Physics M.S. w/low GPA-> Several years -> PhD?

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Computational
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Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2012 12:30 am

Physics M.S. w/low GPA-> Several years -> PhD?

Postby Computational » Fri Jul 06, 2012 12:53 am

Hello all,

My situation is a bit unique, and after searching the forums, I did not find anything like it.

A few years back, I entered a top 20 institution as a physics PhD student. When I applied, I had a great general GRE, mediocre PGRE, good GPA from a virtually unknown state school but very strong letters of recommendation from both my undergraduate professors (with whom I published two journal articles) and a theorist with whom I worked at an REU at a large research institution.

At the time, I was really not very professionally mature, and didn't have a clue as to what area I wanted to research (I probably should have deferred.) I didn't spend the necessary time on my classes, (probably only spent 10-15% of the expected time on homework, didn't attend recitation sessions, didn't work with other students) and I bounced a bit between research groups, never excelling or performing very well until my last, in HEP experiment. No publications, but I did enough research to defend M.S. level work and exited the program in a non-thesis option, earning an M.S. by the skin of my teeth - barely 3.0 average GPA, some classes were 2.8 (Yikes!).

I exited into a job in the software industry where I professionally matured and did very well, but found my passion for the work lacking. It really drove home that my interests were still in physical science. So, I gave up the six-figures to return to science and am now working as a research associate in AMO physics at a small university (no PhD program) and will probably net a few publications during my time here.

There is no doubt in my mind that I wish to obtain my PhD and continue forward in a research-oriented position. My previous graduate classroom/initial research performance is absolutely not an accurate depiction of my ability or drive.

I plan to reapply for entry in Fall 2013 to a PhD program (starting fresh, no credit for my M.S. other than recognition that I received it) and wanted to know if anyone could comment on how the very poor classroom performance (minimum GPA to graduate), and seeming washout, will affect my application, in general. I think the software experience will be an aid, but it was a break in my academic progression, so that could be a wash.

I realize my chances will depend on the applicant pool for the year and other factors like how I retest in the GRE/PGRE, but does anyone think my 'marred' record will keep me out of a strong (subjective, yes) program?

Thanks for your time!

-C

admissionprof
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Joined: Sat Feb 02, 2008 7:50 pm

Re: Physics M.S. w/low GPA-> Several years -> PhD?

Postby admissionprof » Sun Jul 08, 2012 7:14 am

Your personal statement will be important. Be completely honest. I'd guess it would be a bit harder to get into a top 20 program, but your background wouldn't hurt for a 20-50 type school. We've often accepted students with your background and they usually do very well.

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Computational
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Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2012 12:30 am

Re: Physics M.S. w/low GPA-> Several years -> PhD?

Postby Computational » Sun Jul 08, 2012 11:52 am

admissionprof wrote:Your personal statement will be important. Be completely honest. I'd guess it would be a bit harder to get into a top 20 program, but your background wouldn't hurt for a 20-50 type school. We've often accepted students with your background and they usually do very well.


Thanks for the response, admissionprof!

As for the complete honesty in my personal statement, it will contain a section detailing what I outlined above, probably as a paragraph at the end after my research experience summary and motivations for returning. I also expect strong letters, both from my M.S. related work (1 contact) and my current research work (2-3 contacts.)

And 20-50 is where I planned to reapply, so your statement above is encouraging.




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