"Interesting" research background, but dated

Eupraxis
Posts: 8
Joined: Tue Dec 29, 2009 6:06 pm

"Interesting" research background, but dated

Postby Eupraxis » Tue Feb 09, 2010 1:44 pm

Hi All,

I am getting ready to start my applications to physics PhD programs in the fall (see my profile). However, given that research experience is extremely important, I am concerned that my only relevant physics research was in 2001 helping automate an experiment for measuring electron spin relaxation times in doped semiconductor nanocrystals. I had also participated in research for applied math in 2003 and did a masters project in 2004 in biological engineering. Since then, I have been in industry as a consulting engineer (now have a Prof. Engineer licencse) in the environmental/civil industry.

My question is whether any of the above would show that I have capacity for complete "independent" research? My main problem is that I have never known enough about a subject to go at it "solo". I am now in a position where I am starting to get that knowledge (via studying on my own), but usually the projects I help with would require advanced graduate corses to do "independently". As such, I have always been in a more of a "helping" role rather than a lead researcher. However, I like the reserach environment and asking and trying to answer questions, so I like the type of work, but I've never had the concentration in knowledge required to do truly "independent" research.

Has anyone here also had this problem yet still got into a PhD progam? Its too late to jump on to any new research, but I know I would like it and good at it, but will any of my experience show this?

Thanks!

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grae313
Posts: 2297
Joined: Tue May 29, 2007 8:46 pm

Re: "Interesting" research background, but dated

Postby grae313 » Tue Feb 09, 2010 3:27 pm

Eupraxis wrote:Hi All,

I am getting ready to start my applications to physics PhD programs in the fall (see my profile). However, given that research experience is extremely important, I am concerned that my only relevant physics research was in 2001 helping automate an experiment for measuring electron spin relaxation times in doped semiconductor nanocrystals. I had also participated in research for applied math in 2003 and did a masters project in 2004 in biological engineering. Since then, I have been in industry as a consulting engineer (now have a Prof. Engineer licencse) in the environmental/civil industry.

My question is whether any of the above would show that I have capacity for complete "independent" research? My main problem is that I have never known enough about a subject to go at it "solo". I am now in a position where I am starting to get that knowledge (via studying on my own), but usually the projects I help with would require advanced graduate corses to do "independently". As such, I have always been in a more of a "helping" role rather than a lead researcher. However, I like the reserach environment and asking and trying to answer questions, so I like the type of work, but I've never had the concentration in knowledge required to do truly "independent" research.

Has anyone here also had this problem yet still got into a PhD progam? Its too late to jump on to any new research, but I know I would like it and good at it, but will any of my experience show this?

Thanks!


What do you mean by "independent" research? In experiment, you almost always work in teams or groups in a lab environment. Not many people break ground in experimental physics in their garage. Although your research experience was a while ago, it certainly seems relevant. An important factor will be the letters of recommendation that you must get from the people you did research with. If they speak highly of your work and remember it after this time, I don't think the fact that it happened a long time ago will be too large a factor.

Eupraxis
Posts: 8
Joined: Tue Dec 29, 2009 6:06 pm

Re: "Interesting" research background, but dated

Postby Eupraxis » Wed Feb 10, 2010 11:12 am

Thanks for the help grae313. I guess my concerns are unfounded then, I had this idea that the committees expected you to be able to submit a proposal and carry out research on your own, without help from others, or they wouldn't give you much credit. Given your response, it seems very unrealistic that these committees would even have this idea. Thanks so much for the help.

And yes, I contacted my supervisor from 2001 and he offered to write a letter for me, which was very nice given the long span that has passed since my time there.

Thanks again!

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noojens
Posts: 187
Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 2:59 pm

Re: "Interesting" research background, but dated

Postby noojens » Wed Feb 10, 2010 2:43 pm

Yeah, the writing proposal/self-guided research thing is more the assistant professor phase of your career. Although being able to write a good research proposal is key for fellowship apps as a grad student and (I imagine) postdoc.

Anyway, any research/work experience is good, and yours looks more solid than most. Don't think I've ever seen a physicist with a PhD and PE before. ;)

Good luck to ya.

Eupraxis
Posts: 8
Joined: Tue Dec 29, 2009 6:06 pm

Re: "Interesting" research background, but dated

Postby Eupraxis » Thu Feb 11, 2010 1:39 pm

Thanks noojens! Guess I just got a little too nervous seeing all the great research other people are doing - esp. since I feel less competitive coming from an applied math/operations research and biological engineering background and not physics.

Thanks to all for your nice responses.




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