Bachelor of Engineering (Computer) to PhD (Physics)

arpit2agrawal
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Bachelor of Engineering (Computer) to PhD (Physics)

Postby arpit2agrawal » Tue Oct 18, 2011 1:29 pm

Hello All

I have done Bachelor of Engineering (Computer) and has 4 years of work-ex in software and hardware industry. I am applying for PhD (Physics) for fall 2012 for Theoretical Physics (High energy / Particle / Nuclear / Quantum physics) My scores:

Subject GRE (Physics): 940/990
General GRE (Quant): 800/800
General GRE (Verbal): 340/800
General GRE (AWM): 3.0/6.0
TOEFL iBT: 105/120
IELTS: 8.0/9.0

I have no physics educational/research background.

Could you please suggest me university I can get admit from?

Thank you.

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twistor
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Re: Bachelor of Engineering (Computer) to PhD (Physics)

Postby twistor » Tue Oct 18, 2011 4:46 pm

There are many people who would like to know how you got a 940 on the subject test with no formal training in physics.

So...?

ali8
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Re: Bachelor of Engineering (Computer) to PhD (Physics)

Postby ali8 » Mon Oct 24, 2011 8:13 am

I expect he studied only a few more than his/her General Physics education, which any engineer will study.

I believe he is able to get at schools ranked between 35-50.

Minovsky
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Re: Bachelor of Engineering (Computer) to PhD (Physics)

Postby Minovsky » Mon Oct 24, 2011 11:42 am

ali8 wrote:I believe he is able to get at schools ranked between 35-50.
I seriously doubt that given
arpit2agrawal wrote:I have no physics educational/research background.


With no physics educational/research background, I seriously doubt you could get in many places. The PGRE is not a substitute for an undergraduate physics curriculum. With rare exceptions, you are expected to have the equivalent of a physics bachelor's prior to attending a graduate physics program. A Computer Engineering degree also probably lacks the math required for upper-level physics.

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midwestphysics
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Re: Bachelor of Engineering (Computer) to PhD (Physics)

Postby midwestphysics » Mon Oct 24, 2011 5:03 pm

Minovsky wrote:
ali8 wrote:I believe he is able to get at schools ranked between 35-50.
I seriously doubt that given
arpit2agrawal wrote:I have no physics educational/research background.


With no physics educational/research background, I seriously doubt you could get in many places. The PGRE is not a substitute for an undergraduate physics curriculum. With rare exceptions, you are expected to have the equivalent of a physics bachelor's prior to attending a graduate physics program. A Computer Engineering degree also probably lacks the math required for upper-level physics.

No, don't listen Arpit, you can get into a physics program. There is always a preference toward the degree leading to the program, but with the programming skills you'll be bringing in you have a shot. I can't make any suggestions because you didn't give us any details on your goals, but there are places that would take an interest in you. Non-physics majors can and do go on to physics graduate school, and some pretty good one too.

CarlBrannen
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Re: Bachelor of Engineering (Computer) to PhD (Physics)

Postby CarlBrannen » Mon Oct 24, 2011 9:15 pm

arpit2agrawal wrote:I have no physics educational/research background.

Could you please suggest me university I can get admit from?

Thank you.


While you may not have any physics educational / research background, you clearly have a major interest in the subject.

In order to help get yourself into a program, try picking your adviser first. People who understand how to use computers are of great use to physics in both experimental and theoretical. Try looking up some applications of computer engineering to physics. Search arxiv.org for the kind of thing you're best at. (For instance, if you're great at programming in Fortran, google arxiv.org for physics papers that mention Fortran, etc.)

The problem with most experimentalists who might come in from another program is that they have trouble passing the qualifying exams. Since you aced the PGRE, this problem goes away. You should be very attractive to a physics program.

As far as top 50, that's something that only time will tell. It's best to include some lesser schools in your applications so that you're certain to get at least one acceptance.

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HappyQuark
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Re: Bachelor of Engineering (Computer) to PhD (Physics)

Postby HappyQuark » Tue Oct 25, 2011 2:04 am

midwestphysics wrote:
Minovsky wrote:
ali8 wrote:I believe he is able to get at schools ranked between 35-50.
I seriously doubt that given
arpit2agrawal wrote:I have no physics educational/research background.


With no physics educational/research background, I seriously doubt you could get in many places. The PGRE is not a substitute for an undergraduate physics curriculum. With rare exceptions, you are expected to have the equivalent of a physics bachelor's prior to attending a graduate physics program. A Computer Engineering degree also probably lacks the math required for upper-level physics.

No, don't listen Arpit, you can get into a physics program. There is always a preference toward the degree leading to the program, but with the programming skills you'll be bringing in you have a shot. I can't make any suggestions because you didn't give us any details on your goals, but there are places that would take an interest in you. Non-physics majors can and do go on to physics graduate school, and some pretty good one too.


No, don't listen to midwestphysics. With almost no physics education, which you suggest is your scenario, very few physics programs will be interested in taking you and the ones that will are likely very poor institutions. Students taking the PGRE can and frequently do pass the test with flying colors while using nothing more than dimensional analysis, limits and memorizing the results of commonly used questions. Admission committees know this and are not naive enough to assume a person with no physics education, research experience or recommendations would be a good choice for a physics program just because they mastered the subject GRE. In my opinion, you have 2 options.

1. Go back and complete a proper undergraduate physics degree. Since you've completed a Computer Engineering degree, you've likely fulfilled most of the lower division requirements and, with your good PGRE score in hand, you may be able to convince the undergrad university that you could skip some of the lower division physics curriculum. This would mean somewhere between 1-2 years of extra classes at which point you would be ready and able to go to grad school and would stand a fighting chance.

2. Find an inter-disciplinary program that would value you your Comp Sci degree enough to overlook any lacking in physics. For example, when I went to the University of Utah's open house, their Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute was making a big push to find more people interested in physics oriented, computational imaging research. U of Utah, for example, does computational imaging of things like fluid flow dynamics, complex field mapping, Environmental/Meteorological simulation and Galaxy formation simulation just to name a few. Additionally, it was my understanding that members of SCI worked very closely with the department they were collaborating with, so you would effectively be doing physics.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ii0nksV ... ideo_title

While I can appreciate the positive affirmations and "you can do it!" mentality that a lot of forum members adopt, I think it's crucial that when making a life decision as significant as whether or not to pursue graduate school in physics, you consider what is probable, not just what is possible. In my opinion, it is very improbable that you will get into any of the schools you want to get into and even more improbable that if you got into one of the schools that would accept you, that you would look back on your decision as a good one if you try to cut corners in the way you are talking about.

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HappyQuark
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Re: Bachelor of Engineering (Computer) to PhD (Physics)

Postby HappyQuark » Tue Oct 25, 2011 2:28 am

CarlBrannen wrote:
arpit2agrawal wrote:I have no physics educational/research background.

Could you please suggest me university I can get admit from?

Thank you.

The problem with most experimentalists who might come in from another program is that they have trouble passing the qualifying exams. Since you aced the PGRE, this problem goes away. You should be very attractive to a physics program.


I don't think I've ever disagreed with a statement more than I do now. The Subject GRE and Qualifying exam are two very different styles of test. As I mentioned in my previous post, the Subject GRE can be mastered with nothing more than mathematical tricks and a few month's of memorization. It's a multiple choice test that seeks to test your information recall and physical intuition, and generally doesn't do a great job of predicting either of those qualities in an applicant. Qualifying exams generally consist of a few open ended problems that requires a thorough understanding of the topic at, the very least, from an upper division undergraduate level and frequently from a graduate level. I'm sure there exist a few people who could never take a physics class and teach themselves a standard undergraduate/graduate curriculum in a year or two, but it sure as hell isn't common enough that we should be dishing out advice based on it.

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grae313
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Re: Bachelor of Engineering (Computer) to PhD (Physics)

Postby grae313 » Tue Oct 25, 2011 1:51 pm

HappyQuark wrote:
CarlBrannen wrote:
arpit2agrawal wrote:I have no physics educational/research background.

Could you please suggest me university I can get admit from?

Thank you.

The problem with most experimentalists who might come in from another program is that they have trouble passing the qualifying exams. Since you aced the PGRE, this problem goes away. You should be very attractive to a physics program.


I don't think I've ever disagreed with a statement more than I do now. The Subject GRE and Qualifying exam are two very different styles of test. As I mentioned in my previous post, the Subject GRE can be mastered with nothing more than mathematical tricks and a few month's of memorization. It's a multiple choice test that seeks to test your information recall and physical intuition, and generally doesn't do a great job of predicting either of those qualities in an applicant. Qualifying exams generally consist of a few open ended problems that requires a thorough understanding of the topic at, the very least, from an upper division undergraduate level and frequently from a graduate level. I'm sure there exist a few people who could never take a physics class and teach themselves a standard undergraduate/graduate curriculum in a year or two, but it sure as hell isn't common enough that we should be dishing out advice based on it.


Studies have been done that looked to correlate success on the PGRE with success in graduate school. It was found that while the PGRE was a poor predictor of success in research, it did correlate well with success on the qualifying examination. This could be for many reasons, but the fact is the PGRE is a fair indicator of how you will do in your qualifying exams.

I agree with you that he's going to have a hard time without any training or research in physics, but with his good PGRE score he might be able to get away with not redoing an entire major. I think if he took a few core upper division physics classes such as quantum, stat mech, and E&M and did well in them that might suffice for getting into a lower ranked program. At any rate, it's worth trying and if it doesn't work he can go back to school and try again later.

CarlBrannen
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Re: Bachelor of Engineering (Computer) to PhD (Physics)

Postby CarlBrannen » Tue Oct 25, 2011 2:43 pm

HappyQuark wrote:As I mentioned in my previous post, the Subject GRE can be mastered with nothing more than mathematical tricks and a few month's of memorization.


Complete BS. The vast majority of students study very very hard but still end up in the bottom 75%. At U. Texas, Austin they decided to require a score of 700 to get a PhD and found that many of their students simply couldn't do it even after 4 years of doing very well in graduate school. They tried only admitting students with 600 or better but eventually dropped the requirement.

HappyQuark wrote: It's a multiple choice test that seeks to test your information recall and physical intuition, and generally doesn't do a great job of predicting either of those qualities in an applicant.


To do well on the test requires two things. Physical intuition, and the ability to quickly to mathematics without error. Both these things are extremely useful in physics grad school and are paramount to passing qualifying exams (hence the high correlation).

HappyQuark wrote:I'm sure there exist a few people who could never take a physics class and teach themselves a standard undergraduate/graduate curriculum in a year or two, but it sure as hell isn't common enough that we should be dishing out advice based on it.


Someone who can get a 940 on the physics GRE without an undergraduate education in the subject is not a common applicant. That is an extremely rare person. And no one is reasonably relying on our advice here.

Hey arpit2agrawal, be sure to send an application out here to Washington State University. This is a small department that is happy to take care of unusual students. I'm an example, I took a 990 on the physics GRE, no undergraduate physics degree, but got an MS in physics in 1984.

This is probably the cheapest school to go to; my 2-bedroom rent is $465 per month. The other grad students live in 1 bedroom apartments at around $400 or share houses at around $250. You can breathe the air and see the milky-way at night inside the city limits. You can walk from any part of the city to open fields in 1.5 miles so it's impossible to rent a place where you can't walk to school.
http://www.physics.wsu.edu/

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quizivex
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Re: Bachelor of Engineering (Computer) to PhD (Physics)

Postby quizivex » Tue Oct 25, 2011 5:07 pm

HappyQuark wrote:the Subject GRE can be mastered with nothing more than mathematical tricks and a few month's of memorization
So basically all the users on this forum who didn't ace the PGRE are just lazy bums who refused to put in the time.

HappyQuark wrote:Qualifying exams generally consist of a few open ended problems that requires a thorough understanding of the topic at, the very least, from an upper division undergraduate level and frequently from a graduate level.

Correction:
"Qualifying exams generally consist of a few open ended problems that requires a thorough recollection of a similar problem seen on an old version of the qualifier, or in one of those "problems and solutions on" or red/blue qualifier preparation books"

grae313 wrote:Studies have been done that looked to correlate success on the PGRE with success in graduate school. It was found that while the PGRE was a poor predictor of success in research, it did correlate well with success on the qualifying examination. This could be for many reasons, but the fact is the PGRE is a fair indicator of how you will do in your qualifying exams.

I wrote about this at length in the past. The reason there's not a high correlation is that the students in a given program were accepted based on a holistic evaluation of their profile, which includes research background, PGRE scores, recs etc... There won't be a high correlation between any of these factors and success in a given department because the overall merit of the students_was in the same range to begin with.

superluminal
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Re: Bachelor of Engineering (Computer) to PhD (Physics)

Postby superluminal » Sun Jan 01, 2012 5:54 am

my advice is learn some advanced topics in QM, classical mechanics,statistical physics, relativistic EM theory,mathematical methods etc and manage good scientists for recommendations before thinking about applying, and the learning should be on problem-solving basis and not all-theory type. you need to have very good GPAs also.though you say you don't have formal training in physics you seem to know the basics of physics well. i disagree physics gre is all about memorizing tricks. including good memory and tricks, you need to know the basics of physics well to get a 940.good luck!

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mrrsnhtl
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Re: Bachelor of Engineering (Computer) to PhD (Physics)

Postby mrrsnhtl » Sun Jan 01, 2012 5:13 pm

Well, there are lots of MS Physics student I know, who have engineering backgrounds. But, before graduate courses, they have to complete core undergrad physics courses like Classical M, QM, EM, Math methods, Statistical M, etc..Is this an option for grad. schools in US ?

arpit2agrawal
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Re: Bachelor of Engineering (Computer) to PhD (Physics)

Postby arpit2agrawal » Mon Jan 30, 2012 2:38 pm

So many replies and I didn't know that...

Thank you very much everybody for your guidance. I am not one of those who just memorize things by mugging up and pass test with awesome score. My Physics concepts are very clear, not because I wanted to score good in exam, but because I find fun studying Physics and want to do some good research in life. I hope some good graduate school will understand this and I'll get into a good PhD program in USA. I have already applied to some universities and waiting for decision.

blighter
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Re: Bachelor of Engineering (Computer) to PhD (Physics)

Postby blighter » Tue Jan 31, 2012 12:13 pm

arpit2agrawal wrote: I have already applied to some universities and waiting for decision.


Do post your profile to viewtopic.php?f=3&t=4274

arpit2agrawal wrote: I am not one of those who just memorize things by mugging up and pass test with awesome score.


Do I sense pretentiousness and condescension?

arpit2agrawal
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Re: Bachelor of Engineering (Computer) to PhD (Physics)

Postby arpit2agrawal » Tue Jan 31, 2012 3:45 pm

blighter wrote:
arpit2agrawal wrote: I am not one of those who just memorize things by mugging up and pass test with awesome score.

Do I sense pretentiousness and condescension?

Why would I do that? I have not even met anyone in this forum and probably will never. I was just telling that because I read some posts above that some people do pass some tests by mere memorizing (and I even saw some of my friends doing that).

CarlBrannen
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Re: Bachelor of Engineering (Computer) to PhD (Physics)

Postby CarlBrannen » Tue Jan 31, 2012 11:14 pm

arpit2agrawal wrote:I was just telling that because I read some posts above that some people do pass some tests by mere memorizing (and I even saw some of my friends doing that).


THAT would be a heck of a memorization job. I really think that understanding the material is a lot easier.

But do keep us informed and put up a list of where you've applied, etc.

My undergrad degree was in mathematics so I know the kind of thing you have to go through. Make sure you send out lots of applications and if nothing comes up (or you don't like the choices you've ended up with), I can tell you who to contact here at Washington State University and I'll make the introductory email. (Just contact me with the private email feature here; don't publicly post your email or you'll get junk mail like I do.) This can happen late; I didn't get an application into the school until some time in February, if I recall.

WSU treats its grad students very well. It may take in more than the usual number of slightly different cases. The school is in a rural environment that is extremely safe and has nice air to breathe, etc., but the school has a reputation as a party school (for undergrads). I love the place; it is the friendliest physics department I've ever visited.

The current crop of grad students had much higher attrition than usual due to a wide variety of personal situations (example, married and transferred to husband's school). So I suspect they will be looking for more than the usual number of 2012 students.

blighter
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Re: Bachelor of Engineering (Computer) to PhD (Physics)

Postby blighter » Wed Feb 01, 2012 9:37 am

arpit2agrawal wrote:
blighter wrote:
arpit2agrawal wrote: I am not one of those who just memorize things by mugging up and pass test with awesome score.

Do I sense pretentiousness and condescension?

Why would I do that? I have not even met anyone in this forum and probably will never. I was just telling that because I read some posts above that some people do pass some tests by mere memorizing (and I even saw some of my friends doing that).


I take back my accusation.


CarlBrannen wrote:I can tell you who to contact here at Washington State University and I'll make the introductory email.


That is awful nice of you!




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