Math PhD candidate needs advice

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mathguy
Posts: 2
Joined: Sat Aug 16, 2008 6:25 pm

Math PhD candidate needs advice

Postby mathguy » Sat Aug 16, 2008 6:34 pm

Hello,

This is my first time posting so thanks for your attention. I'm a Pure Math PhD candidate at a top research university who finds himself in a really bad situation. I've fulfilled all of my requirements except for the dissertation, which is almost done. Long story short, I'm very concerned that I've picked the wrong career. In fact, I'm almost certain of it. As an undergrad, I did a double degree in math and physics and picked up a masters degree in applied math. I've published a paper on theoretical physics a few years ago (though not in an esteemed journal) and I'll probably have another mathematical publication coming out shortly.

I really would like to get back into theoretical Physics and I'm looking for any advice I can get. Particularly, what are my chances at this stage given my background? Thanks!

larry burns
Posts: 77
Joined: Wed Jul 02, 2008 1:12 pm

Re: Math PhD candidate needs advice

Postby larry burns » Sat Aug 16, 2008 7:02 pm

mathguy wrote: Long story short, I'm very concerned that I've picked the wrong career. In fact, I'm almost certain of it.

out of curiousity, why do you think pure math was the wrong choice?

mathguy
Posts: 2
Joined: Sat Aug 16, 2008 6:25 pm

Re: Math PhD candidate needs advice

Postby mathguy » Sat Aug 16, 2008 8:16 pm

I basically wanted to do mathematical physics when I entered the program but I ended up having to change my focus since I was mistaken about the level of the department's involvement in that area. I chose math originally because it was the safer route, which I now see was a poor reason to make a decision. Anyway, I'm basically in a bad research area with no way out at the moment. My advisor won't let me switch topics and I hate what I do as much as person can hate an abstract idea lol. I considered that possibly after graduate school I could become involved with something I enjoyed, but that's looking very unlikely given how isolated and specialized I've become. As far as I can tell, there are no promising jobs or research opportunities coming after graduation. All of that aside, I am frustrated daily by the "frame of mind" I have to be in order to work in pure math. That's the best way I can describe it. There is a lot of obsessing over minute details (of course, this is math) and for the most part, my work involves generalizing theorems that work in "nice" spaces to not-so-nice spaces. It's like reinventing the wheel but only having the rock to work with.

I've done a lot of thinking about how I got to this stage. In other words, I've wondered why I got into math in the first place. I've come to the realization that it wasn't the math alone that I enjoyed but it was the whole process of doing physics of which math is a large part. It's not that I can't stand research period: I'm actually rather desperate to become a research academic which isn't shaping up right now. Long story short, I miss physics and want to get back if I can. There's a strong possibility that I will finish my dissertation soon and it would perfect if I could enter the physics program at the university I'm already at. If I had to go to another school, I would be very open to that too.

Thanks for your interest!

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quizivex
Posts: 1029
Joined: Tue Jan 09, 2007 6:13 am

Re: Math PhD candidate needs advice

Postby quizivex » Sun Aug 17, 2008 2:38 am

Well, I'm not one to estimate peoples' chances but I'll say that you are by no means out of the running for strong physics PhD programs. Note that PhD programs will generally not admit a candidate who already has a PhD in something else (check on this), but as long as you do'nt finish your current PhD, your masters degree in math from an elite school will be an extra bonus on your record especially since you want to do theory. Plenty of people, especially international students, apply to PhD programs already with masters degrees.




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