Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

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blueeverest
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Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby blueeverest » Fri Mar 28, 2008 3:39 pm

Hi all,

I am now in my Junior year-second semester and I think its the right time to start getting 'worried' about P-GRE and stuffs. The thing that I am worried about is that my school doesnt have a good Physics Dept (thats how I see it) and I am afraid that my preparation for P-GRE will be insufficient. I am planning to take it in October 08. These are the classes I took so far, including classes in progress:

Physics I and II
Intro to Modern Physics
Electronics
Thermodynamics
Analytical Mechanics (Fowles and Cassiday)
Intro to Quantum Physics
Electromagnetism

This are all the classes my college offers for Physics. Do you guys think its a good prep. for GRE? And will grad schools want to see more courses in my transcript? Btw, I did relatively well in the Physics classes I have taken so far. GPA (physics) ~ 3.6. I am a math major too. Math GPA~ 3.9. Overall is 3.5
Additional note: I did pretty well in Putnam Math C. I couldnt get into any REUs since I am an international student here. I was waitlisted at LIGO (Caltech).

Please suggest. Does my specs look like I am a grad school material?

I am new to this forum, and I am glad I found it.

Cheers.

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Helio
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby Helio » Fri Mar 28, 2008 4:22 pm

Are all those QM and EM courses on year or only a semester?
Does you school offer any pure lab classes?

admissionprof
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby admissionprof » Fri Mar 28, 2008 4:31 pm

Helio wrote:Are all those QM and EM courses on year or only a semester?
Does you school offer any pure lab classes?


Exactly. One major issue in admissions is whether the student has had just one semester each or an entire year. Of course, many schools only offer one semester each, so we do cut them some slack. But if a school does offer both semesters, and a student only takes one, that hurts (and is a much bigger difference than a few dekapoints on the PGRE).

perplexity
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby perplexity » Fri Mar 28, 2008 4:38 pm

Hah. The description you gave of yourself sounds very much like my situation (except that I am not international), including the math major, Putnam scoring (although I only got a 2 this year), and wait-listing at Caltech/LIGO.

I don't know if you're hoping to go to a top physics program, or if you would be satisfied with a lesser known graduate school. There have been several people from my college with coursework almost identical to yours who are currently enrolled in physics graduate programs, and they seem to be doing fine. As for preparation for the PGRE, I think the classes you've taken cover the material being tested. (Or at least I hope they do since those are the same classes I've taken and I also plan on taking the PGRE next fall!) So much of the PGRE result depends more on the information retained from the classes and test taking ability, though, and less on the fact that you have simply completed a list of classes.

On second thought, I probably have no idea what I'm talking about since I am at the same point in my physics career as you are, so feel free to ignore my post. :D

sltrukshan
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby sltrukshan » Fri Mar 28, 2008 4:54 pm

First, download the P-GRE practice book (from ETS) and read carefully what they expect you to know.

blueeverest
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby blueeverest » Fri Mar 28, 2008 6:40 pm

EM and Intro to Quantum Physics are "only one" semester each. Thats all what is offered here. And for labs, I had 2 labs- one for Intro to Modern Physics and one for Electronics. Since I was placed out of Gen Physics I and II, I was unable to take those labs. Anyways, I have taken all the classes available to me.

About what kind of program I am looking to: I want to do high energy Physics or particle physics. I am not sure at this point. Quantum Physics seems really interesting too. I was considering schools like U. Chicago, U. of Illinois at UC, U. Wisconsin at Madison etc.

Someone told me that if one can do Gen Physics I and Gen Physics II with ease, then it will "dramatically" improve the PGRE scores than that of someone with a weak basis on those subjects. How true is that?

yea, Putnam was tough. I ended up with 19.

admissionprof
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby admissionprof » Fri Mar 28, 2008 7:01 pm

blueeverest wrote:EM and Intro to Quantum Physics are "only one" semester each. Thats all what is offered here. And for labs, I had 2 labs- one for Intro to Modern Physics and one for Electronics. Since I was placed out of Gen Physics I and II, I was unable to take those labs. Anyways, I have taken all the classes available to me.


If you've taken all of the courses available, is there a nearby school that would offer additional courses? If not, I suggest taking extra math courses--given your interests, differential geometry, topology, numerical analysis, complex analysis would be useful.

blueeverest wrote:About what kind of program I am looking to: I want to do high energy Physics or particle physics. I am not sure at this point. Quantum Physics seems really interesting too. I was considering schools like U. Chicago, U. of Illinois at UC, U. Wisconsin at Madison etc.


When someone says "high energy physics or particle physics....quantum physics seems really interesting too", I worry a bit. High energy physics IS particle physics, and they both use quantum mechanics. In fact, I'm not sure what the phrase "quantum physics" means. To look for good schools, you need to understand the meaning of the various subfields. The schools you mention are all good, but you really can't decide where to apply until you know your PGRE score. If it's low, you can apply to those, but make sure you have backups.

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butsurigakusha
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby butsurigakusha » Fri Mar 28, 2008 7:03 pm

Someone told me that if one can do Gen Physics I and Gen Physics II with ease, then it will "dramatically" improve the PGRE scores than that of someone with a weak basis on those subjects. How true is that?


it's true. A large portion of the problems on the PGRE are based on material learned in those courses. In my opinion, those questions are the more difficult ones. The questions that require advanced level knowledge seemed to be more of the type where if you understand the concept, they're easy, whereas if you don't understand the concept, then they are impossible. For example, what is the Hamiltonian for this system? What is the partition function?

It is possible to score over 700 without any upper level physics.

blueeverest
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby blueeverest » Fri Mar 28, 2008 7:09 pm

Yes, there's a really good Research university near my school but I don't know if I can take classes there (Hopefully yes). For mathematics, I will have taken Complex Analysis I and II, Abstract Algebra I and II, Probability Theory and Statistics I and II by the time I graduate. I might be able to squeeze in Graph theory too (not sure).

And thanks for clarifying things. You are right. All depends on how I do on PGRE.

And not being able to get into REUs due to my status hurts.

blueeverest
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby blueeverest » Fri Mar 28, 2008 7:22 pm

butsurigakusha wrote:
Someone told me that if one can do Gen Physics I and Gen Physics II with ease, then it will "dramatically" improve the PGRE scores than that of someone with a weak basis on those subjects. How true is that?



It is possible to score over 700 without any upper level physics.



Really? 700 with just Gen Physics I and II !!! I need to request "University Physics" from library and get it started.

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butsurigakusha
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby butsurigakusha » Fri Mar 28, 2008 7:26 pm

I am not saying that getting 700 will be easy. But if you get all or nearly all of the lower level questions right, and simply ignore the rest, I am pretty sure 700 or more is possible.

blueeverest
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby blueeverest » Fri Mar 28, 2008 7:43 pm

butsurigakusha wrote:I am not saying that getting 700 will be easy. But if you get all or nearly all of the lower level questions right, and simply ignore the rest, I am pretty sure 700 or more is possible.


Ya, I see what you mean. I know its gonna be tough either way.

Correct me if I am mistaken, I see you have a 990 in PGRE and superior GPA with some research, and you got rejected by some schools. My neurons might be slow, but honestly, I can't comprehend that. Are those stats even true? Or were you just fooling around?

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butsurigakusha
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby butsurigakusha » Fri Mar 28, 2008 7:50 pm

Actually, I just looked over the practice exam, and I only counted about 20 or so problems that require knowledge from the upper level physics and math classes (like differential equations and linear algebra). There were a few others (maybe 10) that aren't covered in upper level classes, but a typical physics student may not have learned along the way. So probably about 70 questions can be answered by knowing the material covered in the lower level classes, including introductory modern physics. On that practice exam, a raw score of 70 gives a scaled score of 880, 88%.

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butsurigakusha
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby butsurigakusha » Fri Mar 28, 2008 7:51 pm

The stats are true, and I am not fooling around.

I recently discussed this very subject on the thread called Fall 2008 Rejections.

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quizivex
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby quizivex » Fri Mar 28, 2008 9:03 pm

blueeverest,

I realize it's a bit scary to look at a profile like butsu's and see that he was rejected from many of the top schools. I think the reason for this is apparent if you look through other profiles (from this year and previous years) at other state school domestic students with very high GRE scores.

These students always seem to kick ass in every imaginable way and build up a resume the size of a 5 year old's Xmas wish list. They are celebrities at their institutions and have first author publications, prestigeous awards and other accomplishments. butsu and I are similar in that neither of us did all that... butsu claims he was lazy, and I was so miserable at my school I couldn't get anything done...

I think butsu's overall GPA probably hurt him, since nearly every top candidate from a state school has a near perfect GPA. I still had some success in the admission process, probably because I took a ton of classes, had a high GPA and still had enough in terms of research (REU, 2 minor author pubs) and a few nice extracurriculars that it didn't hurt me. In the end, a high GRE won't make up for too many weaknesses in other areas, since there are plenty of good students with lower GRE's in the 800's who still have the impressive resumes, and they probably get preference over students whose primary highlight is their GRE...

And by weaknesses, I definitely don't mean butsu or myself were weak in any way... but in comparison to many of the other applicants, we are missing a few things, haha.

So try your best with the GRE but don't forget about all the other games you gotta play, lol!

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grae313
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby grae313 » Sun Mar 30, 2008 1:03 pm

If you want to see how well your classes have prepared you for the PGRE, take one of the older practice exams (save 0177 for later because it is the most similar to the current exam). Take it under simulated test conditions and it will show you where you need to improve to get the type of score you want to get. IMO, research experience and very strong rec letters are just as important as having a good PGRE score.

trupti
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby trupti » Sun Mar 30, 2008 2:36 pm

What is a strong letter of rec? Is it from someone famous in the field or someone who knows you well? We don't have any famous people in our college. Ever prof in our department will write a good LOR for every student. Even if the student is average they will say he/she is hardworking, self motivated etc..etc. Ironically for me my head of department knows me very well but he is not my project advisor. My project advisor seems to have no opinion about me (or atleast he never shows any) so i don't know who will I approach for a rec. Is it better to have it from my project advisor who doesn't know me well or from department HOD who is not my project advisor??

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will
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby will » Sun Mar 30, 2008 3:04 pm

A strong letter is from someone famous in the field. A stronger letter is from someone who knows you exceedingly well and is honest about your abilities. An even stronger letter is from someone the people on the admissions committee know personally. Make a list of schools where you would really like to go, then go to each of the people you plan to get a letter from and ask them who they personally know there, be it from collaborations or conferences or talks. Letters of recommendation will carry more weight with these people, possibly making up for mediocre test scores or GPA. The physics community is really not so huge; sure, not everyone can be a rock-star with a million citations, but I'm willing to bet your professors have some friends in high places. Network, network, network.

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grae313
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby grae313 » Sun Mar 30, 2008 4:34 pm

will wrote:A strong letter is from someone famous in the field. A stronger letter is from someone who knows you exceedingly well and is honest about your abilities. An even stronger letter is from someone the people on the admissions committee know personally. Make a list of schools where you would really like to go, then go to each of the people you plan to get a letter from and ask them who they personally know there, be it from collaborations or conferences or talks. Letters of recommendation will carry more weight with these people, possibly making up for mediocre test scores or GPA. The physics community is really not so huge; sure, not everyone can be a rock-star with a million citations, but I'm willing to bet your professors have some friends in high places. Network, network, network.


This is good advice, and I wanted to suggest that you go to everyone who might write you a letter and ask them if they know professors somewhere, and then apply to these schools. I also come from a very small physics department, and each professor might know one or two outside professors so it is unlikely that you will find many matches trying to find a prof at your school who knows someone where you want to apply. Rather, put some schools on your list based on where your profs have connections. Remember, you need three letters, so get one from the person who knows you well and get one from your adviser. Talk to your adviser about your plans for graduate school and mention that you will be needing a letter. Maybe he hasn't thought about it, but when you tell him your plans, he'll start thinking about you and form an opinion.

There is no one famous at my school either, in fact, no one that anyone at the schools I applied to had ever met or heard of, but they knew me well and were prestigious in our department (chair and senior tenured faculty). I had excellent results.

blueeverest
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby blueeverest » Mon Mar 31, 2008 11:57 am

Same here. No one particularly famous at my school either. But I am sure they have contacts elsewhere. And thats a good way to go- "talk to profs and advisor and apply to a few schools where they have connections." I am all excited about next fall. There's so much to do. Luckily, I am taking my last Physics class (for undergrads) this semester so I am hopeful I can manage time for app. processes and GREs next fall.

cancelled20080417
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby cancelled20080417 » Mon Mar 31, 2008 12:07 pm

blueeverest,
are you from Mt. Everest or something? Have u climed Everest?

blueeverest
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby blueeverest » Mon Mar 31, 2008 12:12 pm

I am from the country of Mt. Everest. I haven't climbed it. Actually I haven't been there.

cancelled20080417
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby cancelled20080417 » Mon Mar 31, 2008 12:34 pm

I wish i were from the country of Mt Everest( Nepal ?? ). Then I would climb Everest. that would be awesome.

trupti
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby trupti » Mon Mar 31, 2008 12:44 pm

thanks for all your replies
I am switching from engineering to physics so none of my department profs know anybody from US physics dept (I am international). I know atleast 3 profs who know me very well. I have worked with them extensively over past 4 years. All three are pretty important people. One is our dept HOD and other two are from well known reaseach institutes (maybe even known in US). But I don't if the two profs from the research institutes will give me a rec. My present project advisor will give me a rec but he doesn't seem to know me very well as I have just started working with him and won't work for long, so I am all confused about approaching him for a rec. But I guess I will speak to all these 4 people and see what can I do..also all 4 are very much unaware of the US education system so it might take some time to explain them what do I want.

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Ren
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby Ren » Mon Mar 31, 2008 2:04 pm

reading all this information makes me nervous,
I am also a junior and planning to apply to grad school next year.
I am also from a very small liberal art college with small physics department.

I took almost the same classes as Blueeverest, minus electronics.
But i am an astrophysics major, so i also took (and will take) classes like
Intro astronomy, cosmology, Observational astronomy (lab class)
astrophysics (1 year), and i did independent study on plasma physics.
i took all the physics classes that my school offered, except the lab classes like electronics and advance physics lab, which are not required for my major.

Do you think those classes are enough for me to be considered for some fairly good graduate programs? will it hurt my chances not having more upperlevel classes? , assuming my PGRE score is good.

As far as the research experience goes, i did a summer research last year at my school, and i will be working at one of the national lab (in plasma physics) this summer.

Should i find a way to take more upper level Physics class? I don't have time to take summer classes, but i might be able to do more independent study.

doom
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby doom » Mon Mar 31, 2008 2:16 pm

@ Ren,

You might want to take a look at my profile on the profile thread. It sounds like we have similar sorts of backgrounds in terms of school type and department size. I had no connections through professors, and no experience in my stated field of interest, but I had good success in getting in to top-25 schools. My GRE scores were solid but not stellar.

best of luck!

marten
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby marten » Mon Mar 31, 2008 5:33 pm

RG wrote:I wish i were from the country of Mt Everest( Nepal ?? ). Then I would climb Everest. that would be awesome.


Yeah, I can say that I've been to the first base camp on Mt. Everest. Although I was barely a year old and riding in a basket hung from the head of a Nepali guide! Hardly counts has climbing!

Marten

VT
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby VT » Mon Mar 31, 2008 5:42 pm

all you people from small dept:
go for directed studies, if your dept doesnot offer many advanced classes.
Hunt REUs down ( this is, however, not an option for internationals)

cancelled20080417
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby cancelled20080417 » Mon Mar 31, 2008 6:04 pm

@ marten:

Are you also from Nepal? wow blueeverest is from Nepal too. I love that country. I have been to Nepal(the capital of, I do not remember what it is called) only once but not to the base of the Everest.

marten
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby marten » Mon Mar 31, 2008 7:26 pm

@ RG:

I was born in Kathmandu, Nepal, but I'm a US citizen. My mother is from the US, and my father is from the Netherlands. I only lived in Nepal for about a year after I was born, then we moved to the US, the Netherlands, and then back to the US while I was still young. So although we moved around a bunch, I consider myself from the US, as I basically grew up here. We do travel a lot, I've been back to Nepal once, and my parents went back while I was in college to work for a short while.

What were you in Nepal for? It is a beautiful country.

Marten

cancelled20080417
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby cancelled20080417 » Mon Mar 31, 2008 8:51 pm

I went there just to chill out. I am a very bad natured physics student coz I like travelling The Netherland and Nepal ( with no offense to any one) and few other places, you know what I am talking about or twistor can very easily help you on this.

Yeah, you are rite, Nepal is damn beautiful place. I went for trekking when I was in Kathmandu( this is capital correct??). I am from a country very close to Nepal ( not India).
I want to go there again. In fact I am planning to go there next summer if everything works out well.

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twistor
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby twistor » Mon Mar 31, 2008 9:39 pm

I wish i were from the country of Mt Everest( Nepal ?? ). Then I would climb Everest. that would be awesome.


What you really mean to say is that you would have some sherpas carry you to the top. Don't forget to take pictures with your camera phone.

blueeverest
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby blueeverest » Mon Mar 31, 2008 10:50 pm

twistor wrote:
I wish i were from the country of Mt Everest( Nepal ?? ). Then I would climb Everest. that would be awesome.


What you really mean to say is that you would have some sherpas carry you to the top. Don't forget to take pictures with your camera phone.



Lol.

blueeverest
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Re: Not well known Physics Dept/ not many Physics classes.

Postby blueeverest » Mon Mar 31, 2008 10:57 pm

RG wrote:I went there just to chill out. I am a very bad natured physics student coz I like travelling The Netherland and Nepal ( with no offense to any one) and few other places, you know what I am talking about or twistor can very easily help you on this.

Yeah, you are rite, Nepal is damn beautiful place. I went for trekking when I was in Kathmandu( this is capital correct??). I am from a country very close to Nepal ( not India).
I want to go there again. In fact I am planning to go there next summer if everything works out well.



I can see what you mean by "Bad-natured" (if you are referring to one similarity between Amsterdam and Kathmandu).

With no REUs in sight for me, I might as well go home this summer. Maybe I will see you in the base-camp of Everest.




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