Freshman Interested in HEP/Accelerator Physics

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Velocitaneous
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Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 7:03 pm

Freshman Interested in HEP/Accelerator Physics

Postby Velocitaneous » Mon Dec 22, 2008 8:23 pm

Okay, so here's my story: I'm currently a freshman undergrad in a really good engineering and computer science school (but not as recognized in physics) with a real interest in physics. I'm currently considered a junior because of the coursework I've already taken, and by the end of the Spring 2009, I will be considered a senior. As far as physics courses go, I haven't taken many (I've only attended my first semester - 6 courses total, heh.) but this is all I've done:

- Physics I (classical), II (emag) (exempted through AP)
- Physics III (survey of modern physics - got an A, top score in class (100%))
- Quantum Physics I (got an A, top score in class (103%))

Next semester, I will be doing undergraduate research with a professor, but I won't be taking any actual physics courses officially (I've actually been doing research for him this entire semester, but that was just to get comfortable with the lab setting; I'm doing it for credit next semester). Instead, I will be self-studying the following courses and exempting them for credit:

- Quantum Physics II
- Electromagnetism I, II
- Graduate Quantum Physics I, II
- Nuclei, Particles, and Fields

Now, obviously, as I'm a first year, I'm not going to have that great shots at getting into summer REUs for HEP, because I don't have nearly as much experience as others. What recommendations for REUs would you have for me? Any particular schools? I'm shooting for the top anyways, as it can't hurt. But any particular colleges that I should be applying to?

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Helio
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Re: Freshman Interested in HEP/Accelerator Physics

Postby Helio » Mon Dec 22, 2008 8:50 pm

wait wait wait... here how in gods name can you already have 64 credit hours worth of work? That is 16 (over three years it is easily doable, I know that much) APs with 4 or 5s.. On a second... how can you take QM I without taking the intro to modern physics? I have seen it done, but those people had special circumstances and ended up at caltech. on a third... so you are trying to take exams that basically exempt you from nearly all the upper division requirements for physics? When do you want to take the time for this? The jump from undergrad QM to grad QM is a true leap of faith, you can't do that with self-study and reading textbooks, you are not an expert on this stuff and it gets pretty hairy. The same thing with Nuclei, Particles, and Fields. It is self-study material, but you won't really understand some of the weird details of it, esp. in the fields... QFT is a brain buster.

Honestly, before you go off on applying to REUs and whatever you want to do. Be sure what you are getting yourself into. Intro modern physics was honestly a joke for me, QM I got a bit harder, but not much, so yeah they seem like easy classes at the moment, but don't get blinded. Be a student first get dirty with classes and go off into dreamland.

BTW, AP Physics C is a joke compared to intro college physics classes I took

abeboparebop
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Re: Freshman Interested in HEP/Accelerator Physics

Postby abeboparebop » Mon Dec 22, 2008 9:01 pm

In most respects you're way ahead of the game, and most of us here are probably not qualified to give you advice. All I have to offer is this: if you've gotten to where you are as a freshman, the REU program you go to this summer will hardly matter at all for grad school admissions. You'll have two more summers of research under your belt by the time you apply, if you do decide physics is right for you.

Since you're way ahead of the game, I'd spend some time figuring out what exactly it is that you want to do -- a lot of people are sort of vaguely interested in accelerator/high energy physics early in the physics curve. It's possible that it's not for you. But since you have so much time, even this shouldn't be a problem for you.

So don't worry about it too much.

cato88
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Re: Freshman Interested in HEP/Accelerator Physics

Postby cato88 » Mon Dec 22, 2008 9:29 pm

How did you get 2 and half years of credit worth? I thought with AP classes you could only get 1 and a half did you transfer?

Velocitaneous
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Re: Freshman Interested in HEP/Accelerator Physics

Postby Velocitaneous » Mon Dec 22, 2008 9:48 pm

Helio wrote:wait wait wait... here how in gods name can you already have 64 credit hours worth of work? That is 16 (over three years it is easily doable, I know that much) APs with 4 or 5s.. On a second... how can you take QM I without taking the intro to modern physics? I have seen it done, but those people had special circumstances and ended up at caltech. on a third... so you are trying to take exams that basically exempt you from nearly all the upper division requirements for physics? When do you want to take the time for this? The jump from undergrad QM to grad QM is a true leap of faith, you can't do that with self-study and reading textbooks, you are not an expert on this stuff and it gets pretty hairy. The same thing with Nuclei, Particles, and Fields. It is self-study material, but you won't really understand some of the weird details of it, esp. in the fields... QFT is a brain buster.

Honestly, before you go off on applying to REUs and whatever you want to do. Be sure what you are getting yourself into. Intro modern physics was honestly a joke for me, QM I got a bit harder, but not much, so yeah they seem like easy classes at the moment, but don't get blinded. Be a student first get dirty with classes and go off into dreamland.

BTW, AP Physics C is a joke compared to intro college physics classes I took


Well, yea, I only applied to two colleges, got denied by my primary, and got into the other, heh.. yea I've taken 12 APs (11 5's and 1 4), and 3 other college level classes through universities here, and after this semester, I'll have about 70 credits or so (I'm not a transfer student... it's just that I got really lucky with my school offering so many resources and many people willing to work out a schedule for planning with me). By end of next semester, I'll have more than 90, so that's senior level.. as I said, I just guess I got lucky because people advised me pretty well as to what classes to take.. this is why I'm asking for advice again :) I've actually already started reading Sakurai, and the problems, while instructive, are pretty easy. One of my profs actually recommended me to take grad quantum :) I particularly thought I understood quantum because while our class average was a low C on the exams, I scored well (high A's on all) on the exams.

One reason I'm really interested in HEP/Accelerator physics is because I'm interested in both physics (HEP especially, because it involves a combination of math, which I was pretty good at in high school [ranked top 5 in state in math teams, AMC tests, USAMO, etc.], computer science, and physics, all three of which I really enjoyed in high school) and medicine. I'm thinking about getting a PhD in accelerator physics and moving on to either become a researcher at a national laboratory in HEP or a medical physicist (they use accelerators in neutron therapy, etc.)

I was thinking on doing an REU with HEP one summer and the Medical Physics program in another. Could you recommend any particular REUs for this?

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Helio
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Re: Freshman Interested in HEP/Accelerator Physics

Postby Helio » Tue Dec 23, 2008 5:09 am

Velocitaneous wrote:
Helio wrote:wait wait wait... here how in gods name can you already have 64 credit hours worth of work? That is 16 (over three years it is easily doable, I know that much) APs with 4 or 5s.. On a second... how can you take QM I without taking the intro to modern physics? I have seen it done, but those people had special circumstances and ended up at caltech. on a third... so you are trying to take exams that basically exempt you from nearly all the upper division requirements for physics? When do you want to take the time for this? The jump from undergrad QM to grad QM is a true leap of faith, you can't do that with self-study and reading textbooks, you are not an expert on this stuff and it gets pretty hairy. The same thing with Nuclei, Particles, and Fields. It is self-study material, but you won't really understand some of the weird details of it, esp. in the fields... QFT is a brain buster.

Honestly, before you go off on applying to REUs and whatever you want to do. Be sure what you are getting yourself into. Intro modern physics was honestly a joke for me, QM I got a bit harder, but not much, so yeah they seem like easy classes at the moment, but don't get blinded. Be a student first get dirty with classes and go off into dreamland.

BTW, AP Physics C is a joke compared to intro college physics classes I took


Well, yea, I only applied to two colleges, got denied by my primary, and got into the other, heh.. yea I've taken 12 APs (11 5's and 1 4), and 3 other college level classes through universities here, and after this semester, I'll have about 70 credits or so (I'm not a transfer student... it's just that I got really lucky with my school offering so many resources and many people willing to work out a schedule for planning with me). By end of next semester, I'll have more than 90, so that's senior level.. as I said, I just guess I got lucky because people advised me pretty well as to what classes to take.. this is why I'm asking for advice again :) I've actually already started reading Sakurai, and the problems, while instructive, are pretty easy. One of my profs actually recommended me to take grad quantum :) I particularly thought I understood quantum because while our class average was a low C on the exams, I scored well (high A's on all) on the exams.

One reason I'm really interested in HEP/Accelerator physics is because I'm interested in both physics (HEP especially, because it involves a combination of math, which I was pretty good at in high school [ranked top 5 in state in math teams, AMC tests, USAMO, etc.], computer science, and physics, all three of which I really enjoyed in high school) and medicine. I'm thinking about getting a PhD in accelerator physics and moving on to either become a researcher at a national laboratory in HEP or a medical physicist (they use accelerators in neutron therapy, etc.)

I was thinking on doing an REU with HEP one summer and the Medical Physics program in another. Could you recommend any particular REUs for this?


Congrats on the math but HEP, well, lets just say these people are in their own little world when it comes to math... i audited parts of a grad math methods and the prof basically just went on and on and maybe went through 5 pages of notes a lecture and he was HEP. Try to take something like real analysis or advanced algebra and see if you are comfortable with the stuff... I would not decide on these things before getting at least some idea what i am getting myself into.

There is a difference between taking a class and doing self-study. i am just not sure it is doable without really losing something.

Velocitaneous
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Re: Freshman Interested in HEP/Accelerator Physics

Postby Velocitaneous » Tue Dec 23, 2008 1:02 pm

Hmm okay then. I'm actually also majoring in math, so that would hopefully help? I'm also considering doing CS as a major. Is undergraduate mathematics high enough to understand the fundamentals of QFT? I may start picking up a book on Group Theory sometime while I'm doing my abstract algebra course since I've heard it's quite commonly used.. is this a good idea?

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twistor
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Re: Freshman Interested in HEP/Accelerator Physics

Postby twistor » Tue Dec 23, 2008 1:36 pm

If you are seriously considering medical physics don't waste your time taking graduate level physics classes now. You may or may not take them later, but they are not particularly useful in this field. CS would be beneficial as much of medical physics involves the use of computers to acquire and process images. Courses in signals and signal processing are also useful here. Biology is definitely a plus, but certainly not a requirement, as you will likely learn all you need in graduate school. Same goes for chemistry.

As for accelerator physics, don't expect to be doing neutron therapy. There are relatively few centers capable of doing it (only 3 in the US). If you did receive a Ph.d. in accelerator physics you would still be required to complete a residency program in medical physics before you would be allowed to work in a clinical environment.
Last edited by twistor on Tue Dec 23, 2008 1:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

tmc
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Re: Freshman Interested in HEP/Accelerator Physics

Postby tmc » Tue Dec 23, 2008 1:38 pm

Yes, group theory is extremely useful, at least on the theoretical side. Any sort of algebra will serve you very well, and get as much as you can.

I would suggest reading over Georgi's Lie Algebra book. It's quite advanced (late undergrad / early grad and assumes some familiarity with algebra) and not a great first textbook to learn from, but it'll give you a good idea of where this stuff is actually used and how incredibly powerful group theory can be.

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monocles
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Re: Freshman Interested in HEP/Accelerator Physics

Postby monocles » Tue Dec 23, 2008 6:58 pm

I think you're worrying too much. Just apply to as many REUs as you have time to apply for and you'll get in somewhere, no problem.
Last edited by monocles on Sun Dec 28, 2008 11:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Velocitaneous
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Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 7:03 pm

Re: Freshman Interested in HEP/Accelerator Physics

Postby Velocitaneous » Sun Dec 28, 2008 8:53 pm

Hmm.. any other suggestions? For going into accelerator physics, what do you think I should be doing right now? I've found a book by Helmut Wiedemann (Particle Accelerator Physics) and was thinking about starting it. What would recommendations be?

Finally, my goal is to get into a good grad school for physics (preferrable Harvard, MIT, or Princeton). What can I be doing right now?
Last edited by Velocitaneous on Sun Dec 28, 2008 11:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

nathan12343
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Re: Freshman Interested in HEP/Accelerator Physics

Postby nathan12343 » Sun Dec 28, 2008 8:54 pm

Apply for summer research internships.

robertson
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Re: Freshman Interested in HEP/Accelerator Physics

Postby robertson » Sun Dec 28, 2008 9:13 pm

You should be watching tv, having fun with one/several girls, listening to music...

You can't plan your life just to go to harvard. Do whatever makes you feel good, and don't worry about your future in such a nerd way. This is physics, do you enjoy it? That's the question. You might find yourself wishing to finish school to start working in a bank, or maybe to go to Europe to learn another language. How can you be so sure that the only thing you want to do with your life is to go to a top 10 school? You should decide a little bit later. Open your mind, and enjoy your school years, if you are half as intelligent as your profile says you will get wherever you want to.

My sugestion, do an exchange program, it really helped me a lot. Have fun!

Velocitaneous
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Re: Freshman Interested in HEP/Accelerator Physics

Postby Velocitaneous » Sun Dec 28, 2008 11:40 pm

Haha, well to be honest, this has been my dream since I was five years old (to go to a really good school and be a "scientist" of some sort). I started doing physics in sixth grade along with calculus, and from then on, I've been extremely pulled towards math/science, so I'm pretty sure it's going to be similar or the very same for the next two or three years :) Thanks for the suggestion though!

@nathan12343:
When you say summer internships, do you mean like ones at national laboratories like those sponsored through the SULI program? If not, could you give examples?

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zxcv
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Re: Freshman Interested in HEP/Accelerator Physics

Postby zxcv » Mon Dec 29, 2008 5:24 am

Velocitaneous,

I'm sure you're really smart, and clearly you know that. That said, I hope you've thought really carefully about your plan for next semester. It's certainly possible to learn nearly all of undergraduate E&M in one semester (Griffiths is taught like that many schools), and with one semester of quantum mechanics under your belt, as a bright student you might well be prepared to tackle material faster than most of your classmates.

Still, that's a lot of quantum mechanics (and quantum field theory?) to get through in one semester. I hope you'll be pacing yourself by thoroughly learning the material in each class in order before moving on to the next. Then, if those graduate courses would actually be worth anything, you're not going to be able to get through a semester of graduate quantum mechanics in 3 or 4 weeks and learn it well. Consider me a skeptic.

By not taking classes, you miss out on problem sets, collaboration, and the chance to go over materials with a professor. Self-study can count for a lot, but I think there's something to be said for traditional coursework.

-----------

REUs are extremely competitive, especially as a freshman. But you have research experience and you'll have the equivalent of a lot of physics under your belt by then, so I think you have a reasonable chance.

There are two strategies for getting into an REU:
1) Get excellent letters, polish on your essays, send off your application and cross your fingers.
2) Still get those excellent letters and good essays, but also contact specific researchers at each institution you're interested in, and convince them they'd like to take you as a summer student.

The odds are that the second strategy is going to be much more successful (it was for me). Politely contact researchers whose work you're interested in, inform them about your background and interest, and tell them you're interested in working for them. Even better, get your current research adviser to send out entreaties (assuming they are in the same field). It doesn't even have to be at an institution with an official REU program as they may have other funding, though that might help since then you wouldn't cost the professor anything and you'd have a good time in the program. Once they endorse you, you're pretty much guaranteed acceptance.

You should still apply for as many REUs as you possibly can, but with a targeted strategy I think you'll be successful. Good luck!

Velocitaneous
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Re: Freshman Interested in HEP/Accelerator Physics

Postby Velocitaneous » Tue Jan 06, 2009 2:15 am

Well, one thing I was really interested in was the Goldwater scholarship... it seems that a lot (but not all) of people who get this scholarship are often accepted into top colleges, and it's clear as to why this is true: it's a really prestigious scholarship. I've spoken to a few people around my school, and nobody seems to be doing physics for the Goldwater here. What would recommendations be to get this scholarship? I'm trying to keep my GPA high (4.0) and trying to get into an REU for HEP/Accelerator physics while studying QFT. I'm also taking a pretty difficult course load (18 hours of class per week... 3 hours of lab = 1 hour, including undergraduate research, excluding a TA job). How should I try to get a publication? I just started off in my lab unofficially last semester. Are publications important? How would I get one for physics now? What else should I be doing?

Physics Teacher
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Re: Freshman Interested in HEP/Accelerator Physics

Postby Physics Teacher » Tue Jan 06, 2009 2:26 am

Hi, I think you should check out this

http://www.desy.de/summerstudents/

meno
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Re: Freshman Interested in HEP/Accelerator Physics

Postby meno » Tue Jan 06, 2009 1:54 pm

For the Goldwater, undergraduate research is the most important. Get involved in research you're interested in, and be prepared to write an essay detailing your work and the results you have produced. Your school probably has an Goldwater adviser who can give you all the pertinent information--go talk to them.

I have to wonder, though--does focusing on getting scholarships and REUs only for the sake of prestige really indicate a love of physics? Maybe you're just paranoid about getting into grad school, but the best part of the college experience is the opportunity to learn deeply about a subject you love. If this is what you've always wanted to do, then savor the opportunity to do it! Self-study is always an option, but as someone who's having to do a lot of self-study because of an unusual background, I envy your opportunity to study physics in the classroom for four whole years. Don't throw that away--that's the point of your undergraduate education! You'll get into a good grad school if you work hard. Take time to figure out what you want to do, and then dedicate yourself to it. That's what grad schools are looking for anyway.




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