Little research experience

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Posts: 13
Joined: Mon Sep 15, 2008 1:07 pm

Little research experience

Postby Seen » Mon Sep 15, 2008 3:41 pm

I hate to be the person who registers here and, without any preliminaries, announces himself with a "where can i get in"-type thread, it seems a rather self-centered introduction, but I've looked at the profiles thread, and I didn't see many profiles comparable to mine and I'm a little worried, so here is my introduction:

So, I'm in my fourth year of college and of course am involved in the whole grad school application process now. And of course, I have no clue what I am doing and am pretty stressed.

Due to some poor decisions, the only research experience I have is from this summer, where I didn't really do anything impressive, just helped out around the lab.

Clearly, this is a bad in a few ways, most obviously because grad schools look for people with success in research and research experience is probably a major factor when applying anywhere.

But also, it means that I really have little idea what I want to study, which makes it hard for me to know where to think about applying or to argue to any school that I belong there specifically. Moreover, I can't really be entirely sure that physics grad school is right for me; I do like studying physics, but actually doing physics seems a bit different and I have less experience with that (even less so since I'm thinking about doing theory. btw, does thinking about doing theory give me even a small excuse for little lab experience?).

Also it means that at least one of my letters of recommendation will come from someone who doesn't know me beyond class and office hours.

My tests and grades, I think, are decent enough. I go to a good state school, I have taken a pretty standard undergrad physics course load, gotten A's in most of my advanced physics classes, and based on the practice tests, I hope to get in the mid-800s on the PGRE in October.

Basically, what type of schools should I be looking at? How terrible is it to lack significant research? How should I decide where to apply? I really started freaking out about this a few days ago, when I saw how few students were accepted to these grad schools, even those outside the top tier (which I'm not really considering at this point).

Any advice would be tremendously appreciated.


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Unnatural Log
Posts: 46
Joined: Fri Aug 15, 2008 4:07 pm

Re: Little research experience

Postby Unnatural Log » Mon Sep 15, 2008 4:30 pm

Is it too late to get something for this year? I started doing research in September of my senior year at college, and it wasn't planned beforehand. I just asked around the department in early September and found someone who was willing to take on a student. It was a little late to be asking, but not unheard of and it worked out and turned into a really solid thesis for me.

Posts: 13
Joined: Mon Sep 15, 2008 1:07 pm

Re: Little research experience

Postby Seen » Sat Sep 20, 2008 5:44 pm

No, it may not be to late. In fact I am required to some type of independent study for credit to finish my degree. It's too late to get credit for that this semester, but I should start looking around for something to do and maybe start working on that so I have something to report before application deadlines.

However, I still would appreciate any advice on how to pick schools to apply without knowing the strength of my application or knowing what I want to study.

Posts: 171
Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2007 6:42 pm

Re: Little research experience

Postby doom » Sun Sep 21, 2008 1:49 am

The University of Maryland is a good school that's pretty strong in almost all areas of physics. I decided not to go there, but it seemed like a great place to be if you want the opportunity to get involved in a variety of different fields at a high level.

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