Discussion of 2009 Profiles

  • This has become our largest and most active forum because the physics GRE is just one aspect of getting accepted into a graduate physics program.
  • There are applications, personal statements, letters of recommendation, visiting schools, anxiety of waiting for acceptances, deciding between schools, finding out where others are going, etc.

WakkaDojo
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby WakkaDojo » Fri Feb 20, 2009 10:47 am

aleph wrote:That is exactly my concern. I underestimated the importance of the PGRE. I should've quit doing research for a couple of months and studied more for it. I was unaware that the average income PGRE's schools post, does not reflect the average for internationals.


Nah, would have been a waste of your time. Your score is high enough.

nonick
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby nonick » Fri Feb 20, 2009 11:26 am

aleph wrote:That is exactly my concern. I underestimated the importance of the PGRE. I should've quit doing research for a couple of months and studied more for it. I was unaware that the average income PGRE's schools post, does not reflect the average for internationals.

You went to an US school, so you are not really considered as international. Especially for the private schools, I think you are considered on an equal basis as the domestic students. So seriously stop worrying, you will be getting into places.

aleph
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby aleph » Fri Feb 20, 2009 3:22 pm

Thanks for clearing up those points of confusion for me, I fiercely hope you guys are right. Good luck to all of you.

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grae313
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby grae313 » Fri Feb 20, 2009 9:44 pm

ipercher, thanks for posting your profile. It's great to see people from different backgrounds having success like you are having! Congrats on your acceptances.

cato88
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby cato88 » Sat Feb 21, 2009 2:37 am

Is it just me or there more clean sweeps this year?

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Helio
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby Helio » Sat Feb 21, 2009 3:13 am

cato88 wrote:Is it just me or there more clean sweeps this year?


Wait for next week and the week after and then we can take guesses about clean sweeps

cato88
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby cato88 » Sat Feb 21, 2009 3:50 am

trani/dsperka/sterculus/T!m/jsd are either there or pretty much there and I would be willing to bet YF17A will. Others are close too like anerac,conunDrum,Unnatural Log,bryanwitha_y

cato88
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby cato88 » Sat Feb 21, 2009 3:54 am

It bodes well for people applying next year because the greater the overlap the more likely it is that the programs are not going to achieve below their usual yield rate unless the applicants can clone themselves to attend multiple schools. I have a feeling programs are going to underenroll which means there going to increase the amount of offers next year. Although this is too small a sample size but on the other hand schools only admit about 50 people which means it is not too small to infer from.

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Helio
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby Helio » Sat Feb 21, 2009 4:20 am

cato88 wrote:It bodes well for people applying next year because the greater the overlap the more likely it is that the programs are not going to achieve below their usual yield rate unless the applicants can clone themselves to attend multiple schools. I have a feeling programs are going to underenroll which means there going to increase the amount of offers next year. Although this is too small a sample size but on the other hand schools only admit about 50 people which means it is not too small to infer from.


may not the economy might tank more.... so there might be more people applying with less money out there

cato88
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby cato88 » Sat Feb 21, 2009 4:38 am

I think amount of physics applications wont change because the economy tanked due to a housing bust. There werent that many people foregoing grad schools for high paying jobs for 2009 class. There is also the fact that many people know it is hard to do much with a physics BS outside of a job bubble situation.

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Helio
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby Helio » Sat Feb 21, 2009 4:54 am

I dunno after 9/11 the applications went up the year after and not before.... some people go into business with a Physics BS... I know a couple of those

cato88
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby cato88 » Sat Feb 21, 2009 5:04 am

To go into business you usually have to show some inclination for business in the form of internships/bus.courses but these things do not aid your grad school application and in a way detract because your not doing research and it becomes pretty obvious physics PhD is not your first choice path nor is it the best path (One-Two years for an MBA with less stringent admissions based on GMAT which is abit like GRE as opposed to taking PGRE and spending 5-6 years for a PhD). If you are seriously interested in Business you would have to be retarded to pursue a Physics PhD instead of an MBA. The 9/11 rise might be due to people's fear of a draft after 9/11 or some other reason since it was not a particular bad economy or at least not as bad as 2008 which did not have a huge spike.

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Helio
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby Helio » Sat Feb 21, 2009 5:26 am

cato88 wrote:To go into business you usually have to show some inclination for business in the form of internships/bus.courses but these things do not aid your grad school application and in a way detract because your not doing research and it becomes pretty obvious physics PhD is not your first choice path nor is it the best path (One-Two years for an MBA with less stringent admissions based on GMAT which is abit like GRE as opposed to taking PGRE and spending 5-6 years for a PhD). If you are seriously interested in Business you would have to be retarded to pursue a Physics PhD instead of an MBA. The 9/11 rise might be due to people's fear of a draft after 9/11 or some other reason since it was not a particular bad economy or at least not as bad as 2008 which did not have a huge spike.


really? so people with an MBA are better at business.... oddly enough most CEOs have degrees in Engineering/Science (trends are changing now, but still). The CEO of the 3rd largest software company in the world has a PhD in Physics and teaches part-time... as an exceptional example, but still shows that a Physics PhD can lead to somewhere else than a lab. Business is about being able so solve problems and I hope as a Physicist I have learned to do that exceptionally well. I hate all this talk how physicists can't do anything else but physics. I have met PhDs that have gone into business (McKinsey & Co., Siemens, etc) some even gives talk about it.

sterculus
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby sterculus » Sat Feb 21, 2009 2:18 pm

Yeah, going into business with a physics degree has been somewhat common in the past from my school. I think that there are certain industries (banking and consulting come to mind) that love to hire physicists, and then of course engineering and related pursuits. Recently here the trend has been strongly towards grad school with maybe a couple years off in between, but we're a small and odd department.

On the topic of clean sweeps - it does seem like I applied to to many schools now (ah well, hindsight is always 20/20). My feeling has been that Stanford/Harvard are the two schools that I have the lowest chance to get into - so we'll see.

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Helio
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby Helio » Sat Feb 21, 2009 2:23 pm

sterculus wrote:Yeah, going into business with a physics degree has been somewhat common in the past from my school. I think that there are certain industries (banking and consulting come to mind) that love to hire physicists, and then of course engineering and related pursuits. Recently here the trend has been strongly towards grad school with maybe a couple years off in between, but we're a small and odd department.

On the topic of clean sweeps - it does seem like I applied to to many schools now (ah well, hindsight is always 20/20). My feeling has been that Stanford/Harvard are the two schools that I have the lowest chance to get into - so we'll see.



I hope you do remember that stanford has yet to publish any results in physics or applied physics... you will know about that next week...

sterculus
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby sterculus » Sat Feb 21, 2009 2:26 pm

Helio wrote:I hope you do remember that stanford has yet to publish any results in physics or applied physics... you will know about that next week...


Yeah I know - I meant that I've felt that I was really reaching for Stanford trying to justify why their department is a good fit for my research interests (as opposed to some of the top programs I've already been accepted at, where that was a much easier sell). We'll see...

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Helio
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby Helio » Sat Feb 21, 2009 2:35 pm

sterculus wrote:
Helio wrote:I hope you do remember that stanford has yet to publish any results in physics or applied physics... you will know about that next week...


Yeah I know - I meant that I've felt that I was really reaching for Stanford trying to justify why their department is a good fit for my research interests (as opposed to some of the top programs I've already been accepted at, where that was a much easier sell). We'll see...



even if i get into stanford (who am kiddin).... i might not go (i know shocking), if i have to stick with the research I do it would the death an academic career

cato88
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby cato88 » Sat Feb 21, 2009 3:46 pm

Helio wrote:oddly enough most CEOs have degrees in Engineering/Science (trends are changing now, but still).

This is obviously not true.


Helio wrote:really? so people with an MBA are better at business....

Nope not at all but business is about Networking outside of making your own company and growing it from the ground up.
That is why people go to get an MBA to learn the specifics of running a company and networking both things your not getting in a Physics PhD program. The fact that CEO's are getting paid so much despite managing failing company shows this because it is only possible because the CEO's know all the members of the board of directors(Went to the same business school whatever). There are companies that have PhD in science in managing roles but these are Science companies started by PhD's in science. Outside of Biotech alot of the tech companies eventually put MBA in those roles (Bartz for Yahoo/Cook for Apple). Some of these people have BS in science but alot of those did exactly what I suggested if they are seriously interested in business and went to an MBA program instead a science PhD.

The part of a business for solving problems is usually referred to as Research and Development.

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Helio
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby Helio » Sat Feb 21, 2009 4:15 pm

cato88 wrote:
Helio wrote:oddly enough most CEOs have degrees in Engineering/Science (trends are changing now, but still).

This is obviously not true.


Helio wrote:really? so people with an MBA are better at business....

Nope not at all but business is about Networking outside of making your own company and growing it from the ground up.
That is why people go to get an MBA to learn the specifics of running a company and networking both things your not getting in a Physics PhD program. The fact that CEO's are getting paid so much despite managing failing company shows this because it is only possible because the CEO's know all the members of the board of directors(Went to the same business school whatever). There are companies that have PhD in science in managing roles but these are Science companies started by PhD's in science. Outside of Biotech alot of the tech companies eventually put MBA in those roles (Bartz for Yahoo/Cook for Apple). Some of these people have BS in science but alot of those did exactly what I suggested if they are seriously interested in business and went to an MBA program instead a science PhD.

The part of a business for solving problems is usually referred to as Research and Development.


The connections are more frats than anything else really not the MBA program, if you haven't seen the stats about them.

you are trying to tell me that running a business is not like solving a problem? that R&D is the only part that solves problems?

cato88
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby cato88 » Sat Feb 21, 2009 4:47 pm

Helio wrote:The connections are more frats than anything else really not the MBA program, if you haven't seen the stats about them.

I doubt you could have stats about that because it is a smaller subset than MBA graduates. An MBA is supposed to prepare you for Business so that you can work in a management position and know the proper protocol and be useful to the company from day one. Why in the world would anyone hire a physics PhD they have to train over an MBA graduate which has proven business abilities though other might have potential. There are also more MBA graduates than physics PhD so there is no need to fill the gap with physics PhD. It is a lot like a mathematician who knows all the math background and has all the problem solving abilities to understand all of physics but do you think graduate schools should admit math students with no physics courses? Should you hire mathematicians to a mechanical engineering position if you have a a mechanical engineer applying for that same position. It is possible to be an exception to the rules but that usually requires knowing someone(Your dad is VP of blah).

Helio wrote: you are trying to tell me that running a business is not like solving a problem? that R&D is the only part that solves problems?

Solving a problem is such a vague notion. How do you market a brand like Apple is a problem that advertising executives work on. Any non trivial action could be though of the solution by your logic a physics PhD is the best preparation for any pursuit. R&D is the sector that solves problems that are the type that a science PhD program is preparing you for.

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Helio
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby Helio » Sat Feb 21, 2009 6:30 pm

cato88 wrote:
Helio wrote:The connections are more frats than anything else really not the MBA program, if you haven't seen the stats about them.

I doubt you could have stats about that because it is a smaller subset than MBA graduates. An MBA is supposed to prepare you for Business so that you can work in a management position and know the proper protocol and be useful to the company from day one. Why in the world would anyone hire a physics PhD they have to train over an MBA graduate which has proven business abilities though other might have potential. There are also more MBA graduates than physics PhD so there is no need to fill the gap with physics PhD. It is a lot like a mathematician who knows all the math background and has all the problem solving abilities to understand all of physics but do you think graduate schools should admit math students with no physics courses? Should you hire mathematicians to a mechanical engineering position if you have a a mechanical engineer applying for that same position. It is possible to be an exception to the rules but that usually requires knowing someone(Your dad is VP of blah).


Actually, finance and banking prefer people who have no clue what they are doing. I know for one that they will pay you for your CFA, MBA, etc. if they think you need it. There are a ton of people with a masters in physics and even phds that work for consultants (there was once a talk by a former Post doc at LBNL at the APS CA section meeting, who switched to McK and in his group he has PhDs in physics outweighing the MBAs and having more control), finance, bank (former teacher of mine had worked at Goldman Sachs and they paid his CFA, and MBA, he has a BSc/MSc from Cambridge), etc. because of the degree. they are eaten up. i know people who have gone into banking rather than getting a phd after their masters. people with logical thinking skills are preferred over the generic business MBA person. For example, the last phd student of my advisor went into finance in japan (he was chinese) and my advisor joked about how he would be making more money than he ever did. I have taken econ classes that are equivalent with MBA microeconomics courses and if that is the level, any econ major would outbeat MBA for a job. You also have to understand that a PhD requires some sort of stamina and that is what they are looking for as well somebody that sticks with it.


cato88 wrote:
Helio wrote: you are trying to tell me that running a business is not like solving a problem? that R&D is the only part that solves problems?

Solving a problem is such a vague notion. How do you market a brand like Apple is a problem that advertising executives work on. Any non trivial action could be though of the solution by your logic a physics PhD is the best preparation for any pursuit. R&D is the sector that solves problems that are the type that a science PhD program is preparing you for.


It is about logical thinking skills nothing else that create the problem solving skills of a science major. most problems even in business can be solved with logic. yes, it is fundamentally flawed but what isn't. A basic economics problem is actually not much different from the basic physics problem.

cato88
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby cato88 » Sat Feb 21, 2009 7:06 pm

The last post was too long to quote but I understand that there are areas in banking and finance were there are physics PhD outnumbering MBA. This area is the analytics/research division. However this only one out of many divisions for a bank/finance group unless there are a quantitative financial consulting group. In all the non R&D sectors of the business they are going to prefer MBA's for management positions. Most US analytical divisions are based in NYC, The Bay area and Connecticut which also leaves you with not that many living options. I also think that as the amount of Masters in Financial engineering programs increases physics PhD are going to get pushed out of the analytics division just like electrical engineers largely pushed out physicist from those positions.

Helio wrote:any econ major would outbeat MBA for a job

What is with the assumption that an MBA cannot be a econ major. You do not need a business degree to get into an MBA program. You could get a physics BS or Math BS and then go straight to an MBA. That is actually was what I was suggesting instead of a science PhD that if you are seriously interested in business get an MBA instead. Are really saying that if one science major goes to MBA and another goes to science PhD the latter is preferred in business event though the former has about at least 3 more years working experience(At least 5 years for PhD).

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Helio
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby Helio » Sat Feb 21, 2009 7:36 pm

You also have to realize that some people are not quite sure what they are getting themselves into. I know a bunch of students who were like yeah phd okay, but during the whole process they are like... do i want to do this for the rest of my life? so they change their mind. we are humans not machines. We will see what happens to financial engineers, its an emerging field.

Depends on the job, there are some where they want a tabula rasa, so they will pick the PhD. The MBA is a degree that highly depends on where you do it, not that you have it, unlike a PhD for the most part, so the PhD might be picked over the MBA.

cato88
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby cato88 » Sat Feb 21, 2009 7:50 pm

Helio wrote:Depends on the job, there are some where they want a tabula rasa, so they will pick the PhD. The MBA is a degree that highly depends on where you do it, not that you have it, unlike a PhD for the most part, so the PhD might be picked over the MBA.

I know an MBA degree depends highly on where you do it but the average science bachelor has an advantage at the GMAT and has the fact that top physics programs have an incoming class of about 20-40 where as the average incoming top MBA program has an incoming class at least ten times that size. The numbers are on your side.
An PhD at a top school might get picked over a state school MBA but not over a top school MBA for non-tech areas and as I said they are graduating ten times more top school MBA students than physics PhD's.

valloein
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby valloein » Sun Feb 22, 2009 3:14 am

unstudmaddu wrote:hi
can somebody please comment on my profile.... i think i have over-reached big time
my scores are good (1600 gre and 990 agre)... but no publications and not that great a gpa
plus the fact that i am an indian so i guess conditions would be more stringent

feedback please!!.......thnx



international --> cornell , that ??!!?? 0_0
:( :(

michael
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby michael » Thu Feb 26, 2009 7:46 pm

Hey, I got into Penn, but not any of the other places I am applying - I am trying to work out if I should go to Penn or take a year out and reapply. I'd love some advice on the matter! I have just posted up my profile, but here it is anyway to make things easier:

Undergrad Institution: Cambridge England, good rep for physics
Major(s): Physics
Minor(s): Dont have that concept
GPA in Major: 1st (UK system)
Overall GPA: 1st (UK system)
Length of Degree: 5 years, but with an M.Sci - most people get it after 4 though
Position in Class: Top third or quarter
Type of Student: International (irish + british)
GRE Scores:
Q: 790 (92nd%)
V: 510 (64th%)
W: 4.0 (36th%)
P: 870 (84th%)


TOEFL Total: didnt need

Research Experience: Queens university belfast (aero engineering), ETH zurich (astrophysics) both about 2-3 months. No publications, not yet at least - some possibility of future publication

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: Really just stuff for getting good grades in cambridge

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: Tutored a lot during high school but not really since

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help:

[b]Special Bonus Points: Probably not enough of these - I opted for less well known recommenders who know me well. This may not have been such a good idea in hindsight! Had secured a scholarship for Penn which pays everything for first two years. This is completely independent of the department, and i had been offered the scholarship before they offered me the place (and they knew about the scholarship).

[b]Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter:the fact I left cambridge for a year may be a bit dodgy since it doesn't happen often

[u]Cornell - CME - rejceted
[u]Harvard - CME - rejected
[u]Princeton - CME - rejceted
[u]Stanford - CME - rejected
[u]UPenn - CME - accepted (not sure if I am gonna go or not yet)

With all the rejections I feel like I may have been punching above my weight with the top four on my list, I'm not sure. I am considering reapplying next year, but all I can feasibly do is improve my GRE score, and possibly get a publication or at most two. Is there much point in this? I don't mind taking the time out, infact I would quite like to, but how much better are the other four places than UPenn anyway (I am definately considering CMT instead of CME by the way)?

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G01
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby G01 » Thu Feb 26, 2009 9:06 pm

michael wrote:Hey, I got into Penn, but not any of the other places I am applying - I am trying to work out if I should go to Penn or take a year out and reapply. I'd love some advice on the matter! I have just posted up my profile, but here it is anyway to make things easier:

With all the rejections I feel like I may have been punching above my weight with the top four on my list, I'm not sure. I am considering reapplying next year, but all I can feasibly do is improve my GRE score, and possibly get a publication or at most two. Is there much point in this? I don't mind taking the time out, infact I would quite like to, but how much better are the other four places than UPenn anyway (I am definately considering CMT instead of CME by the way)?


UPenn is ranked in the top 15 for physics grad school and is one of the more prestigious schools in the US. If your goal is to forego going to Penn in order to try again for Harvard Stanford etc. , I say no. Penn is a great school and no one is assured a spot at the top 5, no matter what your GPA or GRE are.

I think waiting a year wouldn't be worth it.

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dlenmn
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby dlenmn » Thu Feb 26, 2009 10:01 pm

Like G01 said, UPenn is a good school -- it would be silly to turn it down out of hand. You should take a look at their research and see if you like it.

IIRC, they have very strong research in soft CME. They also have some interesting hard CME research (IMHO, Charlie Johnson does some really neat stuff, as does Jay Kikkawa). I know nothing about their CMT research. However, they didn't have CME people doing quantum computing (although I do think they have a theory group doing CM/QC), which is what I was interested in, so I ended up turning them down last year (it was a close call). Do you know what subfield of CM interests you?

t!m
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby t!m » Fri Feb 27, 2009 2:16 am

Just to chime in (Penn is one of my top choices right now), their CM specialty is very much in soft matter. Some of the CME has been mentioned, but their soft CMT is very good as well, with 4-5 researchers in soft CMT. Specifically, Tom Lubensky is one of the leading founders and contributors to modern soft CMT and David Nelson is a well known biophysicist. As dlenmn said, they also have two faculty members doing quantum CMT (Kane and Mele) if that interests you more. I think G01's comment is most important here, in that no one is guaranteed a spot at a top-5 program, so be very prepared if you decide to wait a year.

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noojens
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby noojens » Fri Feb 27, 2009 11:14 am

Can you defer admission for a year? Then you can reapply to your top schools, but still have Penn as a "safety."

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secander2!
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby secander2! » Fri Feb 27, 2009 11:23 am

I don't know for sure, but I think a deferral means that you're "definitely" coming to their school next year. Of course as long as you don't sign a contract, you could still probably reject them when next year comes around and you get into a "better" school, but I would guess that this would be viewed as highly unethical and it's even possible that the department would let other schools know of your behavior. To be ethical, you could tell them that you're keeping them as a safety while applying to other schools next year and it's possible that they would allow it, but my guess is that at best, they would seriously frown on this, and at worst, they would make you reapply next year like everybody else.

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dlenmn
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby dlenmn » Fri Feb 27, 2009 2:26 pm

Yes, if you defer, that means you agree to attend the school, just you'll be starting later.

michael
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby michael » Sun Mar 01, 2009 9:53 am

Hey thanks for your comments everybody. I am going to visit the US pretty soon - and I am gonna go to the schools I applied to (yes including all those that rejected me!) and a few others besides. If I love somewhere way more than Penn, I will take a year out and reapply. If I wanna go to Penn, I will see if they let me defer entry, and go there next year - then I can take a year out without all the hassle of doing the GRE exams and stuff again, so I can spend the year the way I want to! So either way, I am going to try to take a year out.

I am really excited about making this trip anyway - I just wish more of the cost had been offset by universities inviting me for open house days!

Good luck everyone with everything,

michael

mhazelm
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby mhazelm » Tue Mar 03, 2009 7:55 pm

hey guys, I want your advice. I haven't had any good news with any universities I applied to yet. Can you tell me what I should try to improve to get into schools like UCSB and Penn State? I don't know if I am overshooting - I thought I was a good applicant sans GRE scores. Maybe I am missing something important. Here's a summary:

Numbers:
- I have a 3.7 GPA, 3.7-ish in Math and 3.9 in Physics, unranked state school.
- PGRE - about 20th percentile on the PGRE :cry:
- QGRE - got under 700 (it's a fluke, just didn't have $ to redo yet)
- VGRE - 590

Research:
- NSF REU analyzing lithium hydrides.
- 1 summer in Germany doing medical physics project - designed phantom to simulate human capillaries in brain.
- 1 summer research at NASA JSC, on amorphization of lunar dust grains by solar wind.
- Currently in second year of extensive research on gravity related project with a math professor and theoretical physics professor at my school. It's all math and general relativity.

Publications and Presentations:
- LOTS of presentations. About 5 from the NSF REU at student conferences. About 5 from the NASA work, including 2 at national meetings. 2 on my current work (one at my school and next month I'm talking at a gravity meeting specifically).
- 2 pseudo-publications: national conference abstracts from the NASA work.

Awards:
College of Science Undergraduate Researcher of the Year at my school
Rhodes Scholar finalist
Undergrad research fellowship (almost $10k) from my school for my work in gen. relativity
Goldwater Hon. mention
bunch of smaller scholarships
4-year scholarship from my school

What else can I do, besides retake the GREs and hope for better? Is it because I have no real publications, or does my research seem to non-conventional or something? What advice can you sages give?

admissionprof
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby admissionprof » Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:07 pm

mhazelm wrote:hey guys, I want your advice. I haven't had any good news with any universities I applied to yet. Can you tell me what I should try to improve to get into schools like UCSB and Penn State? I don't know if I am overshooting - I thought I was a good applicant sans GRE scores. Maybe I am missing something important. Here's a summary:

Numbers:
- I have a 3.7 GPA, 3.7-ish in Math and 3.9 in Physics, unranked state school.
- PGRE - about 20th percentile on the PGRE :cry:
- QGRE - got under 700 (it's a fluke, just didn't have $ to redo yet)
- VGRE - 590

Research:
- NSF REU analyzing lithium hydrides.
- 1 summer in Germany doing medical physics project - designed phantom to simulate human capillaries in brain.
- 1 summer research at NASA JSC, on amorphization of lunar dust grains by solar wind.
- Currently in second year of extensive research on gravity related project with a math professor and theoretical physics professor at my school. It's all math and general relativity.

Publications and Presentations:
- LOTS of presentations. About 5 from the NSF REU at student conferences. About 5 from the NASA work, including 2 at national meetings. 2 on my current work (one at my school and next month I'm talking at a gravity meeting specifically).
- 2 pseudo-publications: national conference abstracts from the NASA work.

Awards:
College of Science Undergraduate Researcher of the Year at my school
Rhodes Scholar finalist
Undergrad research fellowship (almost $10k) from my school for my work in gen. relativity
Goldwater Hon. mention
bunch of smaller scholarships
4-year scholarship from my school

What else can I do, besides retake the GREs and hope for better? Is it because I have no real publications, or does my research seem to non-conventional or something? What advice can you sages give?



My sense, looking at your profile, is that the PGRE was the real killer. For someone wanting to do mathematical or gravitational physics, people want to see a higher PGRE and QGRE. Nonetheless, there are many, many institutions that will accept students with lower PGRE/QGRE scores--UCSB is quite a stretch though. I would think you have a decent chance at Milwaukee (which is pretty decent in gravitational physics, IIRC). You might have been better off applying to more safety schools, and not emphasizing that you want to do gravitational physics.

Don't give up. There a likely to be a lot of good schools that have spaces opening up in mid-April. But don't go for the top 20. Aim for the 30-60 range. In mid-April, if you haven't gotten in anywhere, e-mail a couple of dozen schools in that group and ask them if they have spots. Include your info (ALL of it) and say that you're willing to rush an application to them. Every so often, schools get a much lower yield than expected (one year, Santa Cruz wanted 12 and got 3), and that might be more likely this year with so many students applying to a dozen or more places.

Good luck

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noojens
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby noojens » Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:37 pm

admissionprof wrote:My sense, looking at your profile, is that the PGRE was the real killer. For someone wanting to do mathematical or gravitational physics, people want to see a higher PGRE and QGRE. Nonetheless, there are many, many institutions that will accept students with lower PGRE/QGRE scores--UCSB is quite a stretch though. I would think you have a decent chance at Milwaukee (which is pretty decent in gravitational physics, IIRC). You might have been better off applying to more safety schools, and not emphasizing that you want to do gravitational physics.

Don't give up. There a likely to be a lot of good schools that have spaces opening up in mid-April. But don't go for the top 20. Aim for the 30-60 range. In mid-April, if you haven't gotten in anywhere, e-mail a couple of dozen schools in that group and ask them if they have spots. Include your info (ALL of it) and say that you're willing to rush an application to them. Every so often, schools get a much lower yield than expected (one year, Santa Cruz wanted 12 and got 3), and that might be more likely this year with so many students applying to a dozen or more places.

Good luck

Milwaukee does indeed have a good gravity group! Several faculty work with the LIGO collaboration, others do relativistic astrophysics - check 'em out here. It's a strong group in an otherwise little-known university (and also happens to be my alma mater!). Milwaukee is a cool town, too - great music scene and plenty of beer. :) PM me if you'd like any info, mhazelm.

mhazelm
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby mhazelm » Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:50 pm

I'm glad everyone has good things to say about Milwaukee!! I applied there this year and it's the only place I am thinking I have a chance at this point. My only worry is if I decide later (like a year into grad school) that I don't want to do gravity, are they strong enough in other areas?

Also - with regards to hurting my chances by emphasizing my desire to do theory - how can I change this next time? I don't want to make myself sound like an experimentalist in my applications next year (if I do this again next year) because it would basically be fraudulent information (I am more known for breaking equipment then measuring with it - :lol:), but I am really open minded to other fields - I just don't want to be too experimental. I am interested in anything with nice math (nice meaning things like tensors and groups and manifolds). Is gravity sort of the high-end of theory, or are all the theory fields the same in their expectations of applicants? (i.e. if I change to a different field of theory or just say 'undecided' theory, will it make a difference? should I lie and say I'm just totally undecided overall)?

admissionprof
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby admissionprof » Tue Mar 03, 2009 9:00 pm

mhazelm wrote:I'm glad everyone has good things to say about Milwaukee!! I applied there this year and it's the only place I am thinking I have a chance at this point. My only worry is if I decide later (like a year into grad school) that I don't want to do gravity, are they strong enough in other areas?

Also - with regards to hurting my chances by emphasizing my desire to do theory - how can I change this next time? I don't want to make myself sound like an experimentalist in my applications next year (if I do this again next year) because it would basically be fraudulent information (I am more known for breaking equipment then measuring with it - :lol:), but I am really open minded to other fields - I just don't want to be too experimental. I am interested in anything with nice math (nice meaning things like tensors and groups and manifolds). Is gravity sort of the high-end of theory, or are all the theory fields the same in their expectations of applicants? (i.e. if I change to a different field of theory or just say 'undecided' theory, will it make a difference? should I lie and say I'm just totally undecided overall)?


No, don't lie and say you're undecided. Mention that you're interested in theory, but that you're open to all sorts of theory--gravity is generally considered high end.

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grae313
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby grae313 » Tue Mar 03, 2009 11:48 pm

mhazelm wrote:What else can I do, besides retake the GREs and hope for better? Is it because I have no real publications, or does my research seem to non-conventional or something? What advice can you sages give?


I think your GREs were clearly the killer. If you think these scores were really a fluke, and you could get QGRE to at least the high 700s and PGRE above 60% or so, I think you should try again next year. I think you would have a much, much better shot at top 20 schools--especially if your letters of recommendation are really strong.

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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby mhazelm » Wed Mar 04, 2009 12:41 am

I am both relieved and worried that it's probably just GRE scores. Relieved because I have a second shot, but worried because I get so sick with anxiety just thinking about taking the GRE again that I almost lose my dinner... and yeah, when I took the general GRE I was so sick with anxiety that I threw up midway through the test. It's crazy (physics tests in my classes don't make me sick)!

And also, it sucks that one stupid test can ruin 4 years of hard work. If I'd known then I might as well have spent the time screwing around and getting crappy grades, but acing the PGRE. At my school we were told for the last few years that the physics GRE is an outdated test and that most schools don't weigh it heavily. I have now learned that this is completely wrong!!! This time I will actually study :roll: and not just three weeks in advance, either!!

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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby astrofan » Wed Mar 04, 2009 2:59 am

mhazelm wrote:I am both relieved and worried that it's probably just GRE scores. Relieved because I have a second shot, but worried because I get so sick with anxiety just thinking about taking the GRE again that I almost lose my dinner... and yeah, when I took the general GRE I was so sick with anxiety that I threw up midway through the test. It's crazy (physics tests in my classes don't make me sick)!

And also, it sucks that one stupid test can ruin 4 years of hard work. If I'd known then I might as well have spent the time screwing around and getting crappy grades, but acing the PGRE. At my school we were told for the last few years that the physics GRE is an outdated test and that most schools don't weigh it heavily. I have now learned that this is completely wrong!!! This time I will actually study :roll: and not just three weeks in advance, either!!


As usual, admissionprof gives good advice. Seems like you have to do pretty well on both GREs to get into top 20 schools, especially for theory.

I encountered the same reaction to PGRE at my school; I mentioned in another thread that there seems to be a major difference between the ways professors at elite schools look at PGRE and professors at other schools.

Just a piece of advice; if you take a year off, try to narrow your interests. You said you are interested in gravity; just try to make sure of that. During my year off, I read up on different areas of astrophysics, and decided on a couple areas of observational cosmology that I really wanted to work on. You can apply to smaller schools this way and the PGRE will be less important. I didn't really improve my PGRE after a year so the top schools are out of reach, but it is not nearly as big a deal for me this year.

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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby Theoretischer » Tue Mar 10, 2009 10:35 pm

mhazelm,

This is a really complicated issue with a lot of factors but here is my take:

You want to do theoretical work involving differential geometry and group theory, so tell people that.

What makes a successful person is someone who can identify their goals and will pursue them no matter what it takes. You have been very successful so far judging by your record indicating you are either very motivated, very stubborn, or both. Do not let test scores or admission results discourage you. Just pursue what you love and spend as much time doing it as possible. You need to be good at what you do. That means you need to focus on it. There are countless cases of people getting PhDs at lesser known schools and becoming professors at top 20.

What it comes down to is how ready and willing you are to take your education, your career, and your choices into your own hands. Professors are an aide and a guide, not a golden ticket. If you talk to people to help narrow your interests, (starting with gravity wouldn't be a bad place, pick up Carroll's book and give it a whirl, it is very readable for undergrads) identify them, then there is nothing holding you back. Use arxiv, spires, etc... to get papers and read them. It is very difficult at first! Reading papers is a skill that comes with practice, but after a month or two it will become much easier. Try to research people in the field as you go (google authors of papers and of paper references to see what they do), if you think they are neat, email them discussing their work and you will develop professional connections in no time which will mean much more in the long run than any test score.

Sorry this is long, but it saddens me you are getting discouraged. You have a lot of great experience and accomplishments. UCSB states on their admissions website that they will reject people with a PGRE<some number, so it is not personal that they rejected you. It does not matter as much where you go, but what you do. You can collaborate with many people in many places when you are ready, even UCSB if that is your dream institution, but you need to be willing to put in the time and effort, which I have no doubts you are.

Don't sell yourself short, in less than ten years you learned how to use calculus to model particle motion and classical field behavior. Imagine what you will accomplish in the next ten years. With a positive attitude and some determination the possibilities are limitless.

cato88
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby cato88 » Tue Mar 10, 2009 11:02 pm

Theoretischer wrote: UCSB states on their admissions website that they will reject people with a PGRE<some number, so it is not personal that they rejected you.

For a second there I thought this would mean a lower percentage of female graduate students but apparently not
15% to UCSD/Princeton 's 14-15% and I suppose slightly lower than Caltech/StonyBrook 18-19% but all schools are lower than the record 27% for physics at Harvard.

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quizivex
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby quizivex » Tue Mar 17, 2009 7:26 pm

Wow I was just browsing the profile thread and there's really an awesome variety of applicants. For those of you who applied this year but haven't posted, I encourage you to add your profile because it'll be a valuable resource for future classes. :D

mhazelm
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby mhazelm » Sat Mar 21, 2009 6:30 pm

Theoretischer wrote:mhazelm,

This is a really complicated issue with a lot of factors but here is my take:

You want to do theoretical work involving differential geometry and group theory, so tell people that.

What makes a successful person is someone who can identify their goals and will pursue them no matter what it takes. You have been very successful so far judging by your record indicating you are either very motivated, very stubborn, or both. Do not let test scores or admission results discourage you. Just pursue what you love and spend as much time doing it as possible. You need to be good at what you do. That means you need to focus on it. There are countless cases of people getting PhDs at lesser known schools and becoming professors at top 20.

What it comes down to is how ready and willing you are to take your education, your career, and your choices into your own hands. Professors are an aide and a guide, not a golden ticket. If you talk to people to help narrow your interests, (starting with gravity wouldn't be a bad place, pick up Carroll's book and give it a whirl, it is very readable for undergrads) identify them, then there is nothing holding you back. Use arxiv, spires, etc... to get papers and read them. It is very difficult at first! Reading papers is a skill that comes with practice, but after a month or two it will become much easier. Try to research people in the field as you go (google authors of papers and of paper references to see what they do), if you think they are neat, email them discussing their work and you will develop professional connections in no time which will mean much more in the long run than any test score.

Sorry this is long, but it saddens me you are getting discouraged. You have a lot of great experience and accomplishments. UCSB states on their admissions website that they will reject people with a PGRE<some number, so it is not personal that they rejected you. It does not matter as much where you go, but what you do. You can collaborate with many people in many places when you are ready, even UCSB if that is your dream institution, but you need to be willing to put in the time and effort, which I have no doubts you are.

Don't sell yourself short, in less than ten years you learned how to use calculus to model particle motion and classical field behavior. Imagine what you will accomplish in the next ten years. With a positive attitude and some determination the possibilities are limitless.


Hey, thank you for your response - it is very, very encouraging! I won't give up. I think I was being a bit near-sighted about getting into a "Top X" school, and it was all rankings, rankings, numbers, tests, blah. I have decided that I want to study gravity because I love the subject (mostly, I love the elegant mathematics that fall into it), not because becoming a professor is my only objective in life... I think I just need to remember that it is less important where I learn it, so long as I really, really learn it, and to keep a sense of gratitude, too - someone is going to pay me to study the thing that makes my heart beat extra fast! And even if an academic career doesn't pan out eventually, having had the opportunity to study something that makes me so happy is a wonderful thing. I am thankful to have this opportunity, and am prepared to work as hard as necessary to accomplish my goals (I'm actually quite obstinate about my academic goals, you had it right on :lol: ).

mhazelm
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby mhazelm » Sat Mar 21, 2009 6:37 pm

oh, and to add to the comment on textbooks for gravity - my research advisor doesn't like Carroll's book so I'm going through Wald now. It's quite readable, and he's got a nice way of doing the math without too much topology. A lot easier than starting with Misner, Thorne and Wheeler (it's a good reference but just too much material to get a good overview of things quickly). I think a good path for undergraduates to take is Schutz --> Wald, maybe with Boothby's Differential Geometry book on the side (though I'd say Boothby's the hardest of the three). :)

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grae313
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby grae313 » Thu Apr 16, 2009 11:08 am

OMG. babazula. That seriously sucks. Apply next year and I bet you will have admits from all of those places.

excel
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby excel » Thu Apr 16, 2009 12:53 pm

babazula, do you have a sense of why you got rejected from all the US grad programs? So surprising with your profile. Could it have been that the U.S. programs interpreted your degree as a 3-year undergraduate degree and rejected your application on a technicality? (Almost all U.S. graduate schools do not accept 3-yr undergraduate degrees).

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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby pqortic » Thu Apr 16, 2009 1:08 pm

excel wrote:babazula, do you have a sense of why you got rejected from all the US grad programs?

I dunno he mentioned it in his Applications but the reason may lie in the fact that he is self-funded.

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grae313
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Re: Discussion of 2009 Profiles

Postby grae313 » Thu Apr 16, 2009 2:03 pm

emperial wrote:
excel wrote:babazula, do you have a sense of why you got rejected from all the US grad programs?

I dunno he mentioned it in his Applications but the reason may lie in the fact that he is self-funded.


Wouldn't that be a huge bonus?




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