kronotsky wrote:Hey! I've had some similar thoughts in the past few weeks, and I was wondering what conclusions you've come to since October. Personally, I decided to apply to a variety of somewhat different programs, and focus within each application, but I can't tell how similar our perspectives are.
First, Thanks for replying this post. I'm so happy this post finally got noticed.
kronotsky wrote:Why do you think your mindset for writing SoPs is bad? If you aren't 100% sure about what you want to do, it makes sense to me to try to find inspiration in the faculty of the places you want to go to for other reasons (location, intellectual environment, prestige, etc.).
I think it is bad because I know it is neither sincere nor consistent. For example, if someone were to look at all of my SoPs, they'll find out that I actually do not especially care about what systems I will be working in my graduate school or that I care more on where I go than what I will do.
These few weeks, I have been looking for specific topics that would convince me to dedicate my next 5-6 years to study them in physics program. Looking for the holy grail, I would say.
At this moment, I am settling on high Tc superconductors as my go-to topic for the basis of my SoP. I believe that is the reason why I am so interested in applying to Stanford, as their faculties focus on these. However, it was not an easy decision to convince myself and to write for schools that do not perform research on superconductivity. (Caltech, for example). Princeton was quite difficult as well, since I became aware that the faculty who listed HTS as his research has recently moved to another university this year (but they still keep his profile in the university webpage, come on).
For these schools, I have to write my interest to a wider reach, such as strongly correlated systems, or even as vague as theoretical condensed matter physics in order to stay relevant with other professors in these fields but are clearly not doing superconductivity research.
The recurring question is always:
Q: if they don't have HTS, why am I still applying there?
A: but, it's princeton/caltech/insert prestigious schools, you'll still be in good hands even if you are doing something else!
Q: Then if you care so much about the schools, why not apply for another program that you might be interested in? say, maybe apply to CS, or heck, you liked racing cars don't you? why not ME/AE?
A: But my undergrad backgrounds are not aligned with those! how will I get admitted in the first place given the competition?
Q: You might be right. how about PS/GS/AP? Your undergrad background would still be relevant for these.which was why i made this post.
kronotsky wrote:Also, are you interested in PS, geoscience, applied physics, etc. more because of how it will look and how you'll be able to make a career out of it, or because you simply find these subjects interesting? There is a bit of a stigma against the first option, but I don't think it's a bad reason to make a big decision - however, it may affect how seriously you think about alternatives.
As mentioned in the original post, i find these subjects are more sociable (to others) as well as more purposeful for me to do, compared to the current physics research topics, I feel most of them are so alien.
I chose theoretical physics because it is so versatile to move into different topics and systems. You'll need to read more literature and develop new computational tools, but these are certainly simpler than what experimental physicists have to do. They will have to dispense their old tool, ask for lots of money and lab space for buying a new one, and only can then start doing new research. I found many of experiment researchers/faculties in my institution who end up stuck being an expert in their obsolete equipment/technique and unable to move to new fields. I honestly wish not to be like that.
Also, there are lots of ways to get into these fields with a physics degree, though it's definitely harder if your background is in theory (but, of course, still entirely possible). You can make contacts while you work on your thesis, or explore topics on the boundaries (CME for APh, astrophysics for PS/geoscience - heck, PS is often a part of the astro department). If your first choice field is highly competitive, maybe you can write a little about second choices like these; depending on who reads your application (which is influenced by your field choice, of course), you might not be hurting your application. It could also make the department more understanding if you decide you don't want to pursue your first choice after all. That's all speculative, of course, but really I think worrying about these things too much can be a distraction when you're just trying to write an SoP about what you like. These are the first and not nearly the last decisions you will make on this subject.
Yes, it was quite a distraction.
I decided to prioritize first-tier admission first, and apply for 2nd tiers in the next round. Procrastinate FTW.
I have written most of my SoPs. In them, I mostly talk about my first choice field (CMT) and maybe put a passing note that I am open to my second choice (CME) should there be opportunity.
All in all, I think the dilemma was a combination of impostor syndrome plus a fear of loneliness. Such a deadly combination.
We'll see then.
If I get in, I will do physics in the best places possible.
If I don't, I will do something else in 2020.Russia?If he dies, he dies