (61%)
Research Experience: Essentially nothing, had a senior project and various lab courses - following from this, my letters of recommendation may not be as strong as I'd like