displaying research question

kemistree
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displaying research question

Postby kemistree » Sun Jan 08, 2012 7:32 pm

i apologize in advance since this is probably going to come off as a very uneducated question. i'm in my sophomore year and wanted to ask about how grad school committees know about research. this summer, I did research with a certain group at my university (not in physics). the research was relatively fruitful (nothing grand), but because i did it with an in-school program, I ended up not writing a report about it. I also didn't follow through with it much, because I changed my field to more chemical physics.
So here is my question. When one applies to grad school, asides from statement of purpose and letters of recommendation, where does the graduate school committee learn about the research one did? I know people sometimes send in full published papers (but I'm not getting one from the aforementioned research), but if it was from something like a school program, does one usually send in a separate abstract or small research report?
Right now, what I'm thinking of doing is to just mention the experience on my SOP (I will be applying to grad school next year) in a paragraph, and just summarizing it and include what I learned from it (which was a lot).
Also, would it be sufficient to include LOR's from just one research advisor (and then two class teachers who know me quite well)? I didn't get to know this one very well, unfortunately, as he was quite busy. so anything i get from him, even if he does describe the work i did, would not help much.
thank you so much.

bfollinprm
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Re: displaying research question

Postby bfollinprm » Sun Jan 08, 2012 8:14 pm

kemistree wrote:i apologize in advance since this is probably going to come off as a very uneducated question. i'm in my sophomore year and wanted to ask about how grad school committees know about research. this summer, I did research with a certain group at my university (not in physics). the research was relatively fruitful (nothing grand), but because i did it with an in-school program, I ended up not writing a report about it. I also didn't follow through with it much, because I changed my field to more chemical physics.
So here is my question. When one applies to grad school, asides from statement of purpose and letters of recommendation, where does the graduate school committee learn about the research one did? I know people sometimes send in full published papers (but I'm not getting one from the aforementioned research), but if it was from something like a school program, does one usually send in a separate abstract or small research report?
Right now, what I'm thinking of doing is to just mention the experience on my SOP (I will be applying to grad school next year) in a paragraph, and just summarizing it and include what I learned from it (which was a lot).
Also, would it be sufficient to include LOR's from just one research advisor (and then two class teachers who know me quite well)? I didn't get to know this one very well, unfortunately, as he was quite busy. so anything i get from him, even if he does describe the work i did, would not help much.
thank you so much.


statement of purpose and letters of recommendation. as you said.

kemistree
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Re: displaying research question

Postby kemistree » Sun Jan 08, 2012 8:21 pm

nothing else (well, asides from a sentence of two in your resume?)
so, how does the admission committee know how deeply involved you were? I mean, isn't that kind of hard to judge without an abstract and report? Again, sorry for the repetitiveness of these questions.

Hellas
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Re: displaying research question

Postby Hellas » Sun Jan 08, 2012 9:31 pm

your SOP and LORs should be sufficient to highlight your research experiences and how involved you really were. Unless you have any published work, which then can be included in the application and i believe most schools have a section in the application asking for references to published work, if any.

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midwestphysics
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Re: displaying research question

Postby midwestphysics » Sun Jan 08, 2012 10:25 pm

kemistree wrote:nothing else (well, asides from a sentence of two in your resume?)
so, how does the admission committee know how deeply involved you were? I mean, isn't that kind of hard to judge without an abstract and report? Again, sorry for the repetitiveness of these questions.


Most people get their recs from the profs they did their research with. So that prof will usually reference your level of involvement, and your skill. Which is why it is important to be absolutely truthful about your experience, otherwise your sop won't be in line with your recs, which is not a good thing. Let your recs rant and rave about how great you are, it looks much better when you come off as humble, while someone else talks you up.

kemistree
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Re: displaying research question

Postby kemistree » Sun Jan 08, 2012 11:07 pm

Makes sense. So if you then did one heavy research with one professor, you get one from him. What about the other two? I don't want to get mine from the professor i worked with this summer, not only because the field is completely different, but because it doesn't make much sense to get a rec from someone who doesn't know your skills well.
could they be from class professors? I go to a very reputed physics institution, so there are some famous physics profs in my area. also, is it better to get them from grad-level classes or would it hurt to take one from a professor who likes me, but it was an introductory class?
again, thanks. i pretty much started thinking about the application itself a couple of weeks ago, so all this is new for me.

bfollinprm
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Re: displaying research question

Postby bfollinprm » Sun Jan 08, 2012 11:53 pm

Compared to recommendations from physicists you've worked with, recommendations from lecture-style instructors are useless. If it's a seminar, or you had a detailed project, then maybe, but only in extenuating circumstances.

I'd go with the research advisors, unless you have a prof you've really made an impression on and have taken multiple classes with (a good sign is if he/she remembers you from one class to the next).

kemistree
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Re: displaying research question

Postby kemistree » Mon Jan 09, 2012 12:23 am

ok, bfollinprm, i see. but, aren't there many people from top institutions who only work all four years under one advisor? I thought this was quite common. Where else would such people get their other LOR's from? They have their one main LOR (strong, from research advisor). What you said implies that people applying to grad school's have had 3 different research experiences, which i'm pretty sure is not that common, unless you have done like 2 REU's.

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Re: displaying research question

Postby bfollinprm » Mon Jan 09, 2012 1:17 am

True. The point is if you have three, you should use three. It's a little weird leaving out a PI, it would make me wonder what sort of experience he had with you as his/her student. Those that don't have the research experience have lesser recommendations.

Though there is a case to be made for leaving out the least significant research you've done in favor of someone who can speak to your academic capabilities, assuming that your research professors didn't have you in class. I did that, leaving out a first summer project on atomic force microscopy in favor of the department chair, who was also my Quantum professor.

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midwestphysics
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Re: displaying research question

Postby midwestphysics » Mon Jan 09, 2012 1:28 am

kemistree wrote:Makes sense. So if you then did one heavy research with one professor, you get one from him. What about the other two? I don't want to get mine from the professor i worked with this summer, not only because the field is completely different, but because it doesn't make much sense to get a rec from someone who doesn't know your skills well.
could they be from class professors? I go to a very reputed physics institution, so there are some famous physics profs in my area. also, is it better to get them from grad-level classes or would it hurt to take one from a professor who likes me, but it was an introductory class?
again, thanks. i pretty much started thinking about the application itself a couple of weeks ago, so all this is new for me.


kemistree wrote:ok, bfollinprm, i see. but, aren't there many people from top institutions who only work all four years under one advisor? I thought this was quite common. Where else would such people get their other LOR's from? They have their one main LOR (strong, from research advisor). What you said implies that people applying to grad school's have had 3 different research experiences, which i'm pretty sure is not that common, unless you have done like 2 REU's.


It is always advised to get involved in more than one research group when doing your undergrad research. Usually people with good research experience will have two letters from the two groups they've worked with, the third comes from a lot of places. I had three letters from research advisers but a lot of people get it from department chairs, REU, other professors who know their work well. Letters from professors that just taught you in class are basically crap, research is your skill or at least the skill that is important. Nobody will care that you can solve problems out of a textbook that has been solved for 100 years like it's nobodies business, if you can't be of use when it comes to problems that aren't yet solved. They see your transcripts, they know your gpa, tell them something they don't know and something that is important to them. You have to think about it from a professor's position, they are just like any employer and their business is research. I'd suggest that if you want to strengthen your letters maybe do some research with that professor who gets along with you well. So he/she has more to say than "a nice person, got an a in my intro class", and by the way grad classes would be better. I did that and it turned out to be my strongest letter, I had a professor who taught me is 7 classes, from intro to as high as E&M, and I ended up publishing with him because he was really enthusiastic about working with me. Take the relationships you already have and build on them, and don't worry about their field. As an undergrad it's all about the experience itself, besides it is a red flag to not have a letter from your research adviser. Obviously if you can do work in the field you're interested in definitely do it, but don't be scared to venture out, it's a very good thing to do for both yourself alone and for grad school. A wide approach shows you what you really want to do because you've tasted several flavors, it also shows the schools, because you've been exposed to enough to really know your interests.

kemistree
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Re: displaying research question

Postby kemistree » Mon Jan 09, 2012 2:07 am

so then, the combination of
1) main research advisor (current)
2) class prof
3) class prof
is a bad idea? What if I get one from a professor in my research class? Would that be better in anyway, or still doomed? Does any one have suggestions on how I can fix this situation? I'd been told by MANY ppl that all you needed was one good research advisor letter (so long as you had a good mix of everything else, like good research itself, grades, gre etc.)

I completely see that it would be great to get all 3 recs from research advisors, but thing is like many, I'm constrained by time, and have to apply in a year, so I won't have time to get a letter from another research advisor without foregoing my current research. I wouldn't want to get one from the aforementioned professor either, because again, he barely knows me.

also, why would you say it's a red flag to not get a rec from one of your research advisors, midwestphysics? I have never heard that just because you have done research with somebody, you are obliged to get a letter from them. (although i may have misunderstood your point, if you were trying to say it's a bad idea to get all letters from lecture profs, in which case my question is a bit pointless). That would mean that if for one summer, your research did not turn out so well and/or you did not establish good connections, you were still stuck getting a letter from that person. That, in my opinion, is ridiculous. So please clarify what you meant.

that being said, for the aforementioned professor whose letter i'm probably not getting, I won't emphasize on my SOP, as it doesn't relate to my field of interest.

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Re: displaying research question

Postby midwestphysics » Mon Jan 09, 2012 2:34 am

kemistree wrote:so then, the combination of
1) main research advisor (current)
2) class prof
3) class prof
is a bad idea? What if I get one from a professor in my research class? Would that be better in anyway, or still doomed? Does any one have suggestions on how I can fix this situation? I'd been told by MANY ppl that all you needed was one good research advisor letter (so long as you had a good mix of everything else, like good research itself, grades, gre etc.)

I completely see that it would be great to get all 3 recs from research advisors, but thing is like many, I'm constrained by time, and have to apply in a year, so I won't have time to get a letter from another research advisor without foregoing my current research. I wouldn't want to get one from the aforementioned professor either, because again, he barely knows me.

also, why would you say it's a red flag to not get a rec from one of your research advisors, midwestphysics? I have never heard that just because you have done research with somebody, you are obliged to get a letter from them. (although i may have misunderstood your point, if you were trying to say it's a bad idea to get all letters from lecture profs, in which case my question is a bit pointless). That would mean that if for one summer, your research did not turn out so well and/or you did not establish good connections, you were still stuck getting a letter from that person. That, in my opinion, is ridiculous. So please clarify what you meant.

that being said, for the aforementioned professor whose letter i'm probably not getting, I won't emphasize on my SOP, as it doesn't relate to my field of interest.


What do you mean by research class? Are you doing actual research, because research is research even if you're getting credit for it. As for people telling you that all you need is one good research letter, well as any school website will tell you meeting the minimum requirements and being accepted are two very different things, and today research is basically a minimum requirement. As for the red flag, you aren't obligated to get a letter it's more that you should have earned a letter from an adviser. One of many examples of a red flag is "your research did not turn out so well and/or you did not establish good connections". Now if it didn't work out because the research itself turned out to be flawed then that's one thing, but if it's on you then it's another, and how will they know if they don't have a letter explaining it. There is also a huge huge difference between not working out, and not being published. You can have been a part of productive research and not have published. It's also on the student to establish connections, profs don't do that for us. However, you can decide to basically not emphasize that work too. It just means you'll have to establish more letters, luckily you have other research experience to fall back on. If you want to basically white wash over that REU, then you can, but that's not a choice I'd make without serious consideration.

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Re: displaying research question

Postby TakeruK » Mon Jan 09, 2012 12:28 pm

If you're in your sophomore year, then you have at least 2 more summers to do research work with different groups to get more breadth of experience and more letters. Even if you have the choice to work in the same group for all of your undergrad, I think it is in your best interest to diversify a little bit. It might be better to get research experience in a wide range of environments rather than just the same group over and over again. One important reason for having research experience in your application is to show that you are able to succeed at research. Your grad school experience may not be like your undergrad research group, so it's better to show that you are flexible.

Also, most applications specifically ask you to NOT send in copies of your reports or published papers etc. since they don't have time to read it all. It is very important that you summarize exactly how you were involved in the project, what you learned, and what was accomplished in a paragraph of about 5-6 sentences. Your LOR will do the rest. Sometimes you can include further details in your CV. Even though your first project may not have ended up in a publication, it may still accomplish enough to be worth a conference talk or poster. Try to find which ones are happening, even just small in-school ones could be okay. Submit your abstract and then you can list that work on your CV as a conference proceedings (if it's published) or at least as a talk/poster presented. Not to mention the value you will get from such an experience!

As for LORs, always go for as many research LORs as possible. Students at my undergrad were advised to pick their research groups to ensure at least 2, ideally 3, strong LORs. What I did for my extra LOR was make a list of schools/advisors I'm applying to and then ask my letter writer if they knew anyone on the list, or have some kind of connections with the schools (e.g. a former student of theirs went to school X so they can compare me to that student in their LOR). So if you have several options for your 3rd LOR, you don't have to use the same person for every school, maybe one prof would write a better LOR for some schools than others.

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Re: displaying research question

Postby kemistree » Mon Jan 09, 2012 1:58 pm

So then, it does seem like the general consensus is more than 1 research advisor rec. should be gotten, indeed, regardless of how great that 1 is.
Last edited by kemistree on Tue Jan 10, 2012 2:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: displaying research question

Postby midwestphysics » Mon Jan 09, 2012 3:00 pm

kemistree wrote:So then, it does seem like the general consensus is more than 1 research advisor rec. should be gotten, indeed, regardless of how great that 1 is..


Yes, more than one research letter is best. No, there are people who didn't get a letter from a research experience for many reasons, mostly because they knew the letter could be negative. However, that's a whole opportunity lost to them in the process. As unfortunate as it is, if this person will write a negative letter then don't ask them for one. You'll have to erase it from your qualifications though, otherwise it will not come across well. It also doesn't make sense to try and bolster that experience unless you feel that anything you do will improve that profs perception of your research abilities. Overall it will only make schools want a letter from that prof even more which appears to be a bad choice.

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Re: displaying research question

Postby kemistree » Mon Jan 09, 2012 3:41 pm

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Re: displaying research question

Postby midwestphysics » Mon Jan 09, 2012 4:15 pm

kemistree wrote:midwestphysics:
how much does a rec that goes:
"___ did research at my lab over summer on ____. She was friendly, and worked hard. Project was ____." add that much?


Exactly, it doesn't look good. Whether the letter is missing, death by mediocre praise, or outright bad. Adcoms have seen every spin out there, you're not going to slip it past them. It's better to chalk a loss up as a loss than try and pull the wool over their eyes.

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Re: displaying research question

Postby bfollinprm » Mon Jan 09, 2012 10:30 pm

kemistree wrote:also, bfollinprm: you said you left one research professor out. Do you mind sharing if you emphasized that research heavily on your application/SOP/CV etc.? And yes, that's also partly why I'd leave this professor out: one of the professors at my department who really likes me could far better testify to my academic abilities, and would be a shame to leave such a person out.


1 sentence in my longer Personal Statements, a short paragraph in my previous research for the NSF, which was mostly about how that experience showed me where my real interest was, which was most definitely not condensed matter. It got a spot and short explanation on my CV, but I was on good terms (first name basis with the professor, house-sat, etc) and he was a reference on my CV, so I certainly wasn't hiding him. Just thought that I was short on people who could explain the curriculum and level-of-difficulty at my school, a liberal arts college no one in grad school comes from (and therefore something that needed explaining).

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Re: displaying research question

Postby lxhrk9 » Fri Feb 10, 2012 2:01 pm

I also chose to leave one adviser I worked with out of a few applications in favor of my undergraduate adviser. I mentioned the work/publication in my SOP but I had been advised that I should have letters only from professors, which he is not. In addition, I worked with my UG adviser to start Sigma Pi Sigma and a Women in Science group so she knows me very well. (Another note is that my other two recommendations were from past groups I've worked with so I think this balanced well.)

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Re: displaying research question

Postby negru » Fri Feb 10, 2012 2:23 pm

lxhrk9 wrote:I also chose to leave one adviser I worked with out of a few applications in favor of my undergraduate adviser. I mentioned the work/publication in my SOP but I had been advised that I should have letters only from professors, which he is not. In addition, I worked with my UG adviser to start Sigma Pi Sigma and a Women in Science group so she knows me very well. (Another note is that my other two recommendations were from past groups I've worked with so I think this balanced well.)


Undergrad activities are pretty useless for grad school apps. At least now if you don't get in you'll know it was because of a poor decision on your side, so you'll be able to feel bad over it. Which you should. Cheers

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lxhrk9
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Re: displaying research question

Postby lxhrk9 » Fri Feb 10, 2012 6:27 pm

Haha, already been accepted to the few schools I tried this tactic on. Too bad I won't get the chance to feel bad for this poor decision... but nice try Negru. Of course, this may have been a "negative" that was overlooked. So, at the same time, I can't necessarily recommend it...

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Re: displaying research question

Postby grae313 » Sat Feb 11, 2012 1:51 pm

negru wrote:Undergrad activities are pretty useless for grad school apps.


This is absolutely not true.

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Re: displaying research question

Postby negru » Sat Feb 11, 2012 2:43 pm

grae313 wrote:
negru wrote:Undergrad activities are pretty useless for grad school apps.


This is absolutely not true.

Is too

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quizivex
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Re: displaying research question

Postby quizivex » Sat Feb 11, 2012 2:52 pm

I think negru means activities like sports, clubs and cheesy stuff like student government... the kinds of things that look good for high school students applying to undergrad colleges. Those things don't seem to matter much for grad school... they care much more about success in the student's field than being "well-rounded".

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Re: displaying research question

Postby TakeruK » Sat Feb 11, 2012 8:04 pm

NSERC PhD fellowships (Canadian) say that applicants are evaluated on research ability/potential (50%), academic ability (30%) and leadership/community involvement (20%). I would imagine that graduate committees would also consider extracurriculars such as sports/clubs/SPS/government as positive things but with the least weight.

I think having a strong research and academic record plus good involvement in stuff like SPS, science outreach etc. can strengthen your application. But being busy with extracirrculars can't excuse a lack in research or academics! It also provides further information on you about what kind of person you are, outside of research/academics.

If including such things weakened my application to some places because these departments would prefer I spend all my time on research or coursework, then I don't really mind because these departments would not be as good of a fit for me anyways!

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Re: displaying research question

Postby admissionprof » Sun Feb 12, 2012 7:43 am

quizivex wrote:I think negru means activities like sports, clubs and cheesy stuff like student government... the kinds of things that look good for high school students applying to undergrad colleges. Those things don't seem to matter much for grad school... they care much more about success in the student's field than being "well-rounded".


Quizivex is right. Starting an SPS chapter, being involved with doing physics demos for middle/elementary school kids, tutoring... all do make a small difference. Being on the football team, student council.....are completely irrelevant. And if you are social secretary for your fraternity, that can be a negative :D

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Re: displaying research question

Postby vesperlynd » Sun Feb 12, 2012 8:24 am

TakeruK wrote:NSERC PhD fellowships (Canadian) say that applicants are evaluated on research ability/potential (50%), academic ability (30%) and leadership/community involvement (20%). I would imagine that graduate committees would also consider extracurriculars such as sports/clubs/SPS/government as positive things but with the least weight.
The NSF Fellowship is half Intellectual Merit, half Broader Impacts. Getting involved in physics clubs and whatnot is a great, easy way to demonstrate Broader Impacts. I find it hard to believe that schools would not want to admit people who have been involved in outside physics activities when it's those people who are most likely to get outside fellowships in the first place (the proposed research is not enough).

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Re: displaying research question

Postby bfollinprm » Sun Feb 12, 2012 1:07 pm

Not saying admissionprof's wrong, because I know far less than someone who's actually served on admissions, but I find it sad that only physics-related extracurriculars matter. To take up the football team example; that's a HUGE time commitment, and to have been a successful physics student while taking what amounts to an extra 2 classes a quarter is a testament to the kind of work ethic you need to thrive in grad school.

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Re: displaying research question

Postby pqortic » Sun Feb 12, 2012 3:47 pm

bfollinprm wrote:Not saying admissionprof's wrong, because I know far less than someone who's actually served on admissions, but I find it sad that only physics-related extracurriculars matter. To take up the football team example; that's a HUGE time commitment, and to have been a successful physics student while taking what amounts to an extra 2 classes a quarter is a testament to the kind of work ethic you need to thrive in grad school.
you cannot be a good physics student and football player at the same time. in the same way, you cannot have a busy social life and be a good physicist. Physics and other majors like that demand a great amount of time focusing on and absorbing them. so it makes sense that being on a football team is not going to help the application.

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Re: displaying research question

Postby astroprof » Sun Feb 12, 2012 4:34 pm

While the primary consideration will always be on the applicant's ability to
succeed in graduate school, how we determine this is not as simple as
just adding up the test scores, grades, and research experience/publications.
We are trying to identify students with both the native ability to work on
complex research problems and also the motivation and drive to accomplish
difficult goals. The latter can be demonstrated via significant research
accomplishments AND by leadership roles in other venues. And, yes, we
do recognize that it would be difficult to be a good physics student and
a good football player. Thus, if someone can do both, we are definitely
going to look carefully at the application. This is the whole point of a holistic
evaluation of applications - if it were just a numbers game, we could tell
every student who scored poorly on the physics GRE to give up their
dream of graduate school. Instead, we note that there are many programs
that recognize potential, and that the physics/astronomy community needs
people with leadership skills and ability, not just an aptitude in physics.

Now, having said that, I also agree that once you are in graduate school, you
should be spending the majority of your time working on your research project, etc.
So there is less time for outside activities as your career progresses. But that
should not deter you from participating in activities that you find personally fulfilling.

bfollinprm
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Re: displaying research question

Postby bfollinprm » Sun Feb 12, 2012 6:11 pm

pqortic wrote:
bfollinprm wrote:Not saying admissionprof's wrong, because I know far less than someone who's actually served on admissions, but I find it sad that only physics-related extracurriculars matter. To take up the football team example; that's a HUGE time commitment, and to have been a successful physics student while taking what amounts to an extra 2 classes a quarter is a testament to the kind of work ethic you need to thrive in grad school.
you cannot be a good physics student and football player at the same time. in the same way, you cannot have a busy social life and be a good physicist. Physics and other majors like that demand a great amount of time focusing on and absorbing them. so it makes sense that being on a football team is not going to help the application.


Lord Kelvin was Britain's sculling (rowing) champion while at Cambridge...seemed like he was a pretty successful physicist as well. More to the point, Bill Brinkman (ex CME professor at Princeton and researcher at Bell Labs, now the DOE's director of the Office of Science) attended Missouri on a football scholarship (he played defensive tackle). I agree that it's hard, which is why doing both should count for something (and certainly being a football star is no excuse for a bad transcript).

Other examples that readily come to mind is mastery of a musical instrument (work ethic, again), non-scientific publications (shows dedication to finishing a project), and leadership roles in large undertakings over a significant period of time (demonstrates the required staying power to succeed in grad school).

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Re: displaying research question

Postby grae313 » Mon Feb 13, 2012 7:52 pm

bfollinprm wrote:
pqortic wrote:
bfollinprm wrote:Not saying admissionprof's wrong, because I know far less than someone who's actually served on admissions, but I find it sad that only physics-related extracurriculars matter. To take up the football team example; that's a HUGE time commitment, and to have been a successful physics student while taking what amounts to an extra 2 classes a quarter is a testament to the kind of work ethic you need to thrive in grad school.
you cannot be a good physics student and football player at the same time. in the same way, you cannot have a busy social life and be a good physicist. Physics and other majors like that demand a great amount of time focusing on and absorbing them. so it makes sense that being on a football team is not going to help the application.


Lord Kelvin was Britain's sculling (rowing) champion while at Cambridge...seemed like he was a pretty successful physicist as well. More to the point, Bill Brinkman (ex CME professor at Princeton and researcher at Bell Labs, now the DOE's director of the Office of Science) attended Missouri on a football scholarship (he played defensive tackle). I agree that it's hard, which is why doing both should count for something (and certainly being a football star is no excuse for a bad transcript).

Other examples that readily come to mind is mastery of a musical instrument (work ethic, again), non-scientific publications (shows dedication to finishing a project), and leadership roles in large undertakings over a significant period of time (demonstrates the required staying power to succeed in grad school).


I wasn't even going to bother responding to pqortic's claim because it was so obviously false, but I'm glad you took the time to do so and used actual evidence in the process.

I think it goes without saying that your accomplishments in physics are far and a way the most important part of your application, but I have anecdote after anecdote that says that at least some Universities will note and value significant accomplishments in other pursuits. They won't make up for a terrible application otherwise, but they say something about you as a person. Perhaps some institutions want you to forgo everything for the sake of physics, but plenty of others look for broadly successful and well-rounded people and look very favorably on a history of outreach and community service, even if that means a bit of time was taken from studying.

negru
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Re: displaying research question

Postby negru » Mon Feb 13, 2012 8:44 pm

Well, if we're all so into anecdotes, I happen to have a friend who knows you're all wrong

bfollinprm
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Re: displaying research question

Postby bfollinprm » Mon Feb 13, 2012 9:47 pm

negru wrote:Well, if we're all so into anecdotes, I happen to have a friend who knows you're all wrong


In a statistical sense, I would agree with pqortic's post. It's the outliers that make it interesting, so anecdotes are perfectly reasonable.

negru
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Re: displaying research question

Postby negru » Mon Feb 13, 2012 11:08 pm

In any case you're kinda mixing correlation and causation here. Maybe people who were good at other things were also better at physics because they had self discipline etc. And they would have gotten in regardless of the "extra" stuff they did. What you're trying to say is that extra stuff can boost your chances more than doing extra physics stuff, which I think is wrong.

Given two applicants, equal in everything except that one played football and the other took an extra course, I would expect the latter to have a higher chance. Actually I'd find it pretty ridiculous to just mention the football thing in your resume/essay for grad schools. Unless you're the type of person who also has a section for hobbies and favorite animals on their resume :lol:

bfollinprm
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Re: displaying research question

Postby bfollinprm » Tue Feb 14, 2012 2:58 am

Actually, all I'm trying to say is that other things can matter just as much (not more). And yes, a minor SPS officer position isn't really that impressive to me, though an REU with a publication is definitely more impressive on a grad school app than being a virtuoso on the cello.


And grad school apps are based off of correlations, so correlations is also all I'm trying to get at.

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grae313
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Re: displaying research question

Postby grae313 » Tue Feb 14, 2012 1:25 pm

negru wrote:Well, if we're all so into anecdotes, I happen to have a friend who knows you're all wrong


No negru, I only need one anecdote to prove that it is wrong to say that x doesn't matter. In fact I have many.

Of course there will be examples of institutions that don't care about anything but your physics activities, but that does nothing to further your point. You've claimed that something is always the case, I've asserted that sometimes, it is not the case.

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grae313
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Re: displaying research question

Postby grae313 » Tue Feb 14, 2012 1:32 pm

negru wrote:What you're trying to say is that extra stuff can boost your chances more than doing extra physics stuff, which I think is wrong.

grae313 wrote:I think it goes without saying that your accomplishments in physics are far and a way the most important part of your application

...


Four years of balancing football and academics and still coming out with a comparable application to someone who didn't play football but took one extra class? I'd pick the football player every time. I know a person with a weaker GPA because they had to work full time to put themselves through school, as well as someone with less research experience than they otherwise would have had because they were also playing an instrument in an orchestra professionally while getting their degree, and they were told by people at the program they ended up attending that it was a factor in their admissions.

In my SOP I mentioned very briefly that while I was dropped out of school for two years, I became a regional semi-pro champion in billiards. Someone on the admissions committee here took the time to mention to me without prompting that they will always remember that about my application. I don't think I would have gotten in without a strong academic background and good research experience, but I think it gave me a small edge over others who also had that same strong background. I think it shows that I succeed at whatever I put my mind to.

It's just wrong to say that nobody cares about anything you do outside of physics under any circumstances.




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