Everyone seems like having years of research experience!!

huyphan93
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Joined: Fri Mar 07, 2014 1:35 am

Everyone seems like having years of research experience!!

Postby huyphan93 » Fri Mar 07, 2014 11:56 pm

As I skimmed through the profiles of prospective physics student this year, I was amazed (and a little bit horrified) by the amount of research experiences they had (1 year in something else, another 2 years in something else, with some publications). I am an international student (junior) from a small liberal art college in the US with no physics reputation, and only have one short summer project (3 weeks at my home institution -> submitted paper(3rd author)), one semester long project (at home institution with my professor -> published paper (3rd author...)) and another upcoming internship at Fermilab. What should I do to compensate for my lack of experience? It seems too late now. I'm scared actually.

P/S: I was offered an internship at Fermilab both for the IPM program (for foreign nationals in US) and Lee Teng Program, but I don't know which should I choose. If anyone used to participate in those programs, please give me some props, I will have to decide soon.

Thank you for your help.

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quizivex
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Re: Everyone seems like having years of research experience!!

Postby quizivex » Sat Mar 08, 2014 2:39 pm

huyphan93 wrote:As I skimmed through the profiles of prospective physics student this year, I was amazed (and a little bit horrified) by the amount of research experiences they had (1 year in something else, another 2 years in something else, with some publications).

huyphan93 wrote:only have one short summer project (3 weeks at my home institution -> submitted paper(3rd author)), one semester long project (at home institution with my professor -> published paper (3rd author...)) and another upcoming internship at Fermilab


Is this a joke? You seem to have just as good a research background as the people you're horrified of!

huyphan93
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Joined: Fri Mar 07, 2014 1:35 am

Re: Everyone seems like having years of research experience!!

Postby huyphan93 » Sat Mar 08, 2014 8:50 pm

No, I saw many people who participated in REUs every year beginning sophomore year, and years long researches at their universities. Also, as mentioned, my institution is a small liberal art colleges with no reputation in phyisics, so the projects I have worked on might not make that good of an impact in comparison.

bfollinprm
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Re: Everyone seems like having years of research experience!!

Postby bfollinprm » Sun Mar 09, 2014 3:05 am

Publishing in Nature is not a prerequisite of grad school. Chillax.

Mmm_Pasta
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Re: Everyone seems like having years of research experience!!

Postby Mmm_Pasta » Sun Mar 09, 2014 6:30 am

There isn't much you can do. My only experience with physics has been a summer REU and I still got into schools - surely you can get into some with your experience.

Catria
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Re: Everyone seems like having years of research experience!!

Postby Catria » Sun Mar 09, 2014 10:31 am

I was frightened by the beginning of my last year of undergrad because I had no research experience whatsoever back then (and then gave up on the GRE in general, not only the PGRE, staying home in the process)... but now that I do have some, I'm ready to try again.

tsymmetry
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Joined: Mon Apr 01, 2013 5:59 pm

Re: Everyone seems like having years of research experience!!

Postby tsymmetry » Sun Mar 09, 2014 1:58 pm

I do really think research experience makes you stand out when applying for top ten schools. But this also goes for letters as well. If you can get at least two good letters from your home institution and one from a summer at Fermilab that should really help you. Also make sure your recommenders know you well and think highly of you. One way to gauge this (which worked tremendously in my favor) is to ask professors about your grad school plans/where you should apply. If they recommend that you apply to your top choices (or sometimes places where you don't think you can get in), then you can tell that they want to write a letter to promote you as much as they can.

I don't think your research experience sounds that it would be any worse than average at most top places. Having done your research at a small LAC with no physics reputation may not make it stand out though. However, I think if you make a very favorable impression at a place like Fermilab, you can more than compensate for this.

AlexisPrel
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Joined: Sun Aug 31, 2014 9:26 pm

Re: Everyone seems like having years of research experience!!

Postby AlexisPrel » Sun Aug 31, 2014 10:54 pm

Hi guys,

I have quite the same concern, as an international student: in France undergraduate research experiences are quite unusual, and with 2.5 months of summer research I'm seen as VERY lucky by my classmates.
A publication before graduating was something I did not even believe possible before considering applying to a PhD in U.S.

During my sophomore year I got involved in the creation of a FabLab at my home university: do you think that's as valuable as a research experience?

I am quite discouraged when I see so many people having strong research experiences, several publications and outstanding GPA.
My other weakness is that the material covered in French bachelor degrees slightly differs from the US ones, thus I do not expect my PGRE score to exceed 900 (never learned about the Lagrangian before, nor particle physics, and so on).

Currently, I am in an exchange program in the US for the first semester. So I have the choice between trying to get involved in a new research experience before the application process begins or working as hell during my spare time to improve my GRE score.

Which strategy would you adopt?

Catria
Posts: 353
Joined: Fri Oct 26, 2012 4:14 pm

Re: Everyone seems like having years of research experience!!

Postby Catria » Sun Aug 31, 2014 11:31 pm

AlexisPrel wrote:Hi guys,

I have quite the same concern, as an international student: in France undergraduate research experiences are quite unusual, and with 2.5 months of summer research I'm seen as VERY lucky by my classmates.
A publication before graduating was something I did not even believe possible before considering applying to a PhD in U.S.

During my sophomore year I got involved in the creation of a FabLab at my home university: do you think that's as valuable as a research experience?

I am quite discouraged when I see so many people having strong research experiences, several publications and outstanding GPA.
My other weakness is that the material covered in French bachelor degrees slightly differs from the US ones, thus I do not expect my PGRE score to exceed 900 (never learned about the Lagrangian before, nor particle physics, and so on).

Currently, I am in an exchange program in the US for the first semester. So I have the choice between trying to get involved in a new research experience before the application process begins or working as hell during my spare time to improve my GRE score.

Which strategy would you adopt?


I would say get involved in research.

But the advanced topics like Lagrangians, particle physics, condensed matter account for ~10%-15% of the questions. Knowing the French system, however, what physics training you get at the end of the licence is not optimal for a US PhD program. Perhaps at the end of the first year of masters will you, in fact, be adequately prepared.

Then again, the people on PhysicsGRE.com are at the higher end of the distribution on all three major metrics whose explicit values are known: research experience, grades, PGRE. The other two major metrics (personal statement(s), letters of recommendation) are important, yes, but their explicit values are not readily known. Because these students are at or near the top of their classes, it is natural for them to aim high.

Would you rather go to a low-tier PhD program in the US than to attend what graduate programs are available in Europe (or, more specifically, France)?

TakeruK
Posts: 813
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Everyone seems like having years of research experience!!

Postby TakeruK » Mon Sep 01, 2014 3:33 am

Research experience is important but plenty of US students get into grad school without a ton of experience either. I would think that there are a lot of schools with fewer resources and cannot provide as many research experiences for their students.

If you think it's worth your time and money, you can still apply to US PhD programs and see what happens.

But Catria is also right about getting more experience if you are not successful this time. I know many French MSc students who do their MSc research internships in Canadian and American school. We get a good number of French students every year! As far as I can tell, the Masters program is 1 year of courses and two 6-month research internships? I think if you do those internships in the US, you can greatly increase your application chances, especially at the schools you work at.

AlexisPrel
Posts: 15
Joined: Sun Aug 31, 2014 9:26 pm

Re: Everyone seems like having years of research experience!!

Postby AlexisPrel » Mon Sep 01, 2014 5:37 pm

Thank you guys for your answers.

I think you are right about doing research being the best thing to do. That's also intellectually more pleasant than GRE preparation ...

In France I am top class in a good university, so a very good master degree in France is probably a reachable option for me, that I would definitely prefer to a not-so-good PhD program in the US.

To be completely honest I'm aiming Yale's applied physics department, because a professor from there visited the lab i was in this summer, and our conversation about their graduate program really motivated me for this specific university. But I can see motivation is far from enough.

I'm still going to give it a shot, as the cost for me is not as high as it could have been (I already had to take the TOEFL in the past, I don't apply to "backup schools") but I guess I should start making myself to the idea that i won't be accepted.

TakeruK
Posts: 813
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Everyone seems like having years of research experience!!

Postby TakeruK » Mon Sep 01, 2014 8:38 pm

AlexisPrel wrote:I'm still going to give it a shot, as the cost for me is not as high as it could have been (I already had to take the TOEFL in the past, I don't apply to "backup schools") but I guess I should start making myself to the idea that i won't be accepted.


Good luck! Also, don't be so hard on yourself, I don't think your chances are as low as you think they are!




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