Is experimental particle physics right for me?

Is experimental particle physics right for me?

Yes
3
43%
No
4
57%
 
Total votes: 7

univox360
Posts: 7
Joined: Wed Aug 06, 2008 2:39 am

Is experimental particle physics right for me?

Postby univox360 » Wed Nov 26, 2008 12:57 pm

My strategy for getting into PhD programs is to apply where the research correlates with my academics strengths and interests. Given my background I feel that experimental particle physics is my best option. I have taken all of the quantum mechanics courses available at my school for undergraduates (both I and II) as well as a special study introduction to QED. I have done very well in these courses, as well as the courses in E&M at SFSU (all A's). On the more experimental side, I have spent a great deal of time studying electronics taking both digital and analog courses. I have also spent the last few years at a forensics laboratory working with electronics and other engineering type projects.

Is this the kind of background a committee is looking for when selecting PhD candidates for experimental particle physics? If so, will they be looking more closely at my laboratory work, or my theoretical work? Do you have any suggestions for how to tailor my application?

univox360
Posts: 7
Joined: Wed Aug 06, 2008 2:39 am

Re: Is experimental particle physics right for me?

Postby univox360 » Wed Nov 26, 2008 8:36 pm

Great, someone votes "no" without an explanation. Anyone currently doing research in experimental particle physics that can tell me what they are looking for?

dsperka
Posts: 84
Joined: Mon Oct 06, 2008 4:39 pm

Re: Is experimental particle physics right for me?

Postby dsperka » Thu Nov 27, 2008 2:23 am

I did not vote on your poll, because its hard to say based just on the courses you have taken if that your best shot is in HEP. Everyone takes quantum and E&M. I am applying to HEP-exp as well, I know there are a couple other people here who are too. I think besides having good grades and high test scores, which are helpful in general, having research experience in the field you are applying to is what helps the most. This then also leads to good letters of reccomendation, another good thing to have. But if you are already applying for next fall and have no experience, you may be behind the eight ball. But that is not to discourage you, if you have a strong application but lack research experience it is not the worst position you could be in. Just my two cents.

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secander2!
Posts: 264
Joined: Mon Oct 27, 2008 12:25 pm

Re: Is experimental particle physics right for me?

Postby secander2! » Thu Nov 27, 2008 8:43 am

I also didn't vote because it's hard to say just based on this little bit of information. Like dsperka noted, QM and E&M are just givens, although the QED class might show a bit of extra initiative on your part. I believe most departments want to see some particle physics related research... but that being said, many experimental particle physicists have been building detectors at CERN for the past 10 years, so if you can convincingly spin your electronics and engineering projects as being somehow related to the building and operation of detectors, I bet that would get you some big points.

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Helio
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Re: Is experimental particle physics right for me?

Postby Helio » Fri Nov 28, 2008 4:31 am

I voted yes... simply on the fact of the electronics and that you have not given up on QED. I have realized that so many people want to the particle theory (one of my profs says that they sort applications by particle theory and everybody else) and experiment that you need to understand at least some advanced QM.

WARNING: This is my opinion. I have seen grad students with no clue just wanted to do HEP and failing at grasping some of the fundamentals, like QFT or QED. I am have the utmost respect for people, who try it. I know I can't cause I prefer working hands on with things and am not the guy that does Monte Carlo for a living. I just see people trying and then after their 3rd year decide... This is too much screw it. I have worked on non-accelerator HEP (as awkward as it sounds) last summer in a pure research institute and talked to the theory and experimental grad students.

Most people, from what I can tell, fail at realizing what QFT, QED and QCD really imply. There is this dream of string theory, QG, etc. and you get down to QFT and people literally go WTF is this, I didn't sign up for this ***. I have seen grad students switching fields simply cause of QFT (string theory to condensed matter or plasma theory).

HEP experiment on the other hand requires at least some sort of electronics background. You need your pre-amps, you need to know your silicon, germanium, (insert semi-conductor here) for this stuff to work, there is no way around it. It will give you boost on the app. I am just warning you now HEP is not for everyone. There is always the hurtle of possible simulation work, which can eat up 2/3 of your time. On a purely instrumental basis I would say you are prepared. On general, I have to agree with other people that more information is necessary or that you are aware of these things.

univox360
Posts: 7
Joined: Wed Aug 06, 2008 2:39 am

Re: Is experimental particle physics right for me?

Postby univox360 » Fri Nov 28, 2008 6:22 pm

I do not have any research experience at all. I know that this is the major downfall of my application, but my small state school doesn't really offer research to undergraduates. I needed to work to get through school, so instead of applying for a summer REU, I chose to work for my company (perhaps a mistake, but my professional work experience is more challenging than an REU). Even if I had research experience from my school, it wouldn't be in HEP because no one here works in experimental particle physics. However, there are several theory people (one of whom I took the QED course from).

My work in electronics has been primarily with scanning electron microscopy. The company I work for doesn't have a service contract for their equipment, instead they hired me. Working with SEM has a lot of great physics (some of which is applicable to HEP like scattering). But it certainly isn't HEP.

I have worked on several labs involving particle physics, but I figure that they are standard lab projects offered at every institution. I have had to work with detector based physics and do several write ups and experiments etc.

I am very interested in particle physics, especially where experiment meets theory. It is also the closest thing I can find to an emphasis in all of my undergraduate studies.

Is experimental particle physics highly competitive like theory? Should I consider trying to apply to something else besides experimental particle?

dsperka
Posts: 84
Joined: Mon Oct 06, 2008 4:39 pm

Re: Is experimental particle physics right for me?

Postby dsperka » Sun Nov 30, 2008 9:35 pm

Most people, including me, don't have a perfect application. For some its GRE scores, for me its GPA, and for you its research experience. It is unfortunate that you didn't do an REU, but thats not something you can change now. If you have strong grades and good letters and all that other stuff I'm sure you will get in somewhere doing whatever you want to do.

As for how hard particle experiment is to get into, I'm hoping its not as hard some other areas. I think HEP theory and CM theory would be harder, and that HEP experiment would be harder than CM experiment. Plasma at what else I think would be easiest (no offense to anyone, I do plasma research and like it...)

If you are really interested in where theory meets experiment, you could maybe list phenomenology as a interest. I don't know how many schools have these groups but I know my undergrad (Wisconsin) does.

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secander2!
Posts: 264
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Re: Is experimental particle physics right for me?

Postby secander2! » Mon Dec 01, 2008 2:07 pm

Yea, like dsperka said, I'm pretty sure that HEP experiment isn't nearly as hard as HEP theory and a few of the others. Also, it sounds like your work is sufficiently related to physics that you should have no trouble showing how it has prepared you for HEP research.




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