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Conjecture as to my chances

Posted: Mon Sep 29, 2008 1:04 am
by Kaiser_Sose
Hi all,

New here, this being my first post.

I am junior at a state school in the U.S. Physics major of course with minors in math, biology and nanoscience.

I am starting to consider grad schools and one of the major schools that I'd like to get into is University of Maryland. I know, I know it has a prestigious program. Now I realize I'm about to ask something that as scientists and engineers you may be reluctant to give... an uneducated conjecture. I would like to have a better feeling as to my chances of getting into this program for Ph.D.

My GPA currently is 3.6, though I hope/plan to get it up to 3.7-3.8 by fall of senior year. It will be a feat I know. I am currently doing my first work for a professor in computational nanoscience. Specifically transport and mechanical properties of various carbon allotropes. It's a paid honors fellowship. I'm presenting at a conference this fall, and hopefully something publishable will arise from the work. I'm our local SPS president, and a Sigma Pi Sigma member.

As for other credentials, I'm not sure what counts. I'm in a class now where I am one of two undergrads, all the rest grad students, and I took a solid state class where I was one in a handful.

The GRE frightens me, I don't know what I will get or what is considered adequate for a school of this caliber, though I plan to study feverishly for it all next summer and next fall.

Thanks to those who run this site it's awesome and thanks to those who may answer my query.

Re: Conjecture as to my chances

Posted: Tue Sep 30, 2008 11:26 am
by grae313
Kaiser_Sose wrote:Hi all,

New here, this being my first post.

I am junior at a state school in the U.S. Physics major of course with minors in math, biology and nanoscience.

I am starting to consider grad schools and one of the major schools that I'd like to get into is University of Maryland. I know, I know it has a prestigious program. Now I realize I'm about to ask something that as scientists and engineers you may be reluctant to give... an uneducated conjecture. I would like to have a better feeling as to my chances of getting into this program for Ph.D.

My GPA currently is 3.6, though I hope/plan to get it up to 3.7-3.8 by fall of senior year. It will be a feat I know. I am currently doing my first work for a professor in computational nanoscience. Specifically transport and mechanical properties of various carbon allotropes. It's a paid honors fellowship. I'm presenting at a conference this fall, and hopefully something publishable will arise from the work. I'm our local SPS president, and a Sigma Pi Sigma member.

As for other credentials, I'm not sure what counts. I'm in a class now where I am one of two undergrads, all the rest grad students, and I took a solid state class where I was one in a handful.

The GRE frightens me, I don't know what I will get or what is considered adequate for a school of this caliber, though I plan to study feverishly for it all next summer and next fall.

Thanks to those who run this site it's awesome and thanks to those who may answer my query.


from http://www.gradschoolshopper.com, the average PGRE for incoming Maryland students last year was 760. What sort of undergraduate institution are you attending? If your institution has a good reputation, then your gpa will look good considering your transcript reflects an overall challenging courseload. Your research looks good. Keep doing research from now until the day you graduate, during the semesters and during the summer. Publications aren't everything but they are a great feather in your cap.

Re: Conjecture as to my chances

Posted: Tue Sep 30, 2008 11:04 pm
by Kaiser_Sose
Unfortunately, I'm from a small (>20,000) state school with a small physics dept. Like real small. Most of my physics classes above the 100 (read freshmen) level, have under a dozen students. I feel really good about my education, that is I feel like I've learned a great deal even though we're a small dept. Most of our profs I think are high quality.

I plan to continue doing research as long as possible. Though I am concerned that having all my research in computational nanoscience will pigeon-hole me into doing computational nanoscience later on. I like it, don't get me wrong, and I'm not ruling out. Its just that I have other interests too.

Is being from a nowhere department a real disadvantage ?

Thanks

Re: Conjecture as to my chances

Posted: Sat Oct 04, 2008 11:41 pm
by Kaiser_Sose
Also are there any math classes that are expected/desired by a physics department like University of Maryland ? I've taken Calc 1-3 and I'm in Diff EQ now.

I'm not trying to hedge my bets on this one school, I just don't want to feel like I missed any ways to improve my chances of getting in.

Thanks again.

Re: Conjecture as to my chances

Posted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 4:08 am
by zxcv
Some sort of Mathematical Methods class usually rounds out the math background of most undergrad physics majors, so I would take that if it's available. Otherwise, you can always pile on the math courses if you think they might be helpful toward your interests, but don't take them just to take more math classes. Usual recommendations include linear algebra (duh), partial differential equations, complex analysis, numerical methods, abstract algebra, and so forth.

It may hurt your application a little bit, but plenty of people from no-name schools get into great grad schools. One thing that may help is if you can do research at a place with a strong reputation, with well known researchers who can write your strong letters of recommendation. NSF REUs are definitely worth considering for next summer. Just be sure to apply for plenty (and consider contacting profs directly, too) because they are very competitive.

Re: Conjecture as to my chances

Posted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 7:42 pm
by Kaiser_Sose
Jeez, that's quite a few more courses than I was planning to take. I considering PDE, but that was all I was really thinking about taking in the realm of math courses. My bio minor takes up quite a bit of space, are all those sort of courses really considered necessary/a big plus ?

Thanks

Re: Conjecture as to my chances

Posted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 7:47 pm
by grae313
The necessary math courses are linear algebra, ODEs, PDEs, and vector calc (although you can get away without vector calc because most of what you need is taught in your physics courses). I consider this bare minimum, and as a grad student at Cornell, I'm behind most of my peers who have had more math. In fact, just the other day my quantum prof was going on about residues and branch cuts like everyone in the class had taken complex analysis :cry:

Kaiser_Sose wrote:Jeez, that's quite a few more courses than I was planning to take. I considering PDE, but that was all I was really thinking about taking in the realm of math courses. My bio minor takes up quite a bit of space, are all those sort of courses really considered necessary/a big plus ?

Thanks

Re: Conjecture as to my chances

Posted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 7:55 pm
by Kaiser_Sose
Linear algebra? Really? I really didn't want to take it because I feel like I already know most it and at my school it is four credit hour class that is always at 8:00am ! Complex analysis huh ? Gag. I've taken vector calc though, no worries there I guess.

Re: Conjecture as to my chances

Posted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 9:46 pm
by zxcv
The subjects grae313 suggests are the important to understand, but probably not at the level (or in the manner) in which they are taught in a math department. Obviously, if you can get through a full upper division quantum mechanics course, you've probably learned enough linear algebra that you can get away without taking the course. But it's still a pretty good idea to have because everyone else really will have taken it and it shouldn't be hard after all that physics.

I never took ODEs, PDEs or complex analysis, instead relying on a comprehensive math methods course in the physics department. I think that worked out okay, because what's important at the end is that you can look these methods up, not necessarily present their proofs.

Re: Conjecture as to my chances

Posted: Mon Oct 06, 2008 2:54 pm
by noojens
grae313 wrote:In fact, just the other day my quantum prof was going on about residues and branch cuts like everyone in the class had taken complex analysis :cry:

Word, I had no idea what he was rambling about. Even my friend with a master's in math hadn't a clue. :(

Re: the math dilemma, I did a math major and haven't found much of my coursework beneficial in grad school thus far. If your physics department has a mathematical methods course, either at the undergrad or grad level, I'd say start there. It'll at least give you a basic familiarity with power series, special functions, PDE's, tensor analysis, linear algebra (in the language of physics, which will be hugely more beneficial than the linear algebra you might take in the math department), and so on.

Good luck!

Re: Conjecture as to my chances

Posted: Mon Oct 06, 2008 8:13 pm
by Kaiser_Sose
Well that stinks. My dept offers a math methods course, but only in the summer ! And at $300+ a credit hour for summer classes that none of my scholarships count towards, that probably precludes me taking them. I suppose I could audit them, but then that would defeat the purpose it being on my transcript. I guess at least I would know it... a little.

Re: Conjecture as to my chances

Posted: Tue Oct 07, 2008 7:03 pm
by calphys
I'd be awfully surprised if any number of these math classes on your transcript made even a bit of difference for your admissions chances. What is at stake, though, is how well your first year will go after you start grad school. I didn't see what field you're planning to get into, but if you want to take QFT, for example, complex analysis (or at least the basics of it -- Cauchy's integral formula, analytic continuation, etc) is a necessity. So I'd suggest auditing some kind of math. methods course, at the least, since a year from now the point will really not have been for the course to go on your transcript.

Re: Conjecture as to my chances

Posted: Tue Oct 07, 2008 9:04 pm
by Kaiser_Sose
I had considered that very thing today: auditing an analysis/complex analysis course just to get a handle on the material. At least then I would have some idea of that sort of thing. My only worry was that it not being on my transcript if it was something necessary. I saw on some profiles of grad schools at gradschoolshopper.com that a little over half of the ones I looked at said that complex analysis and PDE were considered required. But if it's not weighed that heavily relative to something else I guess I'll do it.

I'm ashamed to say I haven't figured out what QFT means. My primary interest areas I suppose would classed under biophysics and condensed matter. I think sonoluminescence is cool too even though it got black-sheeped after that guy at Purdue.

Re: Conjecture as to my chances

Posted: Wed Oct 08, 2008 11:22 am
by noojens
calphys wrote:I'd be awfully surprised if any number of these math classes on your transcript made even a bit of difference for your admissions chances. What is at stake, though, is how well your first year will go after you start grad school.

Indeed. Don't take more math to improve your chances of getting in; one more math class won't even be a blip on the radar. Take it for the sake of your sanity once you hit grad school.

Re: Conjecture as to my chances

Posted: Fri Oct 10, 2008 5:18 am
by WontonBurritoMeals
God. I'm already getting that as a math major undergrad.

I remember when I was looking at a Lorentzian combined with a Gaussian function for whatever reason. I mean, I've seen erf and erfi in classes and when I make errors in Mathematica, but I'm not real intimate with them. Just one of a few times where people looked at me like I was a moron. I'm not a complete *** idiot. Just the run-of-the-mill type.

May the wind be always at your back,
-WontonBurritoMeals

Re: Conjecture as to my chances

Posted: Mon Oct 13, 2008 10:18 pm
by Kaiser_Sose
I'm afraid I followed about zero of the above.