Level of specialisation

Philippppp
Posts: 2
Joined: Sat Oct 16, 2010 5:42 pm

Level of specialisation

Postby Philippppp » Sat Oct 16, 2010 6:09 pm

A large number of posts in this part of the forum seem very similar, namely how broad or narrow fields of interest one ought to mention, and whether to name specific professors and so on. It also appears that answers vary greatly. I admit that this is somewhat related.

Here is my situation: I am an international student with an MSc in theoretical physics, currently taking a year out. In Europe, I would now be at the level of starting research for my PhD (if I got a place at some university). I have essentially two questions.

1. I understand that in general US students apply for a PhD position from being an undergraduate (or with a completed undergraduate degree) and upon acceptance do one or two years of taught graduate school rather than going straight into research. This, it seems to me, means that one would not have to be completely specific about one's field of research (as one would have a year or two before actually starting it and as an undergraduate one probably won't have had that much research-level courses anyway). Having done a graduate degree already though I could be extremely specific in my SOP about areas of research I am interested in. Should I be that specific, or should I acknowledge the possibility of discovering other fields I might be interested in during the taught part of the PhD?

It goes without saying, of course, that applying to the right schools for my field, with the right professors suitable for my interests, etc., is perhaps of even greater importance, but some advice or experiences regarding what kind of specialisation is expected would be helpful.

2. Somewhat related (although not exactly concerning the SOP but not wanting to create an extra post in a different section of the forum), given that I already have had graduate schooling, are there ways to skip/shorten the taught component of a PhD? I would imagine that it is in the school's interest to be accomodating for various levels of education, but looking at descriptions of PhD programs on various university websites, I have spotted no such flexibility.

Many thanks for your answers!

Philippppp

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WhoaNonstop
Posts: 851
Joined: Mon Sep 21, 2009 1:31 am

Re: Level of specialisation

Postby WhoaNonstop » Sat Oct 16, 2010 8:41 pm

This is my opinion.

I think with the experience, you need to be more specific about the things you want to work on. You should show them that through your MSc you have decided upon a field of specialization (as most students in the US would have decided by that time).

Also, I don't believe there is any way around the classes.

-Riley

twinb87
Posts: 35
Joined: Sun Jul 26, 2009 12:11 am

Re: Level of specialisation

Postby twinb87 » Sat Oct 16, 2010 10:54 pm

Hello,

I know for a fact that at the University of Maryland you do not have to take the core courses in Classical Mechanics, Statistical Mechanics, Quantum Mechanics, Math Methods and Electromagnetism if you have already taken similar courses elsewhere. You are required to take a certain number of credit hours outside your chosen field of interest though.

geshi
Posts: 200
Joined: Tue Dec 01, 2009 12:01 am

Re: Level of specialisation

Postby geshi » Sun Oct 17, 2010 1:48 am

twinb87 wrote:Hello,

I know for a fact that at the University of Maryland you do not have to take the core courses in Classical Mechanics, Statistical Mechanics, Quantum Mechanics, Math Methods and Electromagnetism if you have already taken similar courses elsewhere. You are required to take a certain number of credit hours outside your chosen field of interest though.


At Ohio State, you can place out of the core courses as well. You have to get consent from the professor teaching the course that quarter/semester. Sometimes they'll make you take an exam, sometimes they'll just look at a course syllabus. Even though school websites don't mention it, they probably have an option to skip courses you've already taken.

kroner
Posts: 218
Joined: Fri Sep 25, 2009 1:58 am

Re: Level of specialisation

Postby kroner » Sun Oct 17, 2010 10:52 am

My (limited) experience is that you're correct that schools have no interest in wasting your time if you already have a strong background in the fundamentals and are ready to dive into research.

Where I am (Georgia Tech, School of Math) there are no required courses. You just need to pass an exam in algebra and an exam in real analysis sometime during your first two years. Some people take and pass them right away while other people have to take some classes to get to that point. It's not uncommon for people who come in knowing what they want to do to finish in four years, while people who come in needing to figure stuff out may need six.




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