Newbie..Mechanical Engineering to Physics..Pls Guide

gyro555in
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Newbie..Mechanical Engineering to Physics..Pls Guide

Postby gyro555in » Wed Aug 05, 2009 10:54 pm

I graduated with a B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering (2009) from India(One of Premier Engineering Institutes in India).Since I am very interested in Physics I want to pursue Ph.D in Physics, I have taken a year off to get more exposure in Physics and currently I am researching on Soft matter Physics at One of Premier Research Institutes in India (will be working till July 2010). I am giving Subject GRE(Physics) this November(Confident of getting a good score). I am also doing a course on Theoretical/Mathematical Physics and Certificate Course on AstroPhysics during the weekends.Although during my Engineering I couldn't take Physics Courses(although Mechanical Engineering is perhaps the closest to Physics amongst all Engineering Streams I reckon),I have taken plenty of math courses. Besides this I have plenty of Research & Design Experience in the field of Engineering.
I was wondering whether I can Directly apply for a Ph.D (Physics) in United States(depends on whether i am eligible and availability of funding) or to apply for a MS in Physics(not sure whether International Students are Funded) and then go for a PhD.

This is my first post..Pls Guide me... :o

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grae313
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Re: Newbie..Mechanical Engineering to Physics..Pls Guide

Postby grae313 » Thu Aug 06, 2009 11:12 am

gyro555in wrote:I graduated with a B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering (2009) from India(One of Premier Engineering Institutes in India).Since I am very interested in Physics I want to pursue Ph.D in Physics, I have taken a year off to get more exposure in Physics and currently I am researching on Soft matter Physics at One of Premier Research Institutes in India (will be working till July 2010). I am giving Subject GRE(Physics) this November(Confident of getting a good score). I am also doing a course on Theoretical/Mathematical Physics and Certificate Course on AstroPhysics during the weekends.Although during my Engineering I couldn't take Physics Courses(although Mechanical Engineering is perhaps the closest to Physics amongst all Engineering Streams I reckon),I have taken plenty of math courses. Besides this I have plenty of Research & Design Experience in the field of Engineering.
I was wondering whether I can Directly apply for a Ph.D (Physics) in United States(depends on whether i am eligible and availability of funding) or to apply for a MS in Physics(not sure whether International Students are Funded) and then go for a PhD.

This is my first post..Pls Guide me... :o


It's difficult to say. If you go to the web page for a few physics PhD programs and look at their admissions requirements, most will say that they require a solid physics background as evidenced by significant undergraduate coursework. The grades in these physics courses and the letters of recommendation from the professors that taught them are one of the main ways an admissions committee evaluates your preparation and abilities in physics. You may find it quite challenging to get admission without those core physics classes. Furthermore, a perfect score on the physics GRE will do much less for you than it would for a domestic student, as perfect scores from IIT applicants who got their degree in physics are somewhat common. The physics GRE, in general, is given less weight in our system than consistent good grades, letters of recommendation, and research experience (although this can vary significantly from university to university--the admissions system is not standardized). However a very good score on the physics GRE, some research and some advanced physics coursework will certainly help your case. I think there are probably some PhD programs that you could get in to at this point, but I wouldn't look in the top 20.

Masters programs are easier to get in to and can indeed be a bridge to a PhD program, but in general these programs do not offer funding to their students, whether domestic or international. Your best bet for funding in a masters program is to look for terminal programs at universities that do not offer PhDs, then you may get funding as a TA or lab assistant, but it won't be a lot of money. San Jose State's master's program is an example of this. You could apply to a PhD program after finishing your masters.

excel
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Re: Newbie..Mechanical Engineering to Physics..Pls Guide

Postby excel » Thu Aug 06, 2009 12:00 pm

I think you can aim directly for (experimental) PhD in top physics programs.

Your current research experience in physics, a letter from your current physics research advisor, and a strong PGRE score should suffice to convince the admission committee of your aptitude in physics. Although a high PGRE may be norm for international students, it has a very different meaning for physics undergraduates vs. non-physics undergraduates. For physics majors, it only reinforces that they know the physics they are supposed to know, but for you, it means that you know enough physics in addition to your mechanical engineering training and reassures the admission committee of your chances at succeeding in the program. Of course, your undergaduate research output in mechanical engineering and its relevance to your intended physics research are crucial to your chances, and you would have to make that case in your statement of purpose. Overall, I think that you can use your mechanical engineering background to get a competitive advantage over conventional physics majors in the admission game.

Applying out of one's undergradaute major is inherently a risky thing, and you should certainly apply to some "safe" programs in addition to the top-ranked programs, and consider grae's tip on applying to terminal masters programs with TA opportunities when choosing these safe programs.

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grae313
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Re: Newbie..Mechanical Engineering to Physics..Pls Guide

Postby grae313 » Thu Aug 06, 2009 1:49 pm

excel wrote:I think you can aim directly for (experimental) PhD in top physics programs.

Your current research experience in physics, a letter from your current physics research advisor, and a strong PGRE score should suffice to convince the admission committee of your aptitude in physics. Although a high PGRE may be norm for international students, it has a very different meaning for physics undergraduates vs. non-physics undergraduates. For physics majors, it only reinforces that they know the physics they are supposed to know, but for you, it means that you know enough physics in addition to your mechanical engineering training and reassures the admission committee of your chances at succeeding in the program. Of course, your undergaduate research output in mechanical engineering and its relevance to your intended physics research are crucial to your chances, and you would have to make that case in your statement of purpose. Overall, I think that you can use your mechanical engineering background to get a competitive advantage over conventional physics majors in the admission game.

Applying out of one's undergradaute major is inherently a risky thing, and you should certainly apply to some "safe" programs in addition to the top-ranked programs, and consider grae's tip on applying to terminal masters programs with TA opportunities when choosing these safe programs.


Very good knowledge of freshman physics is enough to get a good score on the PGRE. It does not show that you have the required background in, say, quantum mechanics or E&M... Looking at some of the international profiles in this year's thread who got rejected from everywhere, I think you're being optimistic. But you might be right, like I said, it's difficult to say :)

cooper
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Re: Newbie..Mechanical Engineering to Physics..Pls Guide

Postby cooper » Thu Aug 06, 2009 2:11 pm

[quote="grae313]
Masters programs are easier to get in to and can indeed be a bridge to a PhD program, but in general these programs do not offer funding to their students, whether domestic or international. Your best bet for funding in a masters program is to look for terminal programs at universities that do not offer PhDs, than you may get funding as a TA or lab assistant, but it won't be a lot of money. San Jose State's master's program is an example of this. You could apply to a PhD program after finishing your masters.[quote]

excel
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Re: Newbie..Mechanical Engineering to Physics..Pls Guide

Postby excel » Thu Aug 06, 2009 9:25 pm

grae, I look forward to saying "I told you so" on this one! :P

gyro555in
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Re: Newbie..Mechanical Engineering to Physics..Pls Guide

Postby gyro555in » Sat Aug 08, 2009 3:25 am

@grae313,excel
I know that my chances are low due to lack of Physics courses during my Undergraduate days, I am currently doing these following courses, these are of MS Curriculum level and is said to serve as a Prerequisite for a Ph.D in Physics..They are taught as a special program for People interested in pursuing Ph.D in Theoretical/Mathematical Physics for a duration of 2 Semesters by an Independent Organization with Eminent People from Physics Background.

I Semester (Currently studying these courses)
Classical Dynamics
Differential Geometry and Topology
Field Theory

II Semester
Quantum Mechanics
Electrodynamics
General Relativity

So by the time I get into a graduate school next fall I would be well versed in these courses apart from Research Background in Physics(Soft Condensed Matter). Is this a good reason to apply for a Ph.D or still go for an MS Degree?
Also in India another problem for people from Physics background (B.Sc(Physics)) is its a 3 year course compared to 4 years traditional engineering courses. Graduate schools demand 16 years of Education (12+4) so these people cant be eligible to apply directly for a MS/Ph.D I believe.

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grae313
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Re: Newbie..Mechanical Engineering to Physics..Pls Guide

Postby grae313 » Sat Aug 08, 2009 10:40 am

gyro555in wrote:@grae313,excel
I know that my chances are low due to lack of Physics courses during my Undergraduate days, I am currently doing these following courses, these are of MS Curriculum level and is said to serve as a Prerequisite for a Ph.D in Physics..They are taught as a special program for People interested in pursuing Ph.D in Theoretical/Mathematical Physics for a duration of 2 Semesters by an Independent Organization with Eminent People from Physics Background.

I Semester (Currently studying these courses)
Classical Dynamics
Differential Geometry and Topology
Field Theory

II Semester
Quantum Mechanics
Electrodynamics
General Relativity

So by the time I get into a graduate school next fall I would be well versed in these courses apart from Research Background in Physics(Soft Condensed Matter). Is this a good reason to apply for a Ph.D or still go for an MS Degree?
Also in India another problem for people from Physics background (B.Sc(Physics)) is its a 3 year course compared to 4 years traditional engineering courses. Graduate schools demand 16 years of Education (12+4) so these people cant be eligible to apply directly for a MS/Ph.D I believe.


With those courses you stand a good chance of getting into a decent PhD program. If you excel in these courses and do well on your physics GRE, you should apply to some top 10 schools.

excel
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Re: Newbie..Mechanical Engineering to Physics..Pls Guide

Postby excel » Sat Aug 08, 2009 12:22 pm

gyro, you will be submitting your application by the end of this year, right? Would you have received grades for your first semester classes by that time?

Regarding the three year degree thing, eligibility is obviously not a problem with your 4-year engineering degree. What may be potentially a problem is that you would be competing against fellow Indian students with 5-year BS/MS physics degrees and corresponding amount of physics research experience. Anyway, there is not much you can do about it, except make a clear connection between your mechanical engineering R & D experience plus your current year of physics to your proposed PhD research interests.

srjadav
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Joined: Fri Apr 03, 2009 4:25 am

Re: Newbie..Mechanical Engineering to Physics..Pls Guide

Postby srjadav » Sat Oct 17, 2009 1:31 pm

@gyro555in

Can u give me details of the course on Theoretical/Mathematical Physics and the Certificate course in Astrophysics?
1. Who conducts these courses?
2. Where are they conducted?
3. What is the eligibility?
4. Contact details of the institute offering these courses.
I am a second year mechanical engg student from Mumbai.
Thanks

prajor
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Joined: Thu Sep 17, 2009 1:58 pm

Re: Newbie..Mechanical Engineering to Physics..Pls Guide

Postby prajor » Thu Nov 12, 2009 2:45 am

SrJadhav, Gyro.. Any updates on the 1 year course that was mentioned in this thread

srjadav
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Re: Newbie..Mechanical Engineering to Physics..Pls Guide

Postby srjadav » Tue Nov 17, 2009 3:33 pm

@prajor

gyro55in hasn't replied as yet.




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